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   from the issue of March 27, 2008

  'Roulade' inspires Marks to record first of three CDs featuring music of Seth Bingham

Organ celebration


Christopher Marks has a secret.

FEATURED PLAYER - Christopher Marks sits at the organ in Kimball Recital Hall. Marks will celebrate the release of his CD...
 FEATURED PLAYER - Christopher Marks sits at the organ in Kimball Recital Hall. Marks will celebrate the release of his CD featuring the organ music of Seth Bingham at 7:30 p.m., March 29 in Kimball Recital Hall. For more information, go to Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

"I never intended to seriously study the organ," said the assistant professor who specializes in the instrument for the School of Music. "I always enjoyed playing it. But, I never saw potential as a career path."

Marks started taking piano lessons at age 5. A few teachers - including his Greenville, N.C., church organist - prompted Marks to learn how to play the organ. He dabbled in the instrument through high school and his undergraduate studies, but never took the study seriously.

In fact, it took the knowledge of a University of Illinois professor to inspire Marks to the potential.

"When I started graduate school, I had a new teacher who opened my eyes to things I had not known about the organ," Marks said. "That's when I started enjoying it more and I saw it as a serious study path.

"If it wasn't for that professor, I never would have studied this instrument."

For the past two years, Marks has researched the works of New York composer and organist Seth Bingham. Marks' interest piqued when he went looking for sheet music of a certain Bingham piece.

"One day I heard a recording of Bingham's 'Roulade' and I really liked it," Marks said. "I decided it would be fun to learn and perform the piece because it wasn't something you hear all the time. I was surprised to discover that I could not find music to it because it was out of print."

As he searched for the sheet music, Marks learned that "Roulade" was Bingham's most popular piece of music. He also discovered that Bingham was a prolific composer, with about 80 percent of his organ music out of print.

"There had never been a recording done of solely his organ music," Marks said. "That got me interested in making a CD of Bingham's compositions."

Marks dug deeper and found Bingham's sheet music through interlibrary loans and a variety of music sales. He started practicing the pieces and began planning to release a CD compilation of Bingham's organ compositions.

During his research into Bingham, Marks became friends with the 20th-century composer's granddaughter, Patricia Bingham Dale.

"She gave me access to a collection of Bingham's manuscripts that are in the arts collection of the New York Public Library," Marks said. "I went to New York last summer and looked at the manuscripts. It was an amazing opportunity to learn more about Bingham."

The first of Marks' three Bingham CDs, "Organ Works of Seth Bingham, Vol. 1, 'Unto the Hills,'" was released earlier this year. The disc - recorded by Marks on the organ at First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln - is available for purchase online at It will be available in stores in May.

Marks will celebrate the release with a 7:30 p.m., March 29 performance in Kimball Recital Hall. The performance will feature Bingham's work. Tickets - $5 general admission, $3 for students and seniors - will be available at the door.

For more information, go to

Marks is proud to be the first to record a collection of Bingham's works. His hope is that the pieces will become more widely available. And, once he finishes the other recordings, Marks sees potential for articles and further research into Bingham's life.

There may also be another CD - this one featuring Bingham's unpublished and unfinished works.

"There are a number of strong, potential pieces in Bingham's manuscripts," Marks said. "I hope to someday be able to record them. If nothing else, I'm going to have fun just trying to learn how to play them."



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