News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 15, 2012

‘King of Instruments’ serves as vehicle on musicians journey

Organist to perform at church, with TH Symphony Orchestra

Mark Bennett
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — In his bio, Dan McKinley points out that he never made it to the Rose Bowl.

As a collegiate tuba player, McKinley performed with the Indiana University Marching Hundred in the mid-1970s. The Hoosier football team last played in the Rose Bowl in 1968. Nonetheless, McKinley’s musical career has allowed him to perform in many interesting places.

As an organist, the instrument, in a way, serves as his vehicle.

“Organ music has the unique ability to achieve an enormous variety of sounds and volume,” McKinley told the Tribune-Star. “It can scale a mountain one minute and arrive in a valley the next, with great intensity and emotion. The music for this concert promises that.”

McKinley will arrive in the Wabash Valley next week to share his talents through two public performances. He’ll play solo at 7 p.m. Wednesday 21 in Central Presbyterian Church at 125 N. Seventh St. Then, he’ll team up with the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra for a concert at 7:30 p.m. March 24 in Tilson Auditorium on the Indiana State University campus.

McKinley’s organ repertoire at the church will be based on hymns. “He’ll probably get the audience singing,” said Jim Slutz, retired professor of music business at ISU. His playing of the brief pieces falls, fittingly, on Johann Sebastian Bach’s 327th birthday. McKinley will also offer an “encouragement workshop” for organists, with tips for worship performances.

Admission to the church event is free, and the doors open at 6 p.m.

With the Terre Haute Symphony, McKinley will perform three selections in a show entitled “The King of Instruments.” Those pieces include “Canzon duodecemi toni” by 16th-century Venetian composer Andrea Gabrieli, “Symphony for Organ and Orchestra” by French composer Charles-Marie Widor (known as creator of the organ symphony), and “Symphony No. 3 ‘with organ’ in C Minor” by another French composer, Camille Saint-Saens.

In the symphonic setting, the highlighted organ work by McKinley must complement the orchestra.

“The soloist with an orchestra has to listen constantly to balance his sound with that of the instrumentalists,” McKinley explained. “The placement of the sound sources (pipes or speakers) can help or hinder, depending on how far removed they are from the soloist, conductor and instrumentalists.”

McKinley has plenty of orchestra experience, dating back to his days as a tuba player at IU. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees there, and was named Outstanding Bandsman.

He’s a native of Borden, Ind., and served as organist and choirmaster at First Christian Church in Columbus for 19 years, followed by an interim stint in those same positions at Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis in 1998. He served as president and treasurer of Columbus Pro Musica, an advisory panelist for the Indiana Arts Commission, and a reviewer for the Columbus Republic and Arts Indiana.

He is now organist and choirmaster at Christ Redeemer Anglican Church in Danvers, Mass., after having filled those roles at Christ Church of Hamilton and Wenham from 1998 to 2009.

The symphony performance reunites McKinley with Terre Haute conductor David Bowden. “God has allowed me to experience so many musical ‘highs’ in my life that I couldn’t choose one memory over many others,” McKinley said in an email interview. “However, one consistent factor is that to make music under David Bowden’s guidance almost certainly guarantees that a memorable musical event will occur. And when a receptive audience shows up to experience the same, we all benefit. I anticipate that happening at this concert.”

Ticket prices to the symphony event range from $18 to $27 and $38  for adults, and from $5 to $6 and $8 for youths and students. They’re available by phone at 1-800-745-3000, online at, at the Hulman Center Box Office, or at the door.

Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or