Organ Concerts: A Dying Fad

Regal, ephemeral music echoed throughout the Cochran Chapel as Mr. Peter Stoltzfus Berton’s nimble fingers and feet danced across the numerous keys of the organ, this Wednesday. The audience, which was made up mostly of the elderly residents of Andover, sat in silent awe, absorbing the magnificence of his captivating melodies. Organized by Mr. Kabanda, a series of lunchtime organ concerts began on April 9 and will continue on a weekly basis until a final performance on April 30, which will feature several student organists. For the concert, a large projector screen was set up on stage, displaying live recordings of the various video cameras set up around the different mechanisms of the organ. The extremely complex nature of this grand instrument was revealed on the screen as the video feed shifted from the multitude of pipes to the countless levels of intricate pedals. Although the idea of noontime organ recitals may seem slightly strange, it was actually a very popular and fashionable event to attend in the past. The purpose of these casual concerts, therefore, is to entertain through an emulation of the old days. “Organ music is a diminishing art that we’re trying to revive. In large cities such as London, New York and Sydney, these concerts happen on a regular basis. The idea is to have people enjoy the music and at the same time learn about the organ. I hope that one day students and the rest of our community will come,” said organist and musical instructor Patrick Kabanda. The performances will include much-acclaimed pieces by composers such as J.S. Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Dietrich Buxtehude. Other guest performers include John and Carolyn Skelton, as well as George Davey, organist and choral director of Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. The concert that was held last week on Wednesday, April 16 featured Peter Stoltzfus Berton, organist and choir director of All Saints Church in Worcester, Massachusetts. Emily Johnson ’10 said, “I thought the concert was interesting… It wasn’t too long or too short, the food was pretty good and, overall, the experience was enjoyable. I brought my friends from home, and they really liked it too.” Mr. Berton said, “When I was 18, I was very fortunate to play at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The venue was one of the largest I’d ever played at. The combination of the sustained sound of the organ in the room and the mathematical proportionality and precision of the notes made it one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.” Completely free of charge and open to the public, next week’s organ recital will be held on April 30 at 1:15 p.m., and will include student performances from five out of the six student organists at Phillips Academy.