Michael R. Kearney has a bright future. Only 25 years old and possessed with extraordinary talent, he is an organist, pianist and composer with an impressive resume of accomplishments and education, both in the United States and abroad. His passion is seeing the Psalms set to music.
Kearney attended the Reformed Bible Church in West Sayville and studied piano for 12 years as a youngster, before branching out to organ. His compositions include both choral and instrumental works. Kearney also has recorded sacred and classical music on a variety of historic instruments around the world. He has performed in Northern Ireland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the Philippines and Malaysia. He recently returned from studying in Poznan, Poland.
His considerable talent was on display on May 27 when he performed on the Peragallo Organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sayville. Following COVID guidelines, the church was filled to capacity with an enthusiastic audience that has been deprived of in-person cultural performances for more than a year. And this one was extraordinary.
The program consisted of 10 selections, ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn, to 20th-century composer Willem Hendrik Zwart and Kearny’s own improvisation of “MELITA” (the Navy hymn). Excerpts of the translated text of each piece appeared in the program.
His rendition of “Finlandia” was not only beautiful, it was also a demonstration of what the formidable Peragallo Organ can do. The tones were powerful, sometimes strange, and often spellbinding. The performance was literally earthshaking at times, with audience members feeling the sound vibrations along with hearing the music as Kearney played the powerful instrument, pushing it to its limits.
Before each piece, Kearney gave a brief commentary, often with anecdotes. He mentioned the tradition of the Dutch playing mechanical organs and “pulling out all the stops,” which made it more and more difficult for the organist to play as each stop was pulled.
Comments of audience members and their standing ovation revealed their gratitude and hunger for the cultural experience of hearing such profound and beautiful music after everything we all have been through during the pandemic.
A note in the program states, “With a heart to use his gifts and interest in communication, psalmody, music and theology to serve Christ’s church, Michael... explores the work of the Holy Spirit as it has found expression in music and poetry to inspire God’s people over several centuries.”
Read more about Kearney at https://urcpsalmody.wordpress.com/about-mrk/.
The next performance at St. John’s is on Thursday, July 22 at 7 p.m. with Dr. Katherine Meloan, organist and director of Chapel Music at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point. She also serves on the organ faculty at Manhattan School of Music. Access the sign up for this July 22 concert at https://signupgenius.com/go/9040A45A4AB2BA1FC1-katherine.