Two concerts will celebrate Bach’s birth and his skill in composing for the organ.

Two concerts will celebrate Bach’s birth and his skill in composing for the organ.

PORTLAND – The Friends of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ will hold its fourteenth annual Bach Birthday Bash on Tuesday, March 16. Two concerts are planned, at noon and 7:30 p.m., in Merrill Auditorium.

The concerts plan to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of J.S. Bach in style with a program devoted entirely to the works of Bach, widely considered to be the greatest composer for organ. Portland’s Municipal Organist Ray Cornils will perform Bach’s monumental “Passacaglia” and Fugue in C minor and will be joined by soprano Christina Astrachan, trumpeter Betty Rines and members of the DaPonte String Quartet in Bach’s joyous Cantata No. 51.

Astrachan was born and raised in Switzerland where she graduated from the Zurich Music Conservatory and founded an early music ensemble, Florelegium Musicum. When she came to the United States 18 years ago, she quickly established herself in performances ranging from medieval to contemporary. Astrachan co-founded the Maine Baroque Ensemble and the Portland Early Consort. She is a faculty member of the Portland Conservatory of Music, Bowdoin College and Bates College.

Cornils has been Portland’s municipal organist since 1990. For the past 17 years, he has been music director of First Parish Church in Brunswick, where he leads an extensive music program of five vocal and two handbell choirs. In addition, he is a member of the music faculties of Bowdoin College, the Portland Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern Maine in Gorham where he teaches organ, harpsichord and related classes.

Other events planned for the spring include “Music from the World’s Great Cathedrals” with guest organist Pierre Pincemaille from the Cathedral of St. Denis, Paris, France, on Tuesday, April 20, and the new “Meet the King of Instruments,” for school-age children on Monday, May 17.

The Friends of the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ is a nonprofit organization, which raises funds for the organ’s care and repairs.

For further information, people can contact FOKO executive director Russ Burleigh at Brown Fox Printing, 883-9525, or visit FOKO’s Web site at

Admission to the concerts is by a suggested donation of $10.

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