Watch CBS News

Philadelphia Organ Festival features free shows, performances at historic venues

Girard College pipe organ taking center stage at Philadelphia Organ Festival
Girard College pipe organ taking center stage at Philadelphia Organ Festival 04:13

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Mozart once called the organ "the king of instruments," and next month, the majestic sounds of Philadelphia's historic pipe organs will take center stage in the Philadelphia Organ Festival.

The Philadelphia Organ Festival is taking place March 15 through March 23 and will feature historic pipe organs in some of the region's most beautiful buildings.

Performances over nine days will showcase the instrument's spectacular sound, and organizers have announced collaborations with several of the area's finest arts and culture institutions, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Marian Anderson Historical Society, Artcinia, The Crossing and Opera Philadelphia.

The festival's final performance day on Sunday, March 23, will include a special collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Ensemble Arts on Philly's Organ Day at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. 

Philadelphia Organ Festival Artistic Director John Walthausen and Philadelphia Organ Festival Director Jay Fluellen, both accomplished artists, will perform a work for four hands.

Organ Day is free to the public and features the sounds of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the U.S. It's located in Marian Anderson Hall at the Kimmel Center.

The festival's other concert events will be ticketed and will take place at historic venues throughout the Philadelphia region. Venues include Tindley Temple, the Rodeph Shalom synagogue, the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Girard College Chapel, the Unitarian Society of Germantown, St. Luke's Germantown and Longwood Gardens. Festival concerts will feature nationally and internationally acclaimed organists, many with ties to the Philadelphia area.

A festival preview event at The Girard College Chapel is on March 1 at 12:30 p.m. and you can get in for free as long as you reserve a ticket.

"The chapel was built specifically for this organ when E.M. Skinner built it, it was his last organ. So if you want to come and hear something amazing, this is it," said Paul Eaton, instrument curator and dean of the Girard College Organ Guild.

"When you come here, it will surround you with sound," Eaton said.

The Philadelphia Organ Festival is part of Sacred Places' Playing and Preserving program, with the mission of heightening awareness and fostering greater appreciation for the organ, as well as building support for the preservation and restoration of the instruments.

Girard College's organ is no exception. Eaton said the organ guild helps care for the instrument which needs to be rebuilt.

"It has about a 50-year life cycle, and we're past 100 years," Eaton said. "It's a large undertaking, taking all the pipes out, cleaning them, putting them back in, and so it's something that we'll be doing in the next few years and need the help of all of you to get it done."

"Our goal for the Festival is to bring the community together to expand the knowledge, appreciation, and preservation of these awe-inspiring instruments in their historic homes," said Bob Jaeger, President of Partners for Sacred Places. "The Philadelphia Organ Festival will transcend traditional concert experiences, allowing attendees to witness the dramatic synergy between these majestic instruments and their surroundings."

How to get tickets to the Philadelphia Organ Festival

Philadelphia-based Partners for Sacred Places is producing the festival. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the stewardship and community use of America's older religious properties.

Here are the prices of tickets to the Philadelphia Organ Festival: 

  • General admission: $30
  • Senior citizens: $25
  • Students: $10

For more information on performances, dates and times, check out

Tickets will also be available the day of performance at each venue.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.