Michael Stairs, who has played here often at St. Paul’s Church, has been the organist for The Philadelphia Orchestra since 1985.

Michael Stairs, who has played here often at St. Paul’s Church, has been the organist for The Philadelphia Orchestra since 1985.

by Michael Caruso

The Girard College Chapel at 2101 South College Ave. in North Philadelphia will be the site of a “Grand Organ Concert” Saturday, April 16, 4 p.m. The concert will feature four organists known to local audiences: Steven Ball, Peter Richard Conte, Marvin Mills and Michael Stairs.

They will be playing the Skinner pipe organ, Opus 872, built specifically for the Girard College Chapel in 1933. It has 106 ranks and 6,829 pipes, making it almost as large at the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill.

Stairs is well known to local audiences for his many years accompanying the Mendelssohn Club’s annual Christmas concert at St. Paul’s Church. He is also the longtime organist for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Conte is equally famous for having been for many years the principal organist at the Wanamaker organ at Macy’s Center City Philadelphia and as the organist/choirmaster at St. Clement’s (Anglo-Catholic) Church at 20th & Cherry Sts., just off Logan Circle in Center City.

Tickets for the “Grand Organ Concert” are $10 for general admission and $25 for the concert and the reception that follows. For more information call 215-787-4436.


Temple University’s Center for Gifted Young Musicians will present a recital Sunday, April 17, 3 p.m., in the Trinity Center for Urban Life featuring two student string ensembles playing two of Beethoven’s string quartets. The quartets have been coached this academic year by members of the Jasper Quartet. Its violist, Sam Quintal, lives in East Falls. The other members are violinists J. Freivogel & Sae Chonabayashi and cellist Rachel Henderson Freivogel. The Jasper is the professional quartet-in-residence at the Center for Gifted Young Musicians.

The students will perform the Quartet Opus 18, no. 3, and the Quartet Opus 59, no. 2. Proceeds will benefit Philabundance. Trinity Center for Urban Life is located at 22nd & Spruce Sts. More information at 215-204-1512 or musicprep@temple.edu.


The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presented pianist Richard Goode in an all Bach recital last Friday evening in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater. Goode’s performance was far better than good.

Goode is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist who has impeccable “local” connections. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music with two of its most legendary pedagogues, Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. Serkin, who was the head of Curtis’ piano department, became the world’s pre-eminent Beethoven specialist following the passing of Artur Schnabel in 1951 and appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy’s inspired baton in the Academy of Music so frequently that he was nicknamed the Philadelphians’ “house pianist.”

Horszowski was a student of Theodor Leschetizky, who was a student of Czerny, who was a student of Beethoven, who was a student of Haydn. He taught at Curtis from shortly after the end of World War II until his death in 1993, just shy of his 101st birthday. He gave his last piano lesson only a week before his death. Curtis seems to have a penchant for piano teachers continuing their teaching careers beyond the normal span of years: current faculty member Eleanor Sokoloff is 101, having started her teaching career at Curtis in 1937.

Goode’s program was an inspired survey of the keyboard repertoire of Johann Sebastian Bach. His performance was a testament to the ability of a well-versed pianist to interpret these masterpieces not on the instrument for which they were originally composed — the harpsichord, or in some instances, the clavichord — but on a nine-foot Steinway & Sons concert grand, the jewel of an instrument owned by the Kimmel Center specifically for the Perelman Theater.

Using the full range of dynamics, the full variety of touches and the full spectrum of colors only a Steinway can provide, Goode opened up the amazing harmonic vistas of the “Prelude & Fugue in C major,” the elegant and eloquent evocations of Baroque dances in the “French” Suite, and the contrapuntal universe of mood and character of the Fifteen Sinfonias. The key of F major became a kaleidoscope of harmonies in the “Prelude & Fugue No. 11.” The “Partita in C minor” looked ahead to the poignant spiritual profundity of the last five piano sonatas of Beethoven, and the “Italian” Concerto conjured up the exuberance of a concerto for violin & strings by Bach’s contemporary, the Italian master, Antonio Vivaldi.