A Final Encore

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, we all made our way back home to the States. There’s no question in any of our minds that this has been an incredible, unforgettable trip. Our eternal gratitude goes out to all of those whose support made this possible; extra special thanks is due to Chris Lane–our fantastic teacher–without whom none of us could have imagined this trip as a reality.

Below, we all reflect on how much we have learned, our time together, and how the trip has changed our outlook and perspective.

It is impossible to capture everything this invaluable trip meant to me in just a few sentences. From playing my favorite movement of Widor’s Sixth Symphony on a world-renowned Cavaillé-Coll to learning about symbolism in Bach’s music from a Dutch expert or from walking the quaint streets of Europe to spending time with incredible friends, every aspect of this trip was special. I know that I will cherish the lessons I learned and the bonds I made for many years to come. One fun memory in particular was experiencing “The Busy Drone” mechanical player organ in the Orgelpark on our last day in Amsterdam. When I walked into the auditorium and saw the colorful rectangular assortment of pipes, I thought I recognized the name emblazoned at its top. As it happens, I was admiring the very organ for which Dutch composer Ad Wammes had written his “Ride in a High Speed Train,” one of my favorite pieces to play!

– Karen Christianson

Chris teased me endlessly about the opera being my favorite part of the trip (I mean, Handel is one of my all-time favorite composers) but rest assured, the educational value of the trip was not lost on me.  Being relatively new to the organ, I have a relatively small repertoire and I had only ever encountered a handful of organs in Cambridge.  While I am still not totally sure what exactly distinguishes a Cavaillé-Coll organ from a Clicquot organ, or how a Barker machine works, the education for me was about seeing the interplay between instrument and repertoire and realizing the extent to which the organs influenced composers of different regions and eras, and vice versa.  But my actual favorite part?  The bonding experience which comes from telling waiters, train passengers, store clerks, et. al., that we’re visiting Europe to play historic pipe organs, and then holding our breath while we wait to see how they react.

 – Adriana Pohl

I can’t say whether or not the Harvard Organ Society’s Europe trip lived up to my expectations because I simply had absolutely no idea what to expect from this adventure!  Being my first time out of the country, I’ll admit that these past two weeks have been an absolutely overwhelming experience—it feels like I’ve just awaken from a dream and am breathless from the sheer level of overstimulation in such a short period.  In only two weeks’ time, I feel as though the lens through which I perceive both music and its surrounding culture has widened enormously.  I’ve realized that there’s something profound, perhaps even spiritual, about physically tracing the footsteps of musical legends that internally solidifies their significance and relevance to us.  We can listen to recordings, study scores, and read books, but it’s not until you are hearing 16th century pipes, sitting in Duruflé’s living room, or sliding onto Widor’s bench that suddenly everything becomes so real—the organs, the composers, their lives. It all really does exist.

I already miss our HOS family.  We have bonded over memories of both laughter and awe.  But as I’ve said before, I’m excited to be home. There is a lot to process and put to practice in embarking on the next chapter of music-making with newfound inspiration and insight.

– Joey Fala

Spending two weeks learning about these amazing, historic instruments has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.  I will always remember the excitement of forming such a close bond with the members of the Harvard Organ Society. To be able to share the same passion for the organ with so many others was thrilling for me.  I am so thankful for all the “behind the scenes” work Chris Lane and Laura Gullett did — “masterminding” this trip and all of the organization behind it!  Seeing so many instruments and the excitement from the organists in Europe has inspired me to encourage others to appreciate the grandeur and fascinating history of this beautiful instrument we play.

– David von Behren

During my sophomore year of high school and second year of organ lessons, I read Louis Vierne’s autobiography, “Mes Souvenirs.” The book provided me with a glimpse into the power of the incredible Cavaillé-Coll instruments that French organists yearned to play and let inspire their repertoire. My fascination gave way to the dream of making my own pilgrimage to Paris. The past two weeks have been a dream come true.

The sweetest part of the trip was our wonderful group and the organists we met along the way. It was simply sublime listening to my companions play, being treated to their lovely company, and being inspired by their excitement and motivation.  I could never have dreamt how our time together would invite me to reshape my perspective on music and art. 

– Laura Gullett

As a relative newcomer to the organ, going to Europe and playing these instruments was quite inspiring. It was so illuminating being able to play Buxtehude and Bach on the very instruments they were composed on. In addition, learning from so many top-notch organists has motivated me to improve my technique further and really dive deeply into the music. Finally, it was amazing to experience this truly unforgettable experience among friends. 

– Khristian Erich Bauer-Rowe

The Harvard Organ Society trip was an incredible, eye-opening experience. Each instrument and teacher we worked with has impacted my approach to organ music in some way. The opportunity to visit such historic organs was irreplaceable. Thank you for following our journey on our blog and stay in touch!

– Jordan Abbasi

There’s no way I could have anticipated how incredible this trip would be.  It’s impossible to choose which was better — discovering these historically significant, beautiful organs, or spending time with and getting to know my travel companions.  Being in the same spaces as famous organists and hearing their music on their instruments was incredible, but it was just as inspiring to hear how the other students approached and played the instruments.  Endless thanks to Chris, Laura, and our donors for organizing this trip and making it possible, and to everyone else for making it so wonderfully memorable.

– Noel de Sa e Silva

Christian Lane