Organist Thomas Bara held a master class on campus for Goshen College student organists and several Organ Club members on Friday. He then presented a recital in Rieth Recital Hall on Sunday.
The chairs in the hall faced away from the stage so audience members could gain a better view of the balcony where Bara sat at the organ. Chris Thogersen, assistant professor of music, was Bara’s registrant during the performance. Thogersen helped Bara pull out and push in the draw knobs.
Bara opened his recital with “Präludium in E minor” by Nikolaus Bruhns, followed by “Concerto in D minor (after Vivaldi),” composed by J.S. Bach (with Vivaldi in mind). Bara encouraged the audience to listen for Bach’s play on Vivaldi’s signature style, which is present in many of the concerti he wrote for his students – more simplified accompaniment written for younger students, and virtuosic solos written for Vivaldi’s more advanced students.
Bara added his own thoughtful responses and academic synopses about each piece and composer in between works. He described “Chorale Preludes from Orgelbüchlein” by J.S. Bach, as a “little organ book,” which resembled “teaching pieces,” similar to a “method book.”
The second to last piece entitled “Allegro Chorale and Fugue in D,” by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, was very rare, according to Bara. He said that until more recently, the piece “didn’t make the cut,” and somehow slid out of sight and out of standard repertoire for organists.
The finale, “Fantasy in F minor, K. 608” by W.A. Mozart, Bara described as, “perhaps a ‘holy grail’ for organists.” This was a technically difficult composition, which at times produced a style of sound similar to a string quartet, and at other times resembled elements from a piano concerto.
Bara has clearly mastered the skill of performance but is also a teacher. He is currently the instructor of organ and class piano at his alma mater, the Interlochen Arts Academy and Arts Camp in Interlochen, Mich.
Bara attended the University of Michigan and Eastman School of Music. Following his undergraduate and graduate studies, Bara served as organ scholar at Saint Thomas Church and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, and as choirmaster at Central United Methodist Church in Traverse, Mich.