Joel Bacon Concert celebrates organ’s 50th anniversary

Joel Bacon stands in front of the Casavant OrganOrgan Professor Joel Bacon is taking audiences back in time during his concert celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Casavant Organ, performing selected pieces from the organ’s 1968 debut concert.

The anniversary concert is on Monday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the University Center for the Arts. Event tickets are available at

“CSU’s Casavant organ is a remarkable instrument — a great point of pride for the University and the community, and a joy for me personally to play and teach on,” remarked Dr. Bacon. “I hope the series of recitals celebrating its 50th anniversary have reminded us all of how special it truly is.”

On Aug. 4, 1968, Robert Cavarra played the first public recitals on the organ. Bach’s monumental “Fantasy and Fugue in G minor” opened the program. This dramatic work surely made a big impact on the listeners that day, who experienced our magnificent instrument for the first time. The rest of the recital was quite varied, designed to show off as many colorful sounds of the organ as possible.

Not long after this first program, the Austrian organist Anton Heiller, recognized as one of the greatest organists in world, came to CSU to perform. His recitals on Oct. 20, 1968, were publicized as the “official dedication” of the Casavant organ. His program opened with the beautiful “Praeludium in d” by Georg Böhm, who is remembered for having taught organ to J.S. Bach. It ended with a major work by the German Romantic composer Max Reger, and an improvisation by Heiller on a submitted theme.

50 years later

Bacon’s program on Oct. 15 hopes to recreate for listeners some of the experiences those first audiences had. The first half of the recital is comprised of Baroque works chosen from the programs of both Cavarra and Heiller.

At the time, CSU’s organ was considered unusual in its time for being fashioned after Baroque ideals; skeptics wondered why a 20th century American instrument should resemble an instrument from 18th century Germany. “Over the years, as we’ve come to recognize the great importance of this ‘golden age’ of organ design in Europe, it is seen as a great advantage to have modern instruments well-suited to the repertoire of Bach and his contemporaries,” stated Bacon.

It is widely recognized that CSU’s organ is beautiful and eclectic enough to handle a variety of repertoires from different time periods and regions. “Both Cavarra and Heiller included Romantic and contemporary works on their recitals to demonstrate the breadth of the Casavant organ,” Bacon explained.

Bacon’s anniversary program follows Cavarra and Heiller’s lead in this regard, ending with a major Romantic work by Max Reger, and a toccata by the American composer Stephen Paulus.

Recital program

Georg Böhm / Praeludium in d
Nicolas de Grigny / Selections from his “Organ Mass”
Johann Sebastian Bach / Partita on “O Gott, du frommer Gott,” BWV 767
Johann Sebastian Bach / Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542
Max Reger / Chorale Fantasy on “Wie schön leucht uns der Morgenstern”
Stephen Paulus / Toccata

Halloween Organ Extravaganza

The final performance on the Casavant organ during its 50th anniversary year is the annual Halloween Organ Extravaganza, now in its thirteenth year. During the evening of Oct. 31, show times are 7 p.m., 9 p.m., and 11 p.m. Tickets are available at