Opera Philadelphia

Published6 Jul 2021

Organ Stops, featuring the Opera Philadelphia Chorus, celebrates Philadelphia’s historic pipe organs through song

Streaming for free on the Opera Philadelphia Channel starting July 16, Organ Stops brings traditional and new music to three city churches


Tuesday, July 6, 2021 - For many years, the Opera Philadelphia Chorus has participated in Organ Day, an annual event sponsored by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Guild of Organists in celebration of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ in Verizon Hall. With that program cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, Opera Philadelphia’s Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden teamed up with Partners for Sacred Places and the Opera Philadelphia Chorus on a new program celebrating the city’s many historic pipe organs.

Organ Stops brings traditional and new music to three churches in the city: Manayunk’s St. John the Baptist Church, Wharton-Wesley United Methodist Church in Cobbs Creek, and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Germantown. The program pairs traditional opera choruses from Verdi’s Macbeth and Wagner’s Tannhäuser with several newer works composed specifically for chorus and organ by contemporary composers Hannah Kendall, Melissa Dunphy, Marcus DeLoach, and David Hurd. 

Organ pipes

Meghan Meloy Ness and Marvin Mills accompany the Opera Philadelphia Chorus on the organs, and Braden conducts. The pieces are interspersed with interviews telling the stories of each of the three pipe organs, each neighborhood church, and the importance of making and sharing beautiful music.

“These composers span different centuries, different cultures, different genders, and different world views, and these differences inform everything from their compositional style to the texts they chose to set,” Braden said. “Both a pipe organ and a chorus are a collection of individual voices and unique sounds, which are combined to create new colors, new musical ideas, and offer new ways to hear poetry. This program features three different pipe organs, found in three different Philadelphia churches. Each instrument, and each building, is unique, but each allows for music to fill its space, for poetry to be heard in new ways, for our minds and souls to stretch as we sing, listen, and observe.”

The program was filmed and edited by Rec.Today and recorded by Paul Vazquez of Digital Mission Audio Services. The program will stream for free, with closed captioning, on the Opera Philadelphia Channel from July 16, 2021, through July 16, 2022.

About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia, the only American finalist for both the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and the 2020 International Opera Award for Best Festival, is “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century, the company is “one of American opera’s success stories” (New York Times). The company is in the midst of a digital season on the Opera Philadelphia Channel, which creates a digital space in which artists can perform and explore, through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and dynamic performances produced for the screen. Season subscriptions priced at $99 are offered along with pay-per-view rental options for individual performances. The channel is available for viewing on computers and mobile devices, and on TV screens via Chromecast and the Opera Philadelphia Channel app on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV. For more information, visit operaphila.tv.

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