“Legendary” Organist Delights Audience During Tiffany Series Concert

An up close view of the keys on Brown's Skinner organ.

We thank Brown Memorial member Michael Reed for this review he wrote of the April 24 Tiffany Series concert featuring Frederick Swann.


The Tiffany Series Concert by the “Legendary Frederick Swann” lived up to the hype. Gracious and stately in bearing, he delighted the audience with his playing and informative but humorous asides about his career. He also shared his thoughts about the practicalities of being an organist. The 85 year old virtuoso started out with the beautiful and haunting “Bells of Riverside” by Bingham. Swann talked about his extended tenure at that church and his relationship with Virgil Fox and John Walker.


After every piece, he received fervent applause and then shared another personal aside. He played two “quiet” works by Karg-Elert and John Stanley. These pieces showcased the higher registers of Brown Memorial’s Skinner organ. Mr. Swann had explained earlier that he had worked on the restoration of this organ. He then beautifully rendered Cesar Franck’s “Choral in B.” He offered the audience some insight in Franck’s composition before playing the piece. After explaining why all organist programs must include Bach, he offered the “lighter” and “shorter,” 9 minute, “Prelude and Fugue in G,” by Bach.


He offered a humorous aside about playing memorized music with sheet music in front of you. Noting  the difficulty of finding your place in a piece of music if you are not really using the written music. The audience was delighted. In fact, I could find no fault with his playing.


Two more pieces by John Weaver and Richard Ross set the stage for Healey Willan’s, “Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue.” Mr. Swann had warned the audience about it’s length, but the audience was spellbound by his expressive and profound playing of this piece.


After a standing ovation, Mr. Swann closed the program with a German hymn that the audience sang – “Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty” – and to which he provided excellent accompaniment.