The Austin Chronicle

Hark! The Herald Organ Sings

By Robert Faires, December 17, 2004, Arts

It isn't every day an organist gets an award from the archbishop of Canterbury. But then Gerre Hancock isn't just any organist. This graduate of the University of Texas has spent more than 30 distinguished years in the field of church music, has published more than two dozen choral works and more than a dozen works for organ, has written a popular textbook on mastering the art of improvisation, and is widely thought to be the finest organ improviser in the country. There are reasons the archbishop chose Dr. Hancock as one of last month's 11 recipients of the Cross of St. Augustine, an award given to clergy and lay people who have made notable contributions to the churches of the Anglican Communion. And they're likely the same reasons that his alma mater chose him and his similarly accomplished wife, Judith, to establish a program in sacred music at UT.

Since September, the Hancocks have been part of the School of Music faculty, which means that they now get to play on UT's mighty Visser-Rowland tracking organ, one of the largest such instruments in the land. In fact, this week they'll be making merry with it in their very own holiday concert at Bates Recital Hall. Judith Hancock will be performing Dupre's Noel Variations, a Telemann concerto with trumpeter Ray Sasaki, and a piece by Boston composer Daniel Pinkham with cellist Bion Tsang, as well as two sonatas by Pasquini in a duet with her husband. He'll be performing works by Messiaen and J.S. Bach, topping them all off with an improvisation on Joy to the World that will no doubt show off some of the athletic virtuosity that prompted The New York Times to dub him the "Michael Jordan of the organ." The concert will end with an invitation to join the Hancocks in singing carols. It's a fine opportunity not only to hear the season celebrated in glorious fashion, with a duo who can make this remarkable instrument sing, but to welcome these distinguished artists to our community. (And don't forget to congratulate the good doctor on his Cross.)

Gerre and Judith Hancock perform a holiday organ concert on Friday, Dec. 17, 8pm, in Bates Recital Hall on the UT campus. For more information, call 477-6060 or visit

Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.