Baroque Bliss at St. Austin’s


This is the gallery organ at St. Austin's Church on Guadalupe St.


There are many great things about living in America. But, if you’re an organ nut like me, one of the distinct disadvantages is the lack of authentic Baroque organs. Yes, I miss having a Schnitger down the street!  But the organ at St. Austin’s Catholic Church, recently built in the 18th century South German tradition, warmed my organ-loving heart at a Monday-evening performance by Eric Mellenbruch, organist of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd; he gave a wonderful recital of mostly Baroque works, pieces that really showed what this little organ can do!

We were welcomed by St. Austin’s Music Director, Dr. John J. Hoffman. He invited us to walk around the sanctuary during the concert to hear the organ from various vantage points. Ordinarily I would have loved this, but I opted to remain in my seat to spare my fellow listeners the sound of my clickety-clackety shoes!

Mr. Mellenbruch dove straight into the good stuff with a rollicking Praeludium by Dieterich Buxtehude. (If you’ve never heard that word used to describe organ music before, please, do yourself a favor and listen to a good recording of Buxtehude!) We were also treated to a worshipful and serene ciacona based on a hymn tune by Johann Gottfried Walther, a set of variations by Sweelinck that really showed off the colors of the organ, and a glorious Fantasia by the little-known Belgian composer Abraham van den Kerckhoven. The solo voice used in that piece, the Sesquialtera, was the aural equivalent of a cool, clear cascade of water.

If you get the chance, go hear this instrument! The little organ that can (and does!) open the door for us to travel back to the Baroque — a pleasant journey indeed in the hands of an organist like Eric Mellenbruch.

~Sara Hessel, KMFA  Music Director

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