Elizabeth Miller ’25, Staff Writer

As a college student almost always looking for things to do, I love to take advantage of student discounts. This January and February, I have taken a few trips to Longwood Gardens for their monthly organ concerts that are free with admission. Local organists play live on Longwood’s 10k pipes, which are available to view in their museum in the Conservatory. So far this year there have been some lovely programs for music lovers of all ages.

On January 22, Maximilian Esmus played a lovely program. Opening with the classic Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven, I was happy to recognize the piece. It was a kind reminder that all members of the audience could enjoy the music without expert music or organ knowledge. Next on the list was Miroir, composed by Ad Wammes. This was easily one of my favorites from the set. The piece is light and airy, the notes seem to dance and bounce. Another dancing piece was Organ Sonata No. 3 in D minor by Bach. The arpeggios flowed so nicely, and Esmus was delightfully expressive in his posture with these parts. Most surprising on the list was a medley of songs from West Side Story adapted for the organ. The arrangement was truly engaging, and Esmus invited the audience to snap to the beat during certain songs. Those of us in the audience that were rhythmically inclined had a great time following his conducting. As one song faded into the next, the audience was filled with smiles and laughter as we turned to each other when we recognized the next song. The program finished with the last three movements of Louis Vierne’s Organ Symphony No. 1 and a standing ovation.

Tyrone Whiting played on February 26th. His opening with the 20th Century Fox theme truly set the mood for his recital, each work approached with a positive and an engaging attitude. It is hard to pick a favorite from the selection. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Three Impromptus, Op. 78 contained a variety of rhythms that were surprising yet tasteful. In Trois Piéces pour Grand Orgue by Jehan Alain, the slow and calming pace of music was filled with beautiful resolves, and, just as Whiting mentioned, played heavily with building harmonies. Each step was a more daring experiment, and words cannot do it justice for how beautiful it was. To close Black History Month, Whiting selected Florence Price’s In Quiet Mood, another lovely piece with soothing and uplifting melodies. Florence Price was the first black female composer to have her work played by a major national orchestra. In the audience, a quiet reverence stilled the room, which is quite fitting for the title of the piece. Bouts of playful and dancing music reenergized the audience in a section of Louis Vierne’s 24 Piéces de Fantaisie, Op. 54. The quick paces met with moments of rest made this piece one of my favorites. Last on the program was Grande Piéce Symphonique, Op. 17 by César Franck. This piece had fantastic swells, and the themes, despite how different they sounded, fit together and reformed nicely into each other. Filled with fun facts between pieces, Whiting played a beautifully structured program that kept us all entranced. 

Organ concerts like these are scheduled monthly at Longwood Gardens. Student discounts on general admission tickets are available. Check out their website (https://longwoodgardens.org/) for more details.