Marks receives grants to record third Bingham album

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Marks receives grants to record third Bingham album

Christopher Marks
Christopher Marks

Christopher Marks has received two grants to support his third album featuring the music of Seth Bingham.

In the spring, the associate professor of organ received a $10,000 Arts and Humanities research grant form UNL’s Office of Research and Economic Development. In June, he was awarded a $2,200 grant from the San Francisco Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

He plans to record the new album in October on the Lied Chancel organ at First Plymouth Church, 2000 D St. Marks used the same organ for his first two CDs featuring the work of Bingham — first in 2008, then again in 2011.

Bingham (1882-1972) was an American organist and a prolific composer. His compositions include works for organ, choral, orchestral and chamber music.

He was also the organist and choirmaster at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, an associate professor at Columbia University and lectured at the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

“He has a couple of pieces that are fairly well known,” Marks said. “When I started this about 10 years ago, there was name recognition there, but I didn’t know his music very well. He wasn’t a composer that I heard on a lot of student recital programs or professional programs.”

Marks started looking for information about Bingham and discovered that he wrote a whole lot of music.

“But before I started recording them, not many of the pieces had been recorded before,” Marks said.

The First Plymouth organ, built by Schoenstein & Co., is similar to the instrument Bingham would have had access to at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church.

“Every organ has its own kind of personality,” Marks said. “Some organs are built in specific styles. Some are built more to play Baroque music or Romantic music. The organ at First Plymouth is what we’d probably call an orchestral organ, so it has a lot of different colors, and it creates a lot of orchestral effects. The music that Bingham wrote really calls for a lot of those kinds of things, so most of it fits that very well.”

Marks will also be traveling to New York City in October through a Hixson-Lied Faculty Development Travel Grant, to visit the New York Public Library Arts collection to look at additional materials related to Bingham.

“Some of his manuscripts are in the arts collection,” Marks said. “And I’ve found out there are a lot of recordings of various people playing his music and the concert programs that go along with those. I’m hoping to get to see and listen to some of that.”

One of Bingham’s granddaughters, Patricia Bingham Dale, who lives in New York, has been very supportive of the project. Dale and two other granddaughters attended a recital of Bingham’s music that Marks performed in New York in 2011.

Overall, Marks said the project has been rewarding.

“It’s hard, both as a musician and as an academic, to find fertile territory that no one else has claimed, so it was really nice to come upon this and discover it was really worthwhile, and then to have people be very enthusiastic about it,” Marks said.

Marks’ new Bingham CD is scheduled for release in spring 2015.

Primavera by Seth Bingham performed by Christopher Marks
Christopher Marks playing "Primavera" by Seth Bingham.

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