In the case of Julliard-trained organist David Ball, it is true that what goes around, comes around – and that everything old is new again.
Ball, now 25, took his first organ lessons as a young teen in St. Louis, MO, from Dr. John Romeri, who was then-director of the Office of Sacred Music for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.
Now that Ball has been appointed as Christ Cathedral organist and assistant director of music – where Romeri directs the music program – they are again together, this time as colleagues.
Ball, who earned his master of music degree at Julliard last May, still considers Romeri a mentor and says he’s thrilled to be working with him once more.
“One of the most amazing things about working here is working with John Romeri,” says Ball, a Santa Ana resident. “We share a goal to build a wonderful music program for everyone who worships on the campus. We want all 19 music programs to be worthy of the cathedral, with high standards that continue the great historical musical tradition first established by the Crystal Cathedral.”
The Christ Cathedral campus is an “amazing place to make music,” he notes, with 12 masses each weekend offered in four different languages, each full to standing-room-only with churchgoers who want to sing.
“Dr. Romeri has a legacy of building wonderful Catholic music programs throughout the country,” Ball says. “To be so intimately involved with the building process of the Christ Cathedral music program is an amazing opportunity.”
In turn, Romeri says he’s thrilled to have his former student on the music staff at Christ Cathedral. “David was one of the most promising students I had in my very long career,” he notes. “He accomplished wonderful things at Julliard. I kept my eye on him because I knew he had a little something special.
“I’m delighted he is here,” he continues. “He’s already made such a big difference so far.”
Ball says he’s particularly excited about performing on the Christ Cathedral campus’s three impressive organs: the Rodgers Organ, the Fred Swann Organ, and the Hazel Wright Organ.
The Rodgers Organ, so named because it was manufactured by Oregon-based Rodgers Instruments, is in the Chapel in the Sky in the top floor of the Tower of Hope.
The Fred Swann Organ – named for the Crystal Cathedral’s organist and music director – is located in the Arboretum. It was named during Swann’s tenure because he was instrumental in obtaining the organ for the cathedral. The instrument was extensively cleaned and refurbished in 2014 when the Arboretum was restored, updated and reconfigured for use in the Catholic mass.
Most famous of all is the Hazel Wright Organ, which will be installed in the new Christ Cathedral when it opens next year. The historic organ, one of the world’s largest pipe organs, incorporates the large Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ originally built in 1962 for New York’s Lincoln Center, and the Fratelli Ruffatti Organ which had been installed in the cathedral’s previous sanctuary in 1977.
Ball says as a performer that he is committed to making the organ itself, known as the King of Instruments, play well with other instruments and voices.
He is a recognized and well-lauded young performer. The New York Times declared his appearance in Juilliard’s FOCUS! Festival “a rousing performance.” His performance of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall was broadcast on American Public Media’s nationally syndicated radio program Pipedreams.
In recognition of his accomplishments, Ball was named one of The Diapason’s 2017 Class of 20 under 30, a peer-selected group of young people at the forefront of the organ field.
He completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at The Juilliard School in New York City, studying under Mr. Paul Jacobs.
Ball is an active member of the American Guild of Organists, where he performed at the 2016 AGO national convention as a Rising Star. As Christ Cathedral organist, his musical contributions can be heard at the cathedral’s vast array of weekly services and events, accompanying the Diocesan, Cathedral and Children’s choirs in support of the parish’s diverse congregation.
As both organist and assistant music director, Ball rotates responsibilities with Romeri and Dr. Ricardo Soto, director of Spanish music. “We all conduct the choirs, play the organ and run rehearsals,” he explains, as well as teaching sixth-graders in the cathedral’s Organ Scholar Program. “We can always fill in for each other.”
Ball has won competitions in Wichita, Denver and St. Louis and continues to perform as a solo and collaborative concert organist throughout the U.S. In the past, he performed a duet recital with Romeri on the largest musical ever built, the Boardwalk Hall Organ in Atlantic City. In his early days as an organ scholar at the landmark St. Louis Cathedral Basilica, Ball played and accompanied the Cathedral Basilica’s choirs in performances across the country and in Rome, Italy. Information about Ball’s upcoming and recent performances is available at his website, DavidBallOrgan.com.