The Classical Station’s interview with Robert Parkins for Preview!

Interview with Robert Parkins
by Bethany Tillerson 

University Organist Bob Parkins at the console of the Kathleen Upton Byrns McClendon organ (Aeolian 1932) the original organ installed in the chapel it was extensively renovated in 2008

Our guest for Preview! this week is Dr. Robert Parkins. Along with serving as Duke University’s Organist, he also teaches as a professor of the practice of music. He speaks with Rob Kennedy about the various organs Duke University’s chapel uses and about their upcoming organ recitals.

KENNEDY: Dr. Parkins, tell our listeners about the organs Duke University has in its magnificent chapel.

PARKINS: The chapel has three stationary organs, and there is also a small continuo organ for accompaniment that can be moved around. The recitals involve all three of these wonderful instruments. The earliest one, the Aeolian, was original chapel organ built in 1932. The second organ to arrive was the Flentrop, built in the style of the 18th century. That came along in 1976. I had just gotten here the year before, so it was wonderful to witness the arrival of the new organ. Then in 1997, we put a Brombaugh in Memorial Chapel, which is a smaller instrument built in Italian style. It’s in meantone temperament, so not much after the 17th century can be played on it.

KENNEDY: Dr. Parkins, what organ recitals do you have coming up in the 2023-2024 season?

PARKINS: Coming up on January 28th, Nathaniel Gumbs, the Director of Chapel Music at Yale, is going to be playing the Flentrop. Gumbs is a younger player than the rest of us, and he is making a name for himself at Yale. He actually had a church job at one point in Charlotte, North Carolina, so he has a North Carolina connection already. I’m playing the final recital on March 17th. The theme of that recital is going to be music for the Lenten season, featuring appropriate music for Lent and Holy Week. Tthe first part will be played on the Brombaugh featuring early Italian and Spanish composers, and then the second half will be on the Flentrop, featuring works of Brahms and J.S. Bach.

KENNEDY: Where can listeners learn more about the organ recital series and other music in Duke Chapel?

PARKINS: Go to the Duke Chapel website, and then find the link to Sacred Music and the Arts. And from there you can go straight to the Organs and Carillon section, which will give you information about the organ series. For all the musical events for the season, you can go to the link called Music in Concert, and that features not only the organ recitals, but also the choral concerts and other events.

KENNEDY: Dr. Robert Parkins, thank you so much for telling us about the Organ Recital series and the organs at Duke University.

PARKINS: It’s my pleasure, Rob.

Join us on Sunday, November 26th, at 7 p.m. to hear the full interview. Listen on, 89.7 FM, or our app!