Sunday, 13 October 2019 09:22

Using his talent for the church

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Springfield teen learning to play organ at Cathedral

Visitors from Ohio were at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield one afternoon this summer, admiring the stained-glass windows and striking beauty of the church. They were also given a rare treat: beautiful organ music, filling the church with rich sounds. Little did they know it was a 14-year-old playing, who had just picked up the organ in February.

09 29 2019 Teen Organist at CathedralEthan Heinzel, who attends Springfield High School, is learning to play the organ from Mark Gifford, the director of music at the Cathedral.

“I’ve played the piano since I was 2 years old,” Heinzel said. “When I started playing the organ earlier this year, I was really enjoying it, so I decided it was time to get lessons. I met Mark at one of the First Friday Night Concert Series events, and I talked to him about teaching me.”

“When the new organ went in, one of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s comments to me was that this instrument would be an outreach to the community,” Gifford said. “It’s imperative that new students are taught this instrument.”

Heinzel took lessons from Gifford this summer, typically twice a week. Heinzel’s ability to take Gifford’s teachings and immediately play the notes back to him, shows the unique talent the teenager has.

While taking lessons, Heinzel has been playing at his home parish, St. Cabrini in Springfield. The organ there, however, is nothing like the power and sound the Cathedral’s organ produces, not to mention a lot more buttons.

“Playing the organ at first was really tough,” Heinzel said. “You have all these stops you have to learn what they do and controlling the foot pedals. That was hard.”

“What I had to teach him was how to understand the feel of the organ and getting used to doing the stuff with the gas pedals,” Gifford said. “He’s an honor student, and that made sense to him. He has jumped all over it, and we’ve had fun from the very beginning.”

With his hard work and dedication, Heinzel has earned a spot as a substitute organist at the Cathedral.

“I definitely hope to give back to the church by playing the organ and music for the church,” Heinzel said.