Eight is the magic number for organ festival opening March 15

by Michael Caruso
Posted 2/29/24

John Walthausen, artistic director of the Philadelphia Organ Festival, has gathered a roster that includes eight concerts by eight organists in eight locations.

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Eight is the magic number for organ festival opening March 15


John Walthausen, artistic director of the Philadelphia Organ Festival, has gathered a roster for this year’s event that includes eight concerts to be performed by eight organists in eight locations.

The organist and choir director at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Walthausen announced a program of music artists that opens Friday, March 15, at 7 p.m. with organist Chelsea Chen and a brass ensemble who will perform Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” on the 1931 E.M. Skinner organ in the Girard College Chapel,  2101 South College Ave. in Fairmount. Works by J.S. Bach and Maurice Dupre will fill out the program.

 The Festival continues Saturday, March 16, at 3 p.m. with “Gothic Drama from Screen and Keyboard: ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc.’” Matthew Glandorf, former director of Choral Arts Philadelphia, will play the Mitchell/Casavant pipe organ at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 5421 Germantown Ave. in Germantown. Glandorf will improvise a film score to accompany a screening of the 1928 silent motion picture.

“The Organ’s Modern Touch: Minimalist and Contemporary Works” featuring Amanda Mole and singers from The Crossing is set for Saturday, March 16, at 7 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, 35 West Chelten Ave. The Church boasts a 1919 Austin pipe organ.

Alan Morrison will be the organist for “Celebrating the Memory and Art of Marian Anderson” Sunday, March 17, at 7 p.m. on the 1927 Moller pipe organ of the Tindley Temple, 750 South Broad Street, Philadelphia. Morrison, chair of the organ department at the Curtis Institute of Music, will be joined by the vocalists from Marian Anderson Historical Society Scholars.

Parker Kitterman, organist/choir director of historical Christ Church, will be the featured artist for “Reimagining the Sound of Revolution: ‘Garras de Oro,’” the U.S. premiere of a new work by Juan Pablo Carreno. Kitterman will play the 1921 Austin pipe organ at Congregation Rodeph Shalom on North Broad Street in Spring Garden. Parking and entrance are at 1339 Green St.

Walthausen, himself, will play and conduct J.S. Bach’s cantata “Wir mussen durch viel Trubsal,” BWV 146, Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. on the 1964 Rieger pipe organ at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, 6511 Lincoln Drive. He will be joined by a full complement of singers and instrumentalists.

Daryl Robinson will be the soloist for Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” plus a world premiere Thursday, March 21, at 7 p.m. on the Emery/Austin pipe organ at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Savior, 38th & Ludlow Streets in West Philadelphia.

The Festival comes to a spring-like finale Friday, March 22, at 7 p.m. with Alcee Chriss and a string ensemble on the 1930 Aeolian pipe organ at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Music by Cesar Franck and Sergei Rachmaninoff will be played. 

A festival preview concert is scheduled for Friday, March 1, at 12:30 p.m. at Girard College.

 For ticket information visit

 AVA stages ‘Rape of Lucretia’

The Academy of Vocal Arts staged Sir Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera “The Rape of Lucretia” in its intimate Warden Theater Feb. 17-24. I caught opening night and came away overwhelmed by Britten as a composer, “Lucretia” as an individual opera, and AVA as a trainer of young operatic talent and a presenter of overlooked but worthwhile operas.

Based on the historical account of an act of sexual violence that prompted the ancient Romans to throw off the yoke of their Etruscan oppressors in 509 B.C., Ronald Duncan’s libretto is a marvel of concise narrative and profound character deployment. Britten responded with a vocal and instrumental masterpiece set in the style of an ancient Greek drama and voiced in post-World War II harmonic and rhythmic idioms.

Tara Faircloth’s stage direction was a miracle of expansive focus and conductor Robert Kahn (substituting for Christofer Macatsoris, AVA’s music director) marshaled his forces of eight singers and 13 players with rhythmic precision, textural clarity and dramatic vitality.

Tenor Shawn Roth and soprano Emily Margevich were outstanding as the male and female chorus who shepherd the audience along the libretto’s narrative. Roth, in particular, sang with robust enthusiasm. Soprano Jenny Anne Flory was superb as the woefully wronged Lucretia, baritone Benjamin Dickerson was magnificently maleficent as Tarquinius, her oppressor, and bass-baritone Dylan Gregg was excellent as the long-suffering Collantius, Lucretia’s husband and nascent Roman patriot.

For more information, call 215-735-1685 or visit

French, Italian Baroque

Geoffrey McDonald guest conducted the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in a program of music by French and Italian baroque composers: Rameau, LeClair, Locatelli and Vivaldi. His guest soloist was violinist Alana Youssefian, who played on a 1924 Leon Mougenot Gauche instrument with a transitional bow made by Ralph Ashmead.

Although she labored grimly through the slowest tempi imaginable in LeClair’s Violin Concerto No. 6 in G minor, Youssefian soloed splendidly in Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in D major, “Il grosso mogul.” Here she caught the engaging brilliance of the first and third movements, placing the melting lyricism of the second in high relief.

McDonald accompanied her supportively, and led the Chamber Orchestra in a scintillating reading of a suite from Rameau’s “Les Indes galantes” and a heartfelt rendition of Locatelli’s “Sinfonia funebre in F minor.” For more information visit

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