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Composer Robert Sirota Commemorates Appleton Organ’s 30th Anniversary at the Met Museum

Composer Robert Sirota. Photo by Richard Frank; culled from the composer's web site.

While the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City may be best recognized for its expansive collections of visual art and historical artifacts, musical instruments are also significant to the museum’s holdings. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the installation of one such instrument at the museum—the Thomas Appleton pipe organ—the Met’s Department of Musical Instruments commissioned composer Robert Sirota to write a new work, which will receive its world premiere on the approximately 182-year-old instrument on Wednesday, May 2 at 3:30 p.m.

The resulting composition, entitled holy ghosts, will be performed by the composer’s wife, organist and Episcopal priest Victoria Sirota. Also an author of hymns, the organist wrote the libretto for Robert Sirota’s 2010 cantata Holy Women. The 836-pipe Appleton organ was first built in 1830 (most like for Hartford, Connecticut’s South Church) and later installed by Emmons Howard at Sacred Heart Church in Plains, Pennsylvania in 1883.

“The title holy ghosts comes from my sense that this instrument retains the spirits of the many Protestant hymns played on it over its life span,” said the composer in a recent press release. “It is my fantasy that the organ plays them itself, as if by heart, and the twenty-first century organist comments on and embellishes the organ’s performance.” The composition itself is comprised of three movements and draws from three hymn tunes—“Semley,” “Helmsley,” and “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”—culled from the Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music’s 1832 edition.

The May 2 concert is free with museum admission. For more information on this excellent intersection of music and art, visit here.