Our DYKYAGO article today features Mr. Ken Danchik. Ken is the Associate Organist at Saint Paul Cathedral in Oakland.
What made you decide to learn how to play the organ?
As a youngster, I was fascinated by the variety of organ sounds, and the complexity of the organ console. Although I took piano lessons, I always spied the Lowrey spinet organ that my piano teacher, Sr. Alma Haberman CDP, had on the other side of her teaching studio. In high school, my new piano teacher, Sr. Myra Rodgers CDP, purchased an Allen classic organ on which I started organ lessons. Although occasionally I practiced on the organ in Saint Basil Church, I was not allowed to play for Mass. The organist said that I had placed bubble gum under the bench, and that my hands were “sweaty,” both untrue! At Duquesne University I continued my organ studies with Dr. Ann Labounsky. I began to play the organ in church the day after I graduated from high school, and have continued for almost 40 years, now serving with Don Fellows at Saint Paul Cathedral.
What is your favorite hymn (in any season)?
Actually, I have two favorite hymns, LOBE DEN HERREN, and ST. DENIO. “Praise to the Lord” was the processional hymn when my wife Lisa and I were married 25 years ago.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy being “Mr. Handyman,” maintaining our house and grounds. I also enjoy being “Dad” for our three children, which involves the usual mentoring, car pool driving, and all the things that dads do.
Who is your favorite composer?
This changes frequently! Now it is Rachmaninov, but could change to Debussy, Chopin, Langlais, Gershwin, Liszt, Copland, Pittsburgh’s Joseph Willcox Jenkins, or another romantic or contemporary-era composer.
What is your favorite CD?
Vladimir Horowitz playing the Late Russian Romantics (Scriabin and Rachmaninov).
If you had the chance to travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
Paris! Our oldest daughter Emily is taking her spring semester in there, and we’re looking forward to visiting her.
What is your favorite Bach piece?
The Toccata and Fugue in D minor. I’ve played this work many times in recital, and also in church on the last weekend of October.
Do you play any other musical instruments?
Piano, which for me is in a virtual tie with the classic organ as my favorite instrument. I also play Hammond organ, and guitar.
What do you like about being in the Pittsburgh AGO?
The Pittsburgh AGO is the perfect balance of camaraderie and professionalism. It’s obvious that there are many talented and learned members, and also more casual players, students, and friends of church music. All seem to enjoy gathering for our meetings, and for the opportunities for continued learning. Cindy Bowen’s dinner is the best $15 I spend all month!
A special “Thank you!” goes out to Ken for being a part of our DYKYAGO series.
Do you know of an organist who would like to participate in the DYKYAGO series? E-mail us at PittsburghAGO@gmail.com.
Happy Monday, organists!