Monica Czausz_en

Monica Czausz_en

Monica Czaucz


August 9th at 2 p.m. in The Church of the Cross
Monica Czaucz is one of the most prominent names of young American organists. The Diapason magazine noted her as one of the top 20 organists under 30 in 2016. This summer Czaucz takes Finland by storm on her tour here.

Tickets 15€/ 10€ with pensioners’ card
Coffee and a meet-and-greet at 1 p.m. in the downstairs of The Church of the Cross!


(10) Sechs Stücke für Klavier,Op.118,  JohannesBrahms (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in A minor,
Intermezzo in A major

Ballade in G minor                                                          arranged byCzausz

Ballade in G minor

(12) Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)


(10) Arabesques, Naji Hakim (b. 1955)


(6) Häähymni, OskarMerikanto (1868-1924)


(5) Roulade Op. 3,No. 9, Seth Bingham (1882-1972)


(14) Suite,Op.70, PaulCreston (1906-1985)



Johannes Brahms’ penultimate work for piano solo, his famous Six Pieces, Op. 118, opens with bold, arpeggiated flourishes. Dedicated to Clara Schumann and composed years after he had supposedly given up composing, the piece develops in intimate ways and teaches us of love and loss. This stormy and passionate first Intermezzo decays into the second, which may be one of the most heart-breaking themes ever written. Here, an introspective yearning will be expanded in a classical ternary – ABA – form, before leading to a Ballade in similar form. The tragic or perhaps heroic A sections of the Ballade find tranquility in the B section, though the entire piece ends in muted angst.

Johannes Brahms aptly prescribed we “study Bach: there [we] will find everything.” This late work of Johann Sebastian Bach is no disappointment. Composed during his Leipzig years, the time when he was also writing the Orchestral Suites, the French Baroque influences and inspirations of King Louis XIV and ballet can be heard, particularly in the opening gestures of the Prelude. The date of composition is unclear, but it may have been debuted at the memorial service for the Queen of Poland, fitting with the solemn mood often depicted by the key of B minor. The Prelude in 6/8 time features complex syncopated passages alternating with more straightforward sections. The Fugue features a short, stepwise subject with real answer and an impressive use of three distinct countersubjects before concluding in a hopeful B major.

Longtime student of French organist-composer Jean Langlais, Naji Subhy Paul Irénée Hakim was born in Beirut in 1955. Composed in 2009, the Arabesques are dedicated to his wife Marie- Bernadette Dufourcet. In the words of the composer himself: “Song and dance are at the heart of this suite for organ, which reflects the overlapping influences of jazz and Mediterranean folk music. The six movements—Prélude, Pastorale, Libanaise, Arabesque, Litanie, Rondeau—are characterized by ornamental melodies, modal harmonies, irregular meter and an expressive quality inspired by joy.”

Pioneer of Finnish organ music in the early twentieth-century, Frans Oskar Merikanto was born to Frans Ferdinand Kanto, and ultimately changed his name in 1882. “Meri,” meaning “sea,” refers to his journey from Vaasa to Helsinki. He studied in Leipzig and Berlin before seeking to broaden his education. Between 1900 and 1907, he traveled internationally for concerts and study, encountering the likes of Guilmant, Widor, and Vierne, and befriending the most celebrated organ virtuoso and composer of the time, Marco Enrico Bossi. Merikanto’s work is often influenced by Finnish folk song, and unlike Jean Sibelius who mostly appealed to the upperclass, he sought to make music accessible for all people. In the majestic Häähymni, Merikanto juxtaposes dramatic outer sections with a flowing inner section that builds in excitement before returning to familiar material.

Composed about the same time as Häähymni, we compare the sounds of early twentieth-century Americana in one of Seth Bingham’s first compositions, Roulade. Bingham was an acclaimed performer and teacher, serving as organist at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, USA, for nearly forty years (1913 to 1951). In this beloved scherzo-like piece, we encounter florid running passages, bold trumpet calls, effortless counter-melodies, and a heavenly interior section.

Today’s program closes with the lone work of another New York City composer. Born to Sicilian immigrant parents under the name Guiseppe Guttoveggio (literally: “good vegetable”), Paul Creston changed his name in the hope of greater recognition. Self-taught as a composer, he possessed remarkable drive and overcame many hardships, including dropping out of high school to help support his family.

Fierce rhythmic emphasis and modern American tonality make his music refreshing, often featuring unusual instruments like saxophone and marimba. His Suite, Op. 70 incorporates many seventh and ninth chords, sounding at times much like Hollywood movie music. The gestural Prelude incorporates snippets of fughetta and toccata, maintaining interest throughout. Luscious yet sparse harmonies characterize the Prayer, a quiet petition for help. An extroverted Toccata follows, displaying strength, facility, and effervescent triumph.


A true rising star among young classical musicians, Monica Czausz has quickly made a name for herself as one of the finest young American organists on the scene today. She was recognized as one of the top 20 organists under 30 in the May 2016 issue of The Diapason for her “superior accomplishments, leadership, creativity, and innovative thinking”. She has also received first prize in numerous competitions, including the 2015 American Guild of Organists Regional Competition for Young Organists (Region VII: Southwest), 2015 Schweitzer Competition in the Young Professionals’ Division, the 2013 William C. Hall Competition, the 2012 L. Cameron Johnson Competition, and the 2011 Oklahoma City University Competition.

