Prize winning organist Christian Lane visits campus

Ford Chapel opens doors to students and Meadville community

MIMI LAM, Contributing Writer

Music is coming from the Ford Chapel, but it is not the church bells but rather the sweet, in-tune organ melody played by Christian Lane.

Brought to Allegheny College by alumnus Edward Hodgson Jr., PhD, on Sept. 13, Lane visited Meadville for the first time in order to play in front of the Meadville and Allegheny  community.

“It’s a beautiful space,” said Lane, about Ford Chapel. “But every organ in every space is different and the organ is only as good as the room it plays into.”

Playing the piano since he was five, Lane has had tremendous experience musically, eventually winning the 2011 Canadian International Organ Competition and holding the title of vice president within the American Guild of Organists.

“My dad was a pastor so I always had an instrument which I could try out my little piano pieces,” said Lane. “I was exposed to it pretty early, but I wasn’t very serious about it.”

Lane initially planned on becoming a musical theater conductor, leading him to receive a music degree. Because of this track, he got into piano and the organ, which he found more interesting.

“The organ is a great thing because we can’t take our instruments with us,” said Lane. “Every instrument we sit down with is completely new, so we have to essentially start from scratch. The way that I play here today is different from the way I play tomorrow even though I’ll play some of the same music.”

Alternating from fast to slow pieces, Lane equalized his pieces with variations of all types of music instead of sticking to one consistent theme. Grace Connelly, ‘18, attended the performance in light of her own musical experiences.

“I do try to lean towards the faster pace songs just because they’re really interesting,” said Connelly. “There were several parts where he was coming to the climax of the song and then the sun would come out and shine on him.”

Rebecca Borthwick-Aiken, a part-time faculty organ instructor, recommended Lane some pieces as well as suggested him to play the Star Spangled Banner in honor of the song’s 200th anniversary.

“I was quite happy to take the direction that she [Borthwick-Aiken] gave and then filling the rest in a way that I hope has a sense of balance,” Lane said, “trying to balance the program as one might balance a meal. You don’t want to eat all red meat for the meal. You need a little bit of dessert in there as well.”

The captivating performance itself filled the room with its rich sounds, combining familiar music as well as obscure ones. As soon as Lane smoothly flowed onto the bench, silence captured the audience while the organ resonated throughout the room.

“Even this organ here which is digital, the sounding board is the room you’re playing into,” said Lane. “There are some rooms which are much bigger that have a lot of acoustics and some rooms that are much smaller and don’t have any acoustics whatsoever. This was kind of in the middle.”

Also spectating the performance, Alex Marrero, ‘18, attended because of his love for music and his experiences playing the piano.

“I love to study how other people play music and I love the organ,” said Marrero. “I understand the dedication and commitment it takes to actually make it into the music society.”

Overall, the audience awarded Lane with a round of applause along with a standing ovation to conclude his stay in Meadville. Community members, students, and faculty were granted the opportunity to chat with Lane as well as enjoy some refreshments.

“Every performance is unique and there’s always things that go really well and things you wish would go better,” said Lane. “But hopefully, it was enjoyable to listen to and authentic in some way. The goal is not to be 100 percent perfect even though that’s what we aspire to in some level, but to be able to speak to people through the playing, hopefully I accomplished that.”

With one final bow, Lane left Allegheny College and a ring in everyone’s ear. There is no indication yet whether he will perform once again in the future, but to the attendees, he has them with gratitude and satisfaction.