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Bach’s Birthday 327 in the Back Bay


Lovers of J. S. Bach’s organ music will be convening again on Saturday at The First Lutheran Church in Boston’s Back Bay to hear local and international organists present free recitals of music by the master. Anyone who attended Boston Bach Birthday 324, 325 or 326 knows that a musical feast awaits. The magnificent “North German, Baroque” style tracker organ at First Lutheran was built in 2000 by Richards, Fowkes & Co., of Tennessee. Additional stops were added in 2010. Boston Bach Birthday 327 is planned and presented jointly by the Boston Chapter, American Guild of Organists, and The First Lutheran Church of Boston.

As is fitting for a tribute to this universally acclaimed composer whose primary instrument was the organ, admission is free to the eight events. There will be six organ recitals, the lecture-narrative Third Choice (who was the first choice for the Cantor position in Leipzig in 1723?) and Principal Paul, a Netherlands story about the organ, with improvisations and for children of all ages. One may attend a single event or the entire program, 10:30am to 5:30pm. The recitals repertoire is listed in the BMInt Upcoming Events, and the public is cordially invited. Happy Birthday, JSB!    

Fowkes organ in First Lutheran Church

The First Lutheran of Boston congregation, founded in 1839 as the German Lutheran Society in the City of Boston, is the oldest Lutheran congregation in the Northeast. Its current building, corner of Berkeley and Marlborough Streets, was designed in 1957 by the then MIT Dean of Architecture, Pietro Belluschi. At that time, an unremarkable Wicks organ was installed in the back gallery. In 1995, under the direction of organ adviser, William Porter, and church organist, Mark Meyer, discussions began for a new tracker organ to replace the previous instrument. The current, magnificent Baroque-style organ was built by Richards, Fowkes & Co., of Tennessee, and installed in 2000. The final three reed stops were added in 2010.

The organ’s handsome, somewhat austere North German-style case of stained white oak blends well with the simple linear feel of the church’s interior. The instrument has twenty-six stops: 11 on the Werk (upper division and upper manual), 9 on the Rückpositive (balcony division and lower manual) and 6 in the Pedal. These include seven independent reed stops, giving the organ enormous tonal color: Werk Trompet 8′ and Vox Humana 8′; Rückpositive Dulcian 16′, Krummhorn 8′, Schalmei 4′; and Pedal Posaune 16′ and Trumpet 8′. The Rückpositive also has the distinction of having the intra-manual coupler connect the Werk to the Rückpositive in the Dutch tradition rather than the more normal Rückpositive to Werk. The temperament is Kellner.

The performing organists, in order of appearance, are:

Jonathan Wessler, DMA, Assistant Organist at St. Paul’s Church and Choir School, Cambridge

Colin Lynch, Associate Director of Music, Trinity Church Boston, and First Prize winner of the Fort Wayne National Organ Playing Competition, 2010.

Peter Krasinski, specialist in the art of live silent film accompaniment; First Prize winner in the American Guild of Organists National Competition in Improvisation 2002.

Margaret Angelini, executive director of the Old West Organ Society and former Dean of the Boston American Guild of Organists

Brandon Santini, organist and pianist, with organ recitals throughout New England

Agnes Joo-Hee Lee, South Korean organist who has trained in Europe and the USA

Bálint Karosi, Minister of Music, First Lutheran Church Boston; Hungarian concert organist, improviser, composer and harpsichordist; First Prize winner of several competitions, including the 16th International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig.

Joyce Painter Rice, an organist, recitalist, choral conductor and sometime concert organizer, has served in music capacities in a wide range of religious institutions. She is devoted to music for the Organ and shares that concern through volunteering in the American Guild of Organists and at the Methuen Memorial Music Hall, home of the Great Organ.

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