Monica recently performed at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional Convention of the AGO in New Jersey, the 2017 Southwest Regional Convention of the AGO in Dallas, and the 2017 Northeast Regional AGO/National RCCO Convention in Montréal. Also during the summer of 2017, she was featured in her third consecutive OHS convention, headlining in a full-length evening performance. In 2016 she performed at the AGO National Convention in Houston Texas, both for Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral, and as a “Rising Star,” where she gave “a fabulous performance that displayed artistic mastery far beyond her years” according to The American Organist. In her performance at the 2016 Organ Historical Society National Convention in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, she was said to have “played with great flair” (The American Organist). In 2015, she was featured at the OHS National Convention in Western Massachusetts, the AGO Regional Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, and the East Texas Organ Festival in Kilgore,

where The Tracker reported, “this young lady just blew us all away.” During the summer of 2016, she accompanied the Christ Church Cathedral Choir on tour to England where they fulfilled residencies at the Cathedrals of St. Paul’s (London), Durham, and Bristol. She has recently performed at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Merrill Auditorium in Portland Maine, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, Broadway Baptist Church of Forth Worth, St. Paul’s Chapel at Trinity Wall Street, and the Eccles Festival at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. Upcoming programs for the 2018-19 season include performances at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Spivey Hall in Morrow Georgia, and Fresno State University for the International Philip Lorenz Keyboard Festival. Monica’s performances have been broadcast on Pipedreams, WRTI Philadelphia, 91.7 Houston, and KTRU Rice Radio.

Monica graduated in May of 2019 with Artist Diplomas in both Organ and Harpsichord Performance from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied with Alan Morrison and Leon Schelhase, respectively. In May of 2017, Czausz graduated Summa Cum Laude from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, Texas, where she completed a five-year combined Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degree program in Organ Performance. Here she studied with renowned professor Ken Cowan and, upon graduation, was awarded the Undergraduate Distinction in Research and Creative Work. From September 2015 through July 2017, she served as full-time Cathedral Organist at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in Houston, Texas, under the leadership of acclaimed director Robert Simpson.

Monica Czausz is under the exclusive management of Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.

Marjukka Liimatainen

Marjukka Liimatainen

Marjukka Liimatainen graduated from Sibelius Academy church music department year 2002 (master of music). She was introduced to organ playing at the age of thirteen by the local organist Salla Palokangas. In Sibelius Academy her teacher was prof. Timo Kiiskinen. Marjukka has attended several master courses in Finland and abroad, where she was taught by e.g. Kati Hämäläinen, Olli Porthan, Kari Jussila, Pieter van Dijk, Paolo Crivellaro, prof. Luigi Tagliavini and Jon Laukvik. From year 2004 she has worked as church musician in Keski-Lahti parish (Lahti, Finland).

Ilkka Hämäläinen

Ilkka Hämäläinen

Ilkka Hämäläinen has sung at the Finnish National Opera since 2012 both as a soloist and as a member of the choir. He is also a sought-after artist in the Finnish regional operas and sings as a soloist at the Savonlinna Opera Festival.

Ilkka Hämäläinen masters a huge variety of different music styles. This ability of his is remakable even on an international level.

He started his career as a young pop and rock´n´roll singer. Nowdays his repertoire includes over 80 roles in musicals, operetta and opera.

Next season he will be singin at the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow when the Savonlinna Opera Festival brings their opera Otello there. He will also continue performing at the Finnish National opera, where his lead role of Andrew Lloyd Webber´s Phantom of the Opera has got rave reviews. In addition to this he sings the role of Andres in Alban Berg´s Wozzeck.

In 1997 Hämäläinen won the operetta competition ”Kultainen Silinteri” (Golden Tophat) in Turku.

He has recorded e.g. Orthodox choir music as a soloist of the Uspenski Cathedral Male-voice choir.

Erkki Korhonen_en

Erkki Korhonen_en

Pianist and conductor Erkki Korhonen graduated in piano from the Sibelius Academy in 1983. He rounded out his education with several teachers and specialized in opera repertoire. Korhonen has taught at music institutes and conservatories all over Finland and has been teaching piano and chamber music in the Sibelius Academy where he in 1989 was appointed lecturer of répétiteur studies. Erkki Korhonen was invited to the International Opera Festival in Zurich in 1997. He was recently invited to hold master classes at Weimar Lyric Opera Studio and the Conservatory of Shanghai. Erkki Korhonen has performed in Europe, Israel, India and North America and has made numerous radio and TV recordings.

Erkki Korhonen has served as General Director of the Finnish National Opera in 2001-2007, as Vice President of the Sibelius Birth Town Foundation 2011-2017 and Vice President of the project team for the Sibelius 150th anniversary. Korhonen has been the artistic director of the Organ Night & Aria Festival since the autumn of 2016.

Erkki Korhonen has been awarded the music prizes of the cities Hämeenlinna and Helsinki and Sibelius Birth Town medal and the Pro Finlandia medal.


Pilvi Äikäs

Pilvi Äikäs

”Dramatic mezzo-soprano Pilvi Äikäs was born in Ilmajoki. She has graduated from Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Music, in 2008. Pilvi has continued her singing and acting studies both in Finland and in Germany with different teachers and in several master courses. She has been member of Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir since 2004 and has also performed in Helsinki Festival and in productions of Lahti Opera Association. Pilvi works as a singing teacher, performs operatic and lied repertoire with several pianists and also sings as an oratorio soloist .”

Picture by Tarmo Valmela

Aurora Ikävalko

Aurora Ikävalko

Aurora Ikävalko

Aurora Ikävalko has worked since 2008 in Church of the Cross in Lahti as cantor focused in singing.  She has been an additional singer in the chorus in the National Opera in Finland. As well she performed in the Opera Festival chorus in Savonlinna. Aurora has besides the cantor work performed chamber music , sung  ensemle projects  and solo concerts which  theater directors have dramatized.