“To Please and to Astonish”: Creative Programming


Monday, July 01, 2024
09:00 AM – 09:45 AM



In 1739, Johannes Mattheson published a detailed description of the “fantastic style” in which he prioritized contrast, also emphasizing the intent “to please, to overtake and to astonish.”

These qualities of pleasing and astonishing the listener can be considered the goals of any compelling organ recital. A first step is to feature the instrument in a variety of textures, from single stops rendered with delicacy to full ensembles played with virtuosic bravura. Demonstrating the organ’s capabilities is an important aspect of programming.

Another vital consideration is the variety of style and genre in the program. To achieve this heterogeneity, there is much material available since the organ has a vast repertoire, the largest of any modern musical instrument. Sharing arcane gems of early or contemporary music can help to attract and hold listeners’ attention, by introducing them to something novel. The lesser-known can provide a larger historical or cultural context for more frequently played works so that they are heard in new ways.

This workshop will explore creative principles of programming with specific examples designed to help organists as they design concerts to both please and astonish their audiences. Kimberly Marshall will use this opportunity to describe how she formulated her program for the final concert of the convention, on the Murray Harris and Fisk organs at Stanford’s Memorial Church.