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Fall 2020 concert Series

4 live-streamed faculty recitals, a pre-recorded performance by the VC Orchestra Strings and the Service of Lessons & Carols -Virtually!

A DUTCH TREAT-FRITZ ORGAN. Sunday, November 8 at 1pm, Gail Archer, organ

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was one of the great organists and teachers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His father Hans, Jan himself, and his son Dirck were organists at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam for roughly a century.  Jan established an organ school in Amsterdam that attracted pupils from England, Germany and the Low Countries. His students, who paid 200 gold florins a year for room, board and lessons, included Peter Phillips, Heinrich Scheidemann, Melchior Schildt and Samuel Scheidt. Sweelinck explored all the formal musical structures of the age: variations on hymns and folk tunes, dance music, the toccata and ricercar.  His many lively and inventive sets of variations present wonderful technical challenges and great good humor for both player and listener.  LINK TO RECORDING.


November 29 at 3pm - Gail Archer, organ.

Learn more

Biographical information:

Gail Archer is an American organist, music director, choral conductor and an academic. She is director of the Barnard-Columbia Chorus and Chamber Choir and teaches Introduction to Music, a year-long survey of Western Classical Music from Gregorian Chant to living composers. She is also an international concert organist and recording artist; her recordings include the fall, 2017, A Russian Journey The Muse’s Voice, Franz Liszt: A Hungarian Rhapsody, Bach: The Transcendent Genius, An American Idyll, A Mystic In the Making (Meyer Media), and The Orpheus of Amsterdam: Sweelinck and his Pupils (CALA Records). She is the founder of Musforum;, the network for women organists to affirm and promote their work. Professor Archer serves as college organist at Vassar College.

Source: Accessed 11/2/20.

Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon b. Deventer, 1562; d. Amsterdam, 1621. Dutch organist, composer, and teacher. 

Sweelink spent almost his entire working life as an organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, composing keyboard fantasias, toccatas and sets of variations for the organ and psalm settings, madrigals, motets and chansons for voices. His music combined the virtuosity of Italian masters such as Giovanni Gabrieli with the variation technique of the English virginalists (as demonstrated in the music of his friend and contemporary John Bull). Sweelinck’s pupils included Scheidt and Scheidemann, and he thus played a central role in establishing the north German school of organist–composers. 

Before 1580 he succeeded his father (his earliest teacher) as organist of the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, a post he retained for the rest of his life. On his death his son, Dirk, was appointed to succeed him. Chief among his vocal compositions are numerous chansons and Italian madrigals, motets (Cantiones sacrae, 1619), and polyphonic settings (for domestic devotions) of the entire Genevan Psalter.

As an organist Sweelinck was renowned as much for his advice on the quality of new or rebuilt organs in other Dutch cities as for his brilliant improvisations at the Oude Kerk, before and after church services. His pupils included Düben, Scheidemann, Siefert, Scheidt, and others who were later to become leaders in their profession. His numerous organ works (by no means all of which have survived) include fantasias, toccatas, and sets of elaborate variations (notably those on Mein junges Leben hat ein Endt) in which the influence of John Bull and other English virginalists is apparent.

Sources:   Naxos Dictionary Smallman, Basil. "Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon." In The Oxford Companion to Music. : Oxford University Press, Accessed 11/2/20.

Extended Grove Music Online Biography  (Vassar subscription only)

Streaming audio:

Archer, Gail. (Vassar subscription only)

Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon  (Vassar subscription only)


Recordings and printed musical scores in the Vassar Music Library:

Archer, Gail.

Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon.