John W W Sherer | Organist at Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, March 18, 2016
7:30 p.m.

—One in a series of dedication concerts on the new Andrew Pipe Organ

The Program | About John Sherer

The Program

March on a Theme by Handel | Alexandre Guilmant (1837–1911)

For this exhilarating march, written in 1861, French composer, concert artist, and church musician Alexandre Guilmant borrowed the theme associated with the chorus “Lift Up Your Heads” from Messiah by George Frideric Handel. The piece begins rather quietly, with a clear statement of the theme followed by an extensive and free section in the minor mode. In this free section, Guilmant departs from the main theme, but as the section comes to an end, the familiar theme is restated several times, each time more loudly and fully, as it builds to a massive conclusion.


Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor | J. S. Bach (1685–1750)

The Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor is one of Bach’s most inspiring and dramatic works for the organ. After the theme is stated in a pedal solo, twenty variations use that theme, each one full of color and contrast. The passacaglia leads to a brilliant fugue based on the same theme, which builds to a transformational conclusion.


Prelude on “Iam sol recidit igneus” | Bruce Simonds (1895–1989)

Concert pianist Bruce Simonds taught more than fifty-two years at Yale University, where he was professor of piano and Dean of Music. While hee wrote only two organ works, he was influenced by the wonderful E. M. Skinner organ in Woolsey Hall on the Yale campus. This particular piece is based on an ancient plainsong chant. The many colors of the setting sun—the title of the piece translates as “Now sets the fiery sun”—are reflected in the multitude of shimmering sounds of the organ.


Fantasy in E-flat Major | Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
       Con moto – Allegro di molto con fuoco

The Fantasy in E-flat was written in 1857 while Saint-Saëns was organist at Saint-Merri in Paris, the year before he became organist at the Madeleine Church (a post he held until 1877). The fantasy is in two movements, the first using rapidly alternating chords and frequent manual changes to create a delightful, bubbly texture. This is followed in the second movement by a rousing march.


Giga | Enrico Bossi (1861–1925)

Italian composer Enrico Bossi devoted himself to an academic career, with a succession of teaching positions in Naples, Bologna, Venice, and Rome. Originally this piece was one movement of a suite written for orchestra in 1891, but Bossi himself made an arrangement for the organ. This charming piece with its memorable theme demonstrates the lighter, more delicate sounds of the organ.


Marche Héroique | A. Herbert Brewer (1865–1928)

English organist and composer A. Herbert Brewer was organist of Gloucester Cathedral from 1897 to 1928, the same cathedral where he had also been a choir boy in his youth. Marche Héroique was written in 1915, the dark days of the Great War and the year in which the Lusitania was sunk. However, this piece was meant to lift and inspire spirits with its rousing and soaring themes emulating the popularity of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Marches.

—Intermission (ten minutes)—

Symphony VI in G Minor | Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937)

Charles-Marie Widor was a giant of the organ world in his lifetime, mingling with politicians and aristocracy and becoming a member of the Légion d’Honneur in 1892. A prolific composer, concert artist, and professor of music at the Paris Conservatory, in 1870 he was appointed Provisional Organist of St. Sulpice in Paris—a position he held for sixty-four years. In 1872, Widor published his Symphony VI in G Minor, a work clearly influenced by the grand organ of St. Sulpice and demonstrating the myriad textures and tones of the pipe organ.Widor himself thought so highly of his Symphony VI in G Minor that when he was commissioned in 1880 by the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VII) to write a symphony for organ and orchestra, Widor used the opening and closing movements of this symphony as the opening and closing movements for that one. These opening and closing movements employ the full resources of the organ, while the middle movements demonstrate the palette of colors, the flutes, strings, and woodwinds, available in the instrument.

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About the Organist: John W. W. Sherer

Organist John W. W. Sherer has been hailed by critics as “a terrific musician.” Reviewers have praised him for his “great creativity and élan” and proclaimed, “As usual, Sherer communicated both the demanding and subtle qualities of the program through utilizing both his remarkable virtuoso technique and his sensitive musical sense to serve the requirements of the music.” Dr. Sherer has performed numerous recitals throughout the United States and England, including several for regional and national organist conventions. 

Since 1996, Dr. Sherer has been the Organist and Director of Music for Fourth Presbyterian Church, which was picked by USA Today as one of the top ten places in America to be “enthralled by heavenly music.” This dynamic church has fifteen choirs and instrumental groups, including the Morning Choir—a twenty-six voice professional ensemble—and professional brass ensemble Tower Brass. Dr. Sherer manages an active concert series at the church, with more than eighty events each year. He has led several music mission and choir tours in the United States, England, France, Cuba, and Guatemala. Dr. Sherer was recently selected as one of fifty prominent Chicagoans living with passion and purpose as featured in the book Bright Lights of the Second City.

The BBC program Songs of Praise, broadcast to 40 million people around the world, has featured the music of Fourth Church, with Dr. Sherer at the organ. The Morning Choir and Dr. Sherer also appeared in the Columbia TriStar motion picture My Best Friend’s Wedding, filmed in part at Fourth Church. 

A native of Xenia, Ohio, Dr. Sherer is married to the Reverend Kara Wagner Sherer, an Episcopal priest, and has two daughters. He enjoys yoga, T’ai Chi, bicycling, gardening, painting, and anything related to the R.M.S. Titanic. He has studied organ with David Mulbury, Roberta Gary, Thomas Murray, and John Weaver and conducting with John Leman and Walden Moore. Dr. Sherer received two bachelor degrees, in organ performance and choral music education, from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He earned two master’s degrees at Yale University, majoring in organ performance and art in religion, and received the doctor of musical arts degree from the Juilliard School.

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For more information about organ concerts, contact John Sherer, Organist and Director of Music (312.981.3592).