America’s gain will be New Zealand’s loss when organist, collaborative pianist and choral conductor Eon Malan leaves.
In his two years here, the South-African born musician has made an impact, not only at St Andrew’s Church where his popular ‘Music in Sacred Spaces’ monthly lunchtime concerts have recalibrated the way people view organ music, but also across the country.
His talent, and the programmes he established to make church music more accessible, have been noticed well beyond Cambridge.
Early next month, Eon takes up his new role as director of music and organist at the Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he will steer an active musical ministry including adult and children’s choirs, and a handbell choir. In 2019, he spent six months there on an exchange bursary to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, combining it with an internship with a Presbyterian Church. More recently he had been rebranding a music school in Vermont, and it was via a connection there that the job in Charlotte materialised.
“I fell in love with the place,” he said. “They made me an offer I could not resist. The reality is that New Zealand is simply too small for me to make a long-term living out of church music.”
Eon, born to musician parents, started his ‘Music in Sacred Spaces’ initiative in Cape Town in 2018 to encourage the use of beautiful venues for musical experiences. He ran one of South Africa’s most successful classical music companies for over a decade, one that sold organs and imported sheet music nationally. He then studied music at Cape Town’s Stellenbosch University, adding diplomas in Hymnology and Church Music from the Conservatorium of Church Music in Pretoria. He has performed in South Africa, the United Kingdom, the US and New Zealand, and, after completing his master’s degree this year he will tackle his PhD in 2023.
Eon came to New Zealand in early 2020. His partner Jacques Meyer had taken up an opportunity at the high-end of hospitality before that, and Eon found a position as assistant organist and director of digital communications at the Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton. He also did design and website creation, taught music at St Peter’s in Cambridge, and was invited to promote the then newly-refurbished pipe organ at St Andrew’s. The couple wed in September 2020 but will spend their first US year apart as Jacques joins a hotel company in North Dakota and Eon goes to North Carolina.
“It’s just the way it has panned out … but we’re quite used to it.”
Part of the magic Eon brought was his infectious ability to deliver a range of music. His concerts have included popular love songs for Valentine’s Day, a programme devoted to Bach, hymn singalongs, and movie themes, including the theme to the Indiana Jones films.
“It’s all about bringing the organ to the people … we’re something of a dying breed,” he said. “I have loved every minute of being here, but after realising I have only around 25 Christmases before I retire, I needed to do something to secure my future.”