Biography

Short version (c. 200 words)

Stuart Forster has been Director of Music and Organist at Christ Church, the Episcopal Church in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, since 1999. His performances as soloist, accompanist, and conductor have been broadcast around the world, and he has recorded numerous CDs, including solo performances on the JAV and Pro Organo labels. His book, Hymn Playing: A Modern Colloquium, draws on interviews with leading church musicians to document expert techniques of hymn leadership and accompaniment with the organ. Dr. Forster has written orchestral transcriptions for the organ, liturgical music for congregations (including more than 100 hymn arrangements), organ music, and choral anthems. His landmark organ transcription of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, “From the New World,” has been recorded, published by Éditions Chantraine, and is frequently performed. Forster’s work has also been published by Paraclete Press, MorningStar Music Publishers, and St. James Music Press.

Dr. Forster holds qualifications from Trinity College of Music (London), the University of Sydney, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Yale University, and the Graduate Theological Foundation, where his doctorate focused on the congregation’s experience of flow and music within liturgy. A dedicated organist and choir trainer, Dr. Forster’s passion for leading congregational singing has guided his vocation both in the church and as a teacher. Details of his compositions, performances, recordings, and book may be found at www.StuartAForster.com.

 

Medium-Length Version (c. 400 words)

A dedicated church musician, Stuart Forster has been Director of Music and Organist at Christ Church, the Episcopal Church in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, since 1999. He has performed throughout both hemispheres as an organ soloist, accompanist, and conductor. As a composer, he has written congregational music, organ music, and choral anthems. Dr. Forster has also composed more than 100 hymn arrangements and numerous organ transcriptions. This music is published by Paraclete Press, MorningStar Music Publishers, and St. James Music Press; his landmark organ transcription of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, “From the New World,” was published by Éditions Chantraine, Belgium. He has been broadcast around the world and has recorded numerous CDs, including solo performances on the JAV and Pro Organo labels. Vesper Light, a CD featuring the Christ Church Cambridge Evensong Choir, was recorded live on tour in some of America’s finest ecclesiastical buildings. Forster’s book, Hymn Playing: A Modern Colloquium, compiles the thoughts and practices of leading church musicians, setting a new standard for teaching organists about engaging congregational song. He regularly teaches workshops on hymn playing.

After considerable study and several appointments in his native Sydney, Australia, Forster traveled to the United States in 1996 to study with Professor Thomas Murray, earning two degrees from Yale University, as well as the Faculty Prize and the Robert S. Baker Scholarship from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and from the Yale School of Music the Julia R. Sherman Prize for excellence in organ playing. In addition to earning qualifications from the University of Sydney, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and Trinity College of Music, London, Forster has won the Sydney International Organ Competition and been awarded numerous other accolades, including the Scarf Foundation Award, the University of Sydney Organ Scholarship (awarded twice), the Alice Bryant Organ Scholarship (for two terms of three years each), and the Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship. While studying at Yale, Forster served as Fellow in Church Music at Christ Church, New Haven, Connecticut; his work at the University included appointments as Marquand Chapel Organist, accompanist to various choruses and graduate courses, and teacher to numerous undergraduate and second-instrument organ students. He earned a Doctorate in Sacred Music (DSM) at the Graduate Theological Foundation, with a focus on the congregation’s experience of music and flow within liturgy; his dissertation documents and analyzes current practices of hymn leadership and accompaniment with the organ.

Details of Dr. Forster’s compositions, performances, and recordings may be found on his web site: www.StuartAForster.com

 

Long Version (850+ words)

A dedicated church musician, STUART FORSTER is well known as organ soloist and accompanist, as well as conductor, teacher, choral trainer, organ consultant, composer, and arranger. He has been Director of Music and Organist at Christ Church, the Episcopal Church in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, since 1999, where he was appointed at the age of 27.

At Christ Church, Dr. Forster directs three choirs (Adult, Youth, and Evensong), provides the liturgical accompaniment, and carries out the administration, pastoral work, and organization required to build the music program and related areas of this Episcopal parish in Harvard Square. Before his appointment at Christ Church, he frequently acted as consultant to churches facing the choice between rebuilding their old organ and installing a new one, experience that proved of great benefit to Christ Church in the process leading to the decision to commission the new Schoenstein organ.

Since arriving at Christ Church, Forster has composed more than 100 arrangements of hymns and anthems, congregational antiphons and settings of the mass, organ music, and several original anthems, hymn tunes, and psalm chants. Publishers and reviewers are responding to these with enthusiasm, and many may be found in the catalogs of Paraclete Press, MorningStar Music Publishers, and St. James Music Press. The CD recording Vesper Light features musical highlights from the first decade of the Evensong Choir’s tours. He teaches organ performance and accompaniment, and his recent students range from a choir school graduate to scholars at Harvard University. Regular workshops on hymn playing feature Dr. Forster throughout the year.

