Organ Improvisations | Poems

On January 28, Ars Nova Workshop welcomes Amina Claudine Myers to Philadelphia for a solo pipe organ performance at St. Mark’s Church. Called “a virtuoso pianist and organist” by musician and scholar George Lewis, Myers is a first wave member of the AACM who has worked with Archie Shepp, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, and Lester Bowie. To learn more about the unique 1937 Aeolian-Skinner organ Myers will be playing for this special occasion, ANW spoke with local expert Matthew Glandorf. 

“The organ has long been referred to as the King of Instruments. Dating back to the 2nd Century BCE, the organ predates most modern instruments and ensembles. In the late Middle Ages, organ building, particularly in Northern Europe, began to develop into the complex instrument that it is today: sometimes with rows of pipes totaling several thousand, some as short as a few inches to the longest over thirty-two feet tall, two to five keyboards, and a pedal board enabling the organist to play with their feet.

No other instrument boasts such a great variety of tonal color, imitating the flute, oboe, batteries of trumpet stops and strings. Thus, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the organ began to be conceived "symphonically.” Indeed, in concert halls and theaters all over America, thousands of audience members could hear orchestral music transcribed for the organ or for silent films, accompanying the latest antics of Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd.

In the age of electronic replicas, synthesizers and all other digital wonders of the computer, the pipe organ still amazes and thrills audiences in churches, concert halls, and even the Macy's department store here in Philadelphia, home to the largest functioning pipe organ in the world.

The Saint Mark's organ is an important landmark instrument built by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Mass. in 1937. It has 4 keyboards and a pedal board, and over one-hundred ranks of pipes spread out in the north of the choir, in the ceiling, and a recently added West End Antiphonal division was installed ten years ago.”

Matthew Glandorf is Organist Choirmaster of Saint Mark's Church, on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music, and conductor of the Choral Arts Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Bach Festival. He is a specialist in organ improvisation, and can be heard each Sunday at Saint Mark's.

Amina Claudine Myers will perform on Friday, January 28 at St. Mark’s Church (1625 Locust Street). General admission is free, and limited sanctuary seating is available for $10, purchasable here.


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