Organist Rhonda Sider Edgington is a creative and eclectic musician, with a diverse repertoire and wide range of musical interests. Often commended for her innovative programming, imaginative use of registrations, and exciting playing, Rhonda feels equally at home performing on a wide variety of instruments, from small 2 manual, 17th century organs in Germany to large 5 manual organs in the US.
Having spent seven years working and studying in Bremen, Germany (originally with a Fulbright scholarship to study with Prof. Harald Vogel), Rhonda has acquired an extensive repertoire, from Sweelinck and the music of 17th-century Northern Germany, through music of 19th- and 20th-century France, to the music of living composers. She has played recitals at venues across the US, on many notable European-influenced instruments such as the Richards, Fowkes at University of Tennessee/ Knoxville, the Pasi at St Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, the Taylor and Boody at Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, VA, the Beckerath at St Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh, the Flentrop at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, and the Fritts at Arizona State University. She has also performed on many modern, eclectic instruments such as the Moller at West Point Cadet Chapel in NY, the Skinner at Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago, and the Goulding & Wood at Loyola University, as well as on many historic organs in Germany, such as the Schnitger in Norden, the Silbermann in Freiberg and the Hildebrandt in Naumburg. She has played at seven national conventions of the Organ Historical Society and three regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists. She has also been heard on the nationally syndicated radio program “Pipedreams”.
Before arriving in Bremen with a Fulbright scholarship in 2004, Rhonda was organist at the First United Church of Oak Park. The 88-rank Casavant there, especially well-suited to French repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, inspired her to focus those years on composers from Franck through Messiaen and record a CD of those works. (After hearing Rhonda play Dupré, one Parisian organist remarked “You don’t sound like a student of Harald Vogel!”)
An avid chamber musician, Rhonda has appeared in concerts playing piano, harpsichord, and organ in combinations ranging from piano trios and Lieder accompaniments, to organ and brass or organ and strings, and also as an early music continuo player with soloists and ensembles. She appears as solo organist and continuo player on two CD’s of early Christmas music with the Weser-Renaissance Ensemble, Bremen.
As a carillonneur, Rhonda was heard weekly at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Carillon, has played concerts in Chicago’s Botantical Gardens, and on the Naperville Millenium Carillon, and was heard at the national conventions of the Guild of Carillonneurs of American and Organ Historical Society.
In addition to solo recitals, teaching, church work, and chamber music, another of Edgington’s passions is dreaming up creative collaborative projects. In 2013, she performed concerts with the NYC-based trombone quartet Guidonian Hand, including their own arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor for organ and trombone quartet. In 2014, she performed the complete Les Corps Glorieux of Messiaen at St. Augustine Cathedral in Kalamazoo with members of the Farrell Ballet Theatre performing an original work. 2015 brought the premiere of friend and colleague Steve Jenkin’s Sonata for Marimba and Organ in Holland, MI with David Hall, assistant principal percussionist with the Grand Rapids Symphony. In 2017, she performed a concert with calligrapher Tim Botts, creating original artwork inspired by live organ music. In the same year, she also performed the first of their “Battle of the organs”, with Hammond B3 master Tony Monaco, playing jazz-influenced classical music in contrast to his jazz standards. In 2018, she created a concert around the theme War and Peace, to perform in Germany, celebrating the centennial of the Armistice of WWI, which she also performed at West Point in NY. 2019-20 brought two big projects – a collaborating with Urban Garden Performing Arts to create a performance with dancers and actors around the book of Revelations for a local congregation (using Langlais’ Cinq Meditations sur l’Apocalypse), supported by a grant from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship. She also partnered with world musicians for a series of concerts throughout Michigan for organ and percussion – Music of Japan. Years in the making, this project was supported by an AGO grant to commission a new piece by American composer Carson Cooman for organ, marimba, and Taiko drummers. It also featured the American premiere of the large-scale work for organ and Taiko drum, Fujin Raijin by Takihude Niimi . In 2021 she recorded a CD of Music of Today for Organ and Trumpet, with Dr. Brian Reichenbach, and their Great Lakes Duo performs regular tours each year.
Rhonda has worked as church musician since her student days, and has also served in a wide variety of denominations in the US, as well as worked as organist and choir director in two German churches. As organ teacher, Rhonda worked as Assistant Professor at Concordia University, River Forest, and Interim Professor of Organ at Houghton College, in New York state. Her studies have been, in Bremen with Harald Vogel, Hans-Ola Ericson, and Hans Davidsson, and in the States with Larry Smith, Marilyn Keiser, John Chappell Stowe, Edward Zimmerman, and her father.
An avid supporter of the American Guild of Organists, Rhonda was dean of the student chapter while doing her masters at Indiana University, and later on the Chicago AGO board, as well as working with the 2006 National Convention Planning Committee. She was dean of the Holland, MI AGO chapter from 2012 to 2021, and has also served on regional nominating committees for the AGO. She also planned and co-lead an educational tour for the European AGO of organs of Northern Germany.
After living in Bremen, Germany for seven years, she moved with her husband Mark, and children Isaac and Esther to Holland, Michigan. There Rhonda is Music Director and Organist at Hope Church (Reformed Church of America) and Organ Instructor at Calvin University in Grand Rapids. She worked as a staff accompanist at Hope College for 9 years, was accompanist for the Holland Chorale, and has accompanied students and professionals around the region. She performs concerts regularly in the US and Europe. When not making music, she enjoys riding her bike, reading and writing, eating fresh produce from the Holland Farmer’s Market, and writing a monthly column for the Holland Sentinel about music.
You can follow her on Instagram at i_luv_schnitgers