His landmark organ transcription of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, “From the New World,” was published by Éditions Chantraine of Belgium; Paraclete Press published his choral anthems and motets O taste and see; The death of Christ; Now is the healing time decreed; It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord; Set me as a seal; Sing to the Lord a new song; By the Creator, Joseph was appointed; and O gracious light (more anthems are currently under contract). Forster’s recordings include a CD on JAV Recordings #113 (including the Dvořák symphony) in the Great Organ Builders of America series, and regular radio broadcasts throughout Australia and the United States; his most recent solo recording is the CD Symphonic Quest, released on the Pro Organo label, featuring new orchestral transcriptions of his own and organ music performed on the large Schoenstein organ in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Dr. Forster maintains a rigorous concert career throughout both hemispheres, and works regularly with such organizations as The American Guild of Organists, The Association of Anglican Musicians, and The Royal School of Church Music. He has served as co-Chair of the Young Organists’ Initiative, which promotes organ-playing by gifted young musicians, and as a member of various Executive Committees. In New South Wales, Australia, he was the editor of Newsclef, the newsletter of the local branch of the Royal School of Church Music Australia.

Professional journals have featured articles both by and about Stuart Forster. Original research informs his article, “The Application of the Barnes Tempering System to the Organ Works of J.S. Bach,” which was published in The Sydney Organ Journal (1996). His book, Hymn Playing: A Modern Colloquium (2013), available from MorningStar Music Publishers, explores the techniques of eleven experts, and aims to be the most comprehensive documentation of successful hymn playing techniques currently available. He writes reviews of organ and choral music for The Hymn Society of the United States and Canada.

As Organ Scholar at St. James’ Anglican Church, Sydney, Forster developed his liturgical accompaniment skills under the guidance of Peter Jewkes and Walter Sutcliffe. After arriving in the United States in 1996, Forster worked with Robert Lehman as Fellow in Church Music at Christ Church, New Haven, Connecticut; he served concurrently at Yale University as accompanist to various choruses and graduate courses, teacher to numerous undergraduate and secondary organ students, and organist to the interdenominational Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School.

As an undergraduate, Forster studied organ with David Rumsey at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, with teaching supplemented by Rosemary Blake, Philip Swanton, and Amy Johansen. In graduate study with Thomas Murray and Martin Jean, for which he was awarded full scholarships, Forster earned two degrees from Yale University, the Faculty Prize from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the Julia R. Sherman Prize for excellence in organ playing. Forster earned the Doctor of Sacred Music degree at the Graduate Theological Foundation, where his focus was on the congregation’s experience of flow and music within liturgy. Other study has included musical styles from plainsong to jazz, conducting and voice, and a degree in Economics at the University of Sydney.

Dr. Forster is a Fellow of Trinity College of Music, London; other scholarships that he has held include the University of Sydney Organ Scholarship (awarded twice), the Alice Bryant Organ Scholarship (for two terms of three years each), the Ruth and Paul Manz Organ Scholarship, and the Robert S. Baker Scholarship. He is a recipient of the coveted Scarf Foundation Award, and was the winner of the 1994 Sydney International Organ Competition.

Details of Dr. Forster’s compositions, performances, and recordings may be found on his web site: www.StuartAForster.com

2 Replies to “Biography”

  1. Stuart – We met in Denver at the St. John’s Cathedral concert. I mentioned that I was working on a play about Dvorak, particularly his time in Spillville.

    We chatted about the dates of the 9th Symphony and when it was finished and first performed. In all the literature I’ve come across, and I have searched all the major works, they mention that Dvorak began creating the work around Jan of 93, finished in May of 93, went to Spillville for the summer, came back to NYC and the Conservatory with the Quartet and Quintet in his pocket, and had the debut of the 9th Dec 15 (formal rehearsal) and the premier the evening of Dec 16.

    I’d like to keep in touch because I may have some questions for you about what he might or might not have done in Spillville on the organ. Incidentally, while in Spillville, he played the organ at St. Wenceslaus’s for mass while he was there.

    He worked out some melodies on that instrument and another spinet kind of organ that was in town and on a beat-up piano.

    Look forward to talking with you in the future.

    ARooney

  2. I was delighted to meet you in Denver and to hear of your work.

    It sounds like you probably know a lot more of those details than I do. If there’s anything with which I can help, please send email to stuartforster@aya.yale.edu

    Best wishes,
    Stuart.

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