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When Sandra Gereau moved to Prince Edward Island, St. Peter’s in Fredericton was left without an organist. So the former rector, Canon Ross Hebb, began asking around.

“Jokingly, Ross Hebb asked my dad if he could play the organ. He said ‘No, but my son does,’” said Christian Vanicek.

The joke was on Christian, because he’d never played an organ in his life. He was, however, an accomplished pianist. 

“I had no experience, but I was willing to learn. Sandy gave me a few lessons to show me how it worked,” he said.

His first service as organist was Oct. 21, 2021. Since then he’s been taking weekly lessons from Thomas Gonder, Christ Church Cathedral’s organist.

“He’s a phenomenal organist,” said Christian of Thomas. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s played all over Canada. He’s shown me techniques I never knew.”

The organ lessons are in addition to his piano lessons, Grade 12 studies, and soccer playing. The 17-year-old is a busy guy, just finished his first semester high school exams and about to sit for his Grade 10 piano exam with the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Despite all this, he is keen on playing the organ to the best of his ability.

“This is a great organ for someone just starting out,” he said of the Tracker organ whose beginnings date back to 1835.

“This is considered an original instrument,” said Sandra in a story from 2016. “It means it’s in its original state. The mechanisms are pretty basic — wood, tin pipes, reeds, leather connectors and wire holding the parts together. 
“It also means this type of organ will last a long time. There is very little to go wrong on it.”

For Christian, it’s all about the sounds he can produce. 

“It allows me to be creative,” he said. “I’m somewhat limited on piano, but this is expressive, loud. I’m making music the way I see it.”

He finds a big difference between the organ he plays every Sunday morning and the Cathedral’s organ.

“The Cathedral’s has four keyboards. There must be at least eight times as many stops compared to the one,” he said. “The Cathedral’s is nice and grand, but I like the simplicity and how this one feels to play.”

Despite coming from a musical family, playing the piano since the age of 4 and now playing the organ, Christian is not planning a musical career. He has been accepted into the foundations program at the University of Kings College in Halifax, where the Rev. Ranall Ingalls (former rector in Sackville) is the chaplain. 

“There’s an organ in the chapel there, and I hope to help out in some capacity,” he said.

Christian hopes to pursue a degree in history, and then he has his mind on law school.

History, he says, is where his heart is.

“There’s so much to learn,” said Christian. “It helps to know where we come from to give us a better perspective of who we are.”

Christian is the youngest child of Filip and Marianne Vanicek. His brother, Sebastian, 22, is in medical school in Scotland, and his sister, Caroline, 20, is at UNB studying math and physics.

The Rev. Canon Elaine Hamilton is thrilled to have Christian among her congregants at St. Peter’s.

“With his great skill at the organ, and the choir at St. Peter's, the music each Sunday elevates our worship,” she said. “When starting to fill in at St. Peter's Church one-and-a-half years ago, I was thrilled and impressed to find such an accomplished teenager at the organ bench.  

“Christian is a lovely, quiet, unassuming and wonderfully talented young man, which bodes well for his future.  

“He graduates this year from high school and will be off to university. I know he will succeed and wish him well as he traverses university life and beyond. We will miss him immensely.”

When Christian leaves for university in the fall, Thomas will be missing more than just giving lessons.

“He’s by far the best student I’ve ever had,” said Thomas. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime student, and I am going to miss him terribly.

“He’s a nice person to be around. He has a startling lack of arrogance. He’s very humble and I think that makes a person a better musician.”

Christian is a Cathedral Organ Scholar, a title granted to a deserving student which comes with the opportunity to play on occasion.

Because he’s at St. Peter’s on Sunday mornings, he plays for the monthly Evensong at the Cathedral. He’s also played in the summer recital series in 2022 and 2023. 

“He brought in more donations than any other series, and probably more people as well,” said Thomas. “I think he broke attendance records for the summer series.”

About his playing, Thomas has seen vast improvement over two-and-a-half years of lessons.

“He’s come a long, long way,” he said. “He’s naturally gifted. His organ lesson on Friday night is the highlight of my week.”

While Thomas wholeheartedly agrees that Christian could have a career in music, it’s not the easiest to forge, he said. It seems Christian knows that as well. 

“Even though I’ve been playing music my whole life, I’ve never wanted it as a career,” said Christian. “But wherever I settle, I’ll always be open to helping out at a church, playing or whatever.”

Best wishes and blessings to Christian from the Diocesan Synod.

Photo caption:
Christian Vanicek at the organ at St. Peter's in Fredericton.  McKnight photo

1 Comment

Sandra Gereau about 2 months ago

What a lovely article. Christian is a wonderful musician with a extraordinary gift. The sting of leaving St. Peter's after so many years was lessened by finding Christian. He is such a fine young man.

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