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University of Iowa News Release

March 12, 2004

Organist Ruiter-Feenstra Performs At UI March 28

Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra, a graduate of the University of Iowa School of Music and currently a faculty member and university organist at Eastern Michigan University, will present "J. S. Bach, Improvisation, and the Liturgical Year" at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, March 28 in the Krapf Organ Studio of the UI Voxman Music Building.

Her performance, on harpsichord and the Baroque-style Taylor & Boody organ in the Krapf studio, will be free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the UI School of Music and the Iowa City Early Keyboard Society. The program will be presented twice, because of the limited seating that is available in the Krapf Organ Studio.

Ruiter-Feenstra's program will be organized around the liturgical year, from Advent to Pentecost. For each season she will perform improvisations in Baroque style on Lutheran chorales appropriate for that season. In addition, she will perform selected works by J.S. Bach at various points in the concert. The full program will be:
-- for Advent: an improvised prelude on the chorale "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", followed by Bach's "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland," BWV 599, from the "Orgelbuechlein" and the Prelude and Fugue in D minor, BWV 539;
-- for Christmas, an improvised chorale fantasy on the chorale "Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her";
-- for Epiphany, an improvised dance suite in five movements on the chorale "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern";
-- for Lent, an improvised chorale prelude on the Passion chorale "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden";
-- foe Easter, an improvised fantasia on "Christ lag in Todesbanden" and a fugue on "Jesus, meine Zuversicht"; and
-- for Pentecost, Bach's Partita I, BWV 825, from the collection "Clavieuebung I," and an improvised theme and variations on Pentecost baptism and Bach's Fantasia on "Komm, Heiliger Geist," BWV 651.

An advocate of improvisation and performance on historically based instruments, Ruiter-Feenstra received masters and doctoral degrees from the UI, where she studied with Delbert Disselhorst and Delores Bruch. She did post-graduate studies in Germany and Boston. Combining her performance experience with the study of early treatises and extant repertoire, she is writing a book on 18th-century improvisation techniques, "Bach and Improvisation: Learning the Language," to be published later this year.

"Improvisation, or inventing music at the moment, was one of Johann Sebastian Bach's trademarks" Ruiter-Feenstra explains. "His pupils and biographers attested to his astonishing skills in improvisation. For many, improvisation has been associated with a mysterious gift that drops from the sky upon a few people and misses others, like the rapture-in-reverse. In reality, improvising is akin to learning a foreign language: one must study grammar, syntax and vocabulary. The only way to master the language of improvisation is to practice it regularly by reading, speaking, listening and writing -- i.e., composing.

"In this recital, the audience will hear some of J. S. Bach's compositions, as well as improvisations based on ideas found in Bach's works and stemming from genres he most commonly used. The use of chorales in particular played an enormous role in Bach's teaching, in his employment in various Lutheran churches and in many of his cantatas and organ works."

At Eastern Michigan University, Ruiter-Feenstra teaches organ and harpsichord lessons and courses in improvisation, early keyboard literature, organ building and pedagogy, organ literature and sacred music. She performs, presents and teaches at conferences and academies in the U.S. and Europe, including the GOArt International Organ Academy in Goteborg, Sweden; the International Organ, Clavichord and Improvisation Conference in Smarano, Italy; American Guild of Organists national, regional and chapter events; and the Westfield Center for Keyboard Studies symposia. She has written articles and chapters for various professional publications. Her double CD of the organ works of Franz Tunder is available from Loft Recordings at Gothic Records.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.The Iowa City Early Keyboard Society's web page is

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,