Bene Hammel Memorial Concert Planned
A memorial concert to honor the talents, achievements and uniqueness of renowned organist Bene Hammel will be held on Aug. 24 in Bellevue, Washington. Organist Thomas Schuster, winner of the 2011 Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition, will perform the concert.
The concert has been scheduled for 7:00 PM at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, 3030 Bellevue Way, Bellevue, Washington. The church's telephone number is 425-822-7907. A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the late artist's wife, Marti Hammel.
Born on July 16, 1942 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Mr. Hammel was a prodigy who progressed quickly from student to full-time concert performer by the age of 16. Two years later, he won first prize in the National Organ Competition for organists under age 30.
Audiences flocked to the young performer's recitals at churches in New York City, including St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Thomas Church and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He went on to perform at the St. Louis Cathedral, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. When Cincinnati's new Music Hall opened, he was featured recitalist at the inaugural organ concert.
After receiving his degree in theory and composition from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Mr. Hammel performed as guest artist for numerous symphony orchestras, served as organist-choirmaster at numerous churches, regularly served as an organ consultant, and taught as Adjunct Professor of Organ at Tennessee's William Jennings Bryan College, which awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Music. He had a long association with the Baldwin organ company as a performer and clinician.
Mr. Hammel studied Bach interpretation under Dr. Marilyn Mason, Dr. Sam Batt Owens, and Dr. Claire Coci. His own unique style of "orchestrating the organ" came from an in-depth study of the late Virgil Fox.
During his 42-year career, he was a frequent performer and workshop leader throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. With his wife, who is a well-known organist in her own right, Mr. Hammel toured the U.S. and Canada for a series of duo concerts, some of which were televised on the PBS network.
In May 1999, Mr. Hammel suffered a stroke during a Florida concert tour. With Marti's support, he fought a successful battle to regain the ability to walk and speak. Eventually he was able to play the organ at worship services at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, ELCA, where his wife directs the music ministry. However, in January 2011, he developed pneumonia and was moved to hospice care. He died on July 21, less than a week after celebrating his 69th birthday.
Mr. Schuster, who will perform the benefit concert, studied under Ray Ferguson and Robert Bates. In May, at the age of 32, he won first place in the first-ever North American organ performance competition established by Rodgers. He is Director of Music and organist at Church of the Epiphany (Catholic) in Miami, Florida. He received his Masters degree from the University of Houston and also holds a Bachelor of Music degree, summa cum laude, from Wayne State University (Detroit), with a double major in piano and organ performance. He placed first in the 2001 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival/USA and the 2001 AGO/Quimby Region V Young Organists Competition. He has appeared at venues throughout the United States, including recitals at StanfordUniversity and at the 2002 National AGO Convention in Philadelphia.