More than a decade after his first organ lesson, Holden native Abraham Ross will be returning to the place — and the instrument — where his passion first started.
Ross will be performing Thursday night on the E. & G. G. Hook’s Opus 288 organ at St. John Roman Catholic Church, part of the St. John’s Organ Society 27th Summer Concert Series.
“St. John’s Organ Society is so pleased to welcome Abe Ross back to an instrument he knows very well and plays so beautifully,” said Kevin Birch, Ross’ former instructor and director of music at St. John’s. “He plays with deep understanding and sensitivity and I look forward to his program.”
The St. John’s organ is the largest 19th Century “tracker action” organ in northern New England, meaning it has direct mechanical connection between the keys and the pallets under the pipe. The organ was first heard by parishioners on Christmas Eve 1860 and is one of only a dozen three-manual E. & G. G. Hook organs in existence today, according to the St. John’s Organ Society website.
Ross, 25, has been performing in the organ society concerts since his first year at College of the Holy Cross, where he received his undergraduate degree. He said it’s nice to perform for those who have supported him growing up, and it’s like “bringing something back to him.”
“I feel a special connection whenever I return to Bangor. The church is certainly a special place for me,” he said.
In Thursday’s program, Ross will perform the works of Eugene Thayer, Dudley Buck, John Knowles Paine and César Franck, connecting listeners to music from the time period when the organ was first built.
His program will also be his first as a member of the organ society’s board of directors. Through his studies and travels, Ross has seen organs that have suffered in its functionality due to modern updates, he said. However, the society at St. John’s is devoted to keeping its organ intact and in its original historical condition.
“Serving in the board of St. John’s Organ Society directly connects me to a cause that holds great personal value,” Ross said. “Kevin Birch has been very wise in his efforts to ensure that this instrument is preserved and heard for years to come.”
Ross first started practicing organ at the age of 12 under the instruction of Birch. Those lessons started the trajectory for Ross’ education and career.
After College of the Holy Cross, Ross attended Oberlin College Conservatory, where he received a master’s degree in music in historical performance studying organ, harpsichord and fortepiano. He spent the past year as an organ scholar at Duke University Chapel accompanying the vestry ensemble.
In the coming months, Ross’ performing will take him internationally. In the fall, he will begin his doctoral work at McGill University in Montreal, studying organ with Swedish organist and composer, Hans-Ola Ericsson.
In October, Ross will be competing at the Sweelinck International Organ Competition in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Ross, chosen from 39 candidates from 15 countries, will perform programs on three historic organs in Amsterdam and Haarlem. He will be the only American among the seven finalists from Italy, France, South Korea and Netherlands.
Ross said he connects to the experience that Birch gave him growing up playing on the E & G.G. Hook and hopes to support young supporters the same way after his studies through academia and solo performances.
Ross will perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at 217 York St. The concert is free, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit hookopus288.net.