By Peg Lopata, Contributing writer
MARLBOROUGH – The First Church in Marlborough’s organ concert series is back. The concerts began in January 2020 and will resume virtually April 25 featuring Wesley Hall, a graduate of the Yale School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music. The Church is delighted to offer the talents of organists in this region and beyond.
Music director brings many years of experience
Music director at the church, Ellie Armsby and Pastor Kazimierz “Kaz” Bem are the key figures bringing this program to the community. Armsby joined the church as music director in the summer of 2017. She is also a composer and owner and president of Hildegard Publishing Company, a publisher of concert music by women composers.
“The best part in offering these concerts has been getting to work with and hear some terrific artists,” said Armsby. “They are able to get more out of our instrument than I realized was possible.”
Past programs have featured organist and congregant Jennifer Bastien, who began playing piano at age thirteen; Benjamin Straley, former organist at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC; and Juan Mesa, a prize-winning organist from Chile, among others.
The May 16 concert will feature Lois Toeppner with guest trumpeter, Richard Given. Toeppner, in addition to playing the organ, plays harpsichord, piano and electronic keyboard. Described by the Boston Globe as “a genius of sound,” Given has toured nationally with such Broadway shows as Les Miserables and Sweeney Todd.
For last concert of the season, taking place in June (the specific date has not yet been set), will be Abbey Kelley-Lanser and Timothy Goliger. Kelley-Lanser is studying organ at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota and Goliger studies music education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Pushing through the pandemic
Though the pandemic put a halt to in-person attendance, and this will return in the fall in some form, the change to a virtual concert has brought about some unexpected benefits. Recent concerts have had audiences listening in from all over the country and even the world. The feedback from the congregation and the community at large, according to Armsby, has been very positive.
“Before the series began, the only way for people to experience the organ was to attend a church service,” Armsby explained. “We’re now able to share this resource with a much wider community. We’ve had folks from all over tune into the recitals since we started streaming–we’ve had listeners from four other countries.”
Another benefit to live streaming has been the audience experience is enhanced because they can see the organists as they play. This isn’t possible for an in-person experience because of the position of the organ console in the church.
To live stream the April, May and June concerts go to: https://www.facebook.com/First-Church-in-Marlborough-232949373386859/