Organ Recitals Return

April 1, 2015

After going quiet during the final phases of the Harvard Art Museums’ renovation, Adolphus Busch Hall is once again swelling with melodious preludes, fugues, and sonatas. The Harvard Organ Society’s popular Thursday lunchtime organ recital series has returned for the spring semester.

Harvard students, faculty, and staff, as well as the public, are invited to attend these free recitals from 12:15 to 12:45pm on Thursdays through April 30. Adolphus Busch Hall’s grand gathering space, with its tall, arched ceilings and plaster casts of medieval and Renaissance sculpture (including the 13th-century Replica of the Golden Portal, from the Church of Our Lady in Freiberg, Germany) lends a dramatic gravitas to the experience of listening to the powerful Flentrop organ.

The instrument came to Harvard in the late 1950s from Dutch builder Dirk A. Flentrop, who was known for his Baroque revival organs. It has a mechanical connection between its 1,600 pipes and keys. Influential concert organist (and Cambridge resident) E. Power Biggs, who advocated historically accurate performances, was one of the instrument’s most enthusiastic performers.

“It’s much like an organ that Bach would have played,” said Zachary Fletcher ’15, the recitals coordinator for the Harvard Organ Society. “That’s why, when a lot of people come here to play, they play Bach, and they play [Baroque Danish-German composer] Buxtehude—music that is appropriate for this type of organ in this kind of space.”

This year’s recital season includes eight lunchtime concerts (three have already occurred). Among them are an April 9 performance by Richard Gowers, an undergraduate and junior organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge. On April 30, Nancy Granert, the organist-in-residence at Harvard’s Memorial Church, will celebrate her retirement from the university with her last of many recitals in the long-running series.

The full recital schedule is posted on the Harvard Organ Society’s website (additional Tuesday evening performances will be held in Memorial Church). Because the Adolphus Busch Hall recitals occur midday, audience members are invited to quietly enjoy their lunch during the performances.

“It’s a nice opportunity for people to see this organ in action,” Fletcher said. “Even though this is a museum environment, it’s also important for the organ to be used and for people to hear it. We’re lucky to have that.”