Organ Week celebrates Fort Collins as pipe organ mecca

By Tony Phifer

Fort Collins is known as a haven for craft brewing, great weather and outdoor recreation.

But a closer look reveals that the city is home to another, somewhat hidden bragging point: Great pipe organs. In addition to the outstanding Casavant pipe organ and Organ Recital Hall at CSU, several of the city’s churches house high-quality organs.

“Fort Collins is known – and rightly so – as a place where great beer is brewed,” said Joel Bacon, associate professor of music at CSU and the head of the school’s pipe organ program. “Why can’t it also be known as a city of great pipe organs? We really have a lot of fine instruments in Fort Collins, and this is an opportunity to celebrate that fact.”

Performances begin June 17

Bacon is referring to Organ Week (June 17-20), the seventh annual celebration of pipe organ music in Fort Collins. The four-day program includes four performances – two of them free – along with opportunities to teach young artists about the instrument.

Scheduled events include five master classes on a variety of organ-related topics – one of them a history of Fort Collins’ pipe organs – during the day Monday through Thursday that are open to the public.

“When I talk with other organists around the country who often struggle to find audiences, it’s remarkable that we have so many organ lovers in Fort Collins who come out to listen during Organ Week,” Bacon said. “We have so many great organs here – why not celebrate our city’s collection?”

Three of the city’s organs will be featured

The first of the four concerts will be dedicated to proving Bacon’s point when he performs J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations on Monday, June 17, on the organ at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. That instrument, like CSU’s, was installed by master organ builder Lawrence Phelps. Its pipes are being cleaned for the first time, which should restore the organ to its original sound.

“The organ at St. Luke’s is very good for playing Bach, and I’m looking forward to playing the Goldberg Variations, which were originally composed for harpsichord and are usually heard on piano,” Bacon said. “I’m convinced it will sound great on the organ.”

Guest artists enhance program

The second concert Tuesday, June 18, will feature Michael Unger, assistant professor at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, playing at CSU’s Organ Recital Hall. Unger will play works of composers inspired by J.S. Bach, including Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach.

Both the Monday and Tuesday night concerts are free. All four performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

 

Canadian Brass promo photo

Bacon said he is particularly excited about the Wednesday night performance with the Canadian Brass at the First United Methodist Church, home of another outstanding pipe organ. The wildly popular brass group features former CSU faculty member Caleb Hudson on trumpet, and the group will perform a number of works in various styles.

The final performance, set for Thursday night in CSU’s Organ Recital Hall, will feature widely lauded organist Ken Cowan, who will be making his sixth consecutive appearance during Organ Week.

Tickets for the Wednesday and Thursday night performances are available at csuartstickets.com. Most performances sell out.