Holy Cross Senior Wins Prize in International Organ Competition

September 25th, 2012 by John Morton ’15


Jennifer McPherson '13 performs on the Taylor and Boody Organ in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel on Sept. 14 during the Mass for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross as part of the presidential inauguration of Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. Days earlier McPherson received third prize in an international organ competition. Image by Dan Vaillancourt

Holy Cross senior Jennifer McPherson has played in organ competitions before, but never at the international level. So when she won third prize in such a competition — along with the 1,000 euros that came along with it — McPherson was elated.

Selected from a round of 55 candidates and later nine finalists, McPherson traveled to Amsterdam to participate in the fourth Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck Organ Competition at the Oude Kerk, the oldest stone building in the Dutch capital. The finalists competed before a jury consisting of accomplished musicians Piet Kee, Wilbert Hazelzet, Matteo Imbruno, Jos van der Kooy, Anton Pauw, Maurizio Salerno, and Henk Verhoef. At the conclusion of the four-day competition on Sept. 8, McPherson was awarded third prize.

The opportunity to play the organ at such a renowned competition was humbling, says McPherson.

“It was an incredible feeling. This was my first international competition, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she says. “I heard several really talented organists, a lot of wonderful music, and was honored to be a part of it.”

A music major from Eliot, Maine, McPherson was the only American selected to participate in the competition. Although the Oude Kerk organ is smaller than the Taylor and Boody Organ in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at Holy Cross, McPherson felt her music “came alive” with the early music selections from Scheidemann, Schildt, Sweelinck, and Praetorius. “The organ in the Oude Kerk was a treat to play,” she says.

As the Organ Scholar for the class of 2013, McPherson is on a full tuition scholarship and plays the four manual, fifty-stop mechanical action pipe organ in St. Joseph Chapel. She assists the chapel music program and the College organist as needed.

McPherson has participated in American Guild of Organists Young Organist Competitions in Boston and New Jersey. At Holy Cross, she is involved in the Schola Cantorum, Peace Around the World and Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

McPherson credits James David Christie, distinguished artist in residence and College organist, for having the opportunity to develop her musical skills. “As organ scholar, I’ve been able to meet and work with so many incredible musicians, perform on some fabulous instruments, and travel to some pretty neat places,” she says. “I’m so grateful for this experience.”

Upon graduation, McPherson plans to continue her education in music with a focus on historical performance.

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