George Fox hosts ‘Keyboard Celebration Week’ with two free concerts

September 11th, 2015

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A concert featuring the organ, piano and percussion Sept. 20 will be followed by an “Encounters with Beethoven” event four days later

Ruth Heald and Martin Ellis
NEWBERG, Ore. – The public is invited to George Fox University for a free concert featuring three experienced musicians showcasing their talents on the organ, piano and percussion on Sunday, Sept. 20, in the university’s Bauman Auditorium.

Musicians Kenn Willson (piano), Martin Ellis (organ) and Ruth Ginelle Heald (percussion) will perform a wide variety of pieces beginning at 2:30 p.m. The concert is the first of two at the university celebrating “Keyboard Celebration Week.” The second is set for Thursday, Sept. 24, when Willson performs his “Encounters with Beethoven” concert at 7:30 p.m. at the same venue. Admission to that event is free as well.

On Sept. 20, the organ, piano and percussion concert will feature pieces ranging from “Fanfare” (Percy Whitlock), “Concerto in A Minor” (Bach) and “Three Chorale Preludes” (R. Gary Deavel) to “Toccata in G Major” (Theodore Dubois), “On a Spring Note” (Sidney Torch) and “Toccata-Finale from Symphonie Romantique” (Denis Bedard).

The event will also feature an organ, drums and piano trio arrangement of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” by Joel Raney and an organ and drums piece entitled “Toccata in G” by Chip Davis (Mannheim Steamroller).

Willson is a tenured professor of music at George Fox who has performed internationally, while Ellis is co-music director and organist for Rose City Park Presbyterian Church and an active face in the Portland music scene. He is a theatre and classical organist, pianist and music arranger who has brought innovative programming, creative arrangements, and a unique style to his performances worldwide.

Heald is an active percussionist, vocalist, choral director and music instructor in the Pacific Northwest. She is director of choirs/co-director of music at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church and currently maintains a private studio of percussion and voice students in Portland, Ore.

Kenn WillsonOn Sept. 24, Willson’s “Encounters with Beethoven” concert will feature the “Moonlight Sonata,” along with a multi-media piano recital presentation. The performance includes video clips and cartoons. Willson conceived his “Encounters with …” series in the early 2000s when he was asked to teach the general music history course at George Fox, which triggered a thought.

“I thought, ‘Why not combine the ‘real’ composer’s thoughts and emotions with their music? Why must all the composer information be so dry? Let’s discuss the ‘rock and roll-a-bility’ of Beethoven,” he said. “The result is endless fun and a concert series that is slightly off the beaten path each time it is presented.”

Willson has traveled to Vienna, Austria, and to the Piano Academy in Recanati, Italy, to perform. He is also known throughout the region for his “Encounters with Beethoven” performances. He was named a Bösendorfer Educational Artist by the Viennese Piano Manufacturing Company in October 2005. Along with this honor, he was invited to visit Vienna and present a recital in Bösendorfer Hall on May 1, 2006, as part of Bösendorfer’s “Happy Birthday Mozart” celebrations.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a first-tier regional university. More than 3,700 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 11 master’s and doctoral degrees.


Debbie Hawblitzel
Administrative Assistant, Department of Music

Kenneth Willson
Professor of Music History and Keyboard Studies

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