CHRISTOPHER Trikilis believes his role as the new director of music at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane can play a special part as the community begins to ease out of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
He believes it’s important not just for the cathedral community but for those who would not normally even go near St Stephen’s.
It’s to do with the way the acclaimed organist sees his role and the place of the cathedral within the community.
“The cathedral is the people’s church – and so (there’s) that notion that the doors are open,” Mr Trikilis said, looking forward to the days still to come when the COVID-19 restrictions on church attendance would be lifted.
“And there will be people that will come to the cathedral week after week because they love what’s happening – and something special always takes place in a cathedral.
“But there will also be visitors that may not have come to church for a long period of time or even stepped foot in a church, but if they hear good music or they’re inspired by something that leaves a positive image with them, I think that’s a really important thing at this challenging time.”
Mr Trikilis has earned a reputation as one of Australia’s leading organists, performing extensively across Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.
The 35-year-old began playing the piano at the age of four on his first day of school, and that was the forerunner to a career that has spanned two decades in Melbourne archdiocese.
Specialising in the pipe organ, he has been director of music at Our Lady of Victories Basilica at Camberwell, in Melbourne, for three years; director of music at St Patrick’s Church, Mentone, for almost 10 years; and, before that, organ scholar at St Patrick’s Cathedral, in Melbourne.
Even while he was at Camberwell and Mentone he was still one of the organists at the cathedral.
“So it was an association with (St Patrick’s Cathedral) of nearly 20 years,” Mr Trikilis said.
During his time in Melbourne, he has taught at Corpus Christi Seminary where he taught singing and had some organ students.
Having been so well established in Melbourne, it was a big decision for he and his wife Andrea to move to Brisbane with their one-year-old son Thomas, but he saw it as “a wonderful opportunity”.
“I know that (St Stephen’s) cathedral has a very rich music tradition in recent years and so it’s just building on the good foundations that have already been established, in many ways,” he said.
“It’s an exciting pipe organ in the cathedral and I’m looking forward to (what’s ahead), especially once all these restrictions are lifted and I’ve choirs to work with and people to play for at Mass and those sort of things …”
Part of what attracted him to St Stephen’s was that “it is a big, busy cathedral. It’s one of our main metropolitan cathedrals in the country, and so the challenge of that was one element to it.”
“One of the things I’d love to see happen in the cathedral is to build up a strong concert series both with organ concerts as well as other musical combinations and choirs,” he said.
Mr Trikilis had never played the St Stephen’s before he arrived for Mass there two Sundays ago, so he’s looking forward to getting to know the instrument.
“It’s a very distinctive sound, the organ in St Stephen’s,” he said.
“I would say that it’s probably … the only organ of its type in any Catholic cathedral in Australia.
“That’s how distinctive and unique it is. Someone could listen to just a few seconds of that sound and they’d be able to pick up straight away, ‘It’s Brisbane’.
“That’s actually very exciting.
“As a musician you discover what these instruments are able to do, over a period of time. So I’m looking forward to that challenge as well.
“If I use the analogy, a concert pianist will sit down and nearly every piano around the world will work in the same way but, a pipe organ, they’re all constructed in a very unique manner, and you need to find those little idiosyncrasies that make that particular instrument work, or tick, to get the best out of them.
“That’s one of my challenges in the coming weeks and months – to do that.
“The organ serves two roles. It’s there to accompany singing and the congregation, but it’s also to be there as the leader, and so it’s finding out what the best elements of the organ can do for both of those.”
Mr Trikilis sees his leadership in Church music as a vocation and said it had enriched his own faith.
He said his faith and playing Church music were “intrinsically linked”.
“Organists spend a lot of time in church,” he said.
“You spend a lot of time learning what to do with preparing music and making sure that it matches for what’s happening on a particular Sunday or feast day or whatever else.
“As a church organist, you live the life of the Church year.”
Mr Trikilis said because the organ was “so expressive, it also follows the joy, for example the joy of Christmas versus the very sombre elements of Holy Week”.
“You get the full gamut in between, like weddings and funerals as well, I suppose, would work in that same way,” he said.
“So I’m looking forward to my time at the cathedral and just what we can do musically to encourage hearts and minds to God and to greater things.”