Lynnwood Farnam: American classic organist
St. Julien, Marcus George
Bailey, Walter B.
Doctor of Musical Arts
Lynnwood Farnam, who lived from 1885 to 1930, was considered by most of his contemporaries to be the greatest organist of his day. He came from a close-knit family in a small Canadian town, and his precocious musical gifts led to a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London at age fifteen. Qualities that characterize his entire life may be observed in correspondence, diaries, notebooks, and scrapbooks from his four years of study there. These have been preserved in the Lynnwood Farnam Collection at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, along with numerous other personal items. Farnam began his professional music career in Montreal, moved to Boston in 1913, and ultimately ended up in New York at the Church of the Holy Communion in 1920. His professional philosophy combined church and concert work into one musical career, as exemplified in his extensive twilight concert series. He also undertook several European and American concert tours, and befriended many of the greatest organists and organ composers of the era. His untimely death at age forty-five elicited an extensive public outpouring of grief. Characteristics of Farnam's playing universally cited time and again by critics include a prodigious manual and pedal technique, an incredible gift for utilizing the myriad of tone colors available on the organ, and a choice of repertoire entirely idiomatic to the instrument. His personal standards of programming and performance would ultimately raise the standards of the profession, and his regular inclusion of Bach's works and earlier compositions would inspire later generations of players to examine and perform this repertoire. Farnam also extensively promoted compositions by his contemporaries, often leading to their eventual inclusion in the standard organ repertoire. Farnam was appointed to head the Organ Department at the Curtis Institute in 1927, and taught some of the most significant players and teachers of the next generation. Through them, his influence extended to future generations of organists.
Biographies; American history; Music