Performance marks re-dedication of church organ

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Nov. 21, 2011
Stuart Forster plays a composition by Alexandre Gulimant. Photos by D. Coffey.
Stuart Forster plays a composition by Alexandre Gulimant. Photos by D. Coffey.

World-renowned organist Stuart Forster performed at Thompson Congregational Church on Nov. 20. His concert was held in conjunction with a re-dedication of a Johnson & Company Opus 409 tracker organ that was originally given to the church by the family of John Wesley Doane in 1901. After a restoration that included the recent installation of a Cornopean rank of 58 pipes, the organ was renamed the Doane Memorial Organ.

Forster performed eight compositions during the concert. Playing an instrument with 58 keys, 27 pedals and stops, Forster was a body in motion as he shared selections of classical and sacred music. “It's quite a high-energy sport,” he said laughing, “especially on an older instrument like this. The more stops you add, the heavier the keys get to press down. I was actually panting a little bit after the first piece.”

Forster has been playing the organ since as far back as he can remember. He is currently the director of music and organist at Christ Church in Cambridge, Mass. He is a performer, conductor and composer with more than 90 hymn arrangements to his credit.

Forster wove in information about the organ, as well as the composers and their compositions, as he performed. A reception after the performance gave audience members a chance to speak with Forster in person.

The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Cook, pastor of Thompson Congregational Church, said the concert was a good way to celebrate the dedication. “This was a wonderful thing for the church and the community,” she said.

Church member Sally White said she thought the music was beautiful. “I loved when Forster said that music reveals the meaning of scripture,” she said. “It transports you. When we were singing like that, it sets you apart and takes you to a different world.”

Susan Markham is the music minister for the church. She and her choir had performed at a service earlier in the day. “Music is my worship,” she said. “It's a regular aerobic workout to play this organ.”

The organ stretches across the back of the church. Most of the workings of the instrument are hidden behind honey-colored wooden panels and doors. The golden pipes rise toward the ceiling.

“You have no idea what it's like to have an organ like this to play,” said Markham.

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