Making music: Peachtree organist to play free concert

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, February 7, 2013

PEACHY KEEN: Peachtree Presbyterian Church organist Nicholas Bowden will play a concert on First Presbyterian’s organ shown here. The organ was installed in 2004 and has been the centerpiece of free concerts since.

As senior organist of Atlanta’s Peachtree Presbyterian Church — with a membership 10,000 strong — Nicholas Bowden regularly plays for a crowd. This weekend that crowd may be a bit smaller, though no less appreciative, as his audience will be first come, first seated at the First Presbyterian Church in Washington.
Bowden’s solo organ concert begins at 4 p.m. Sunday. The free concert is open to the public, a custom that’s been in place since the church’s Goulding & Wood Opus 44 organ was installed in May 2004, according to Mike Morgan, First Presbyterian’s music director.
“That was one of the points — when we got (the organ), we were going to share it with the community,” Morgan said. “That’s the reason for the concerts.”
Twice a year, the church hosts guest organists and an audience made up of whomever wants to listen. Dr. David Arcus, chapel organist of Duke University Chapel, and Washington native Dr. David Jernigan, organist of Christ Church in downtown Raleigh, among many others, have taken the bench to play for the music-loving public. Sunday represents Bowden’s third trip north to perform at First Presbyterian.
While Bowden’s program is challenging from an organist’s perspective, Morgan said, the Sunday concert would be very audience-friendly.
“(Bowden) is just a person who makes music accessible for everyone. He’s a ‘people’s organist,’ so to speak. It’s fun to hear,” said Morgan.
On the playlist are Bach’s “Toccata in F Major,” several hymn arrangements, a “trumpet tune” composed by Bowden and a piece that Morgan said everyone knows: “Carillon de Westminster” by Louis Vierne.
“If you’ve ever heard a grandfather clock chime, you know that tune,” he said, adding that the piece originated when Vierne, the organist of Notre Dame, played an improvisation on the bells of the Paris cathedral.
Bowden is well known for “Nick Bowden and Friends,” his twice-yearly charitable concerts at Peachtree Presbyterian, and for his PBS appearances on “The Joy of Music.”

First Presbyterian Church of Washington is located at 211 W. Second St.