In a balcony overlooking the nave of Memorial Church, Christian M. Lane hunches over three keyboards, passionately pounding chords. He loses himself in the music, as the gold pipes lining the wall produce a cascade of notes that expand and trill in the large chamber. In the pews on the floor, his audience is captivated.
Two weeks before, Lane had perched on the same organ bench as he surveyed an empty and echoing Memorial Church from the balcony.
He tucked one leg casually under him to reveal a pink and purple pair of striped socks under his dark suit, while he chatted about organ history, favorite composers and goals at Harvard.
Since his arrival at Harvard in 2008, Lane has received international acclaim—most recently with his victory at the Canadian International Organ Competition—establishing his position as among one of the best young organists in the world.
As a relatively young musician, Lane seeks to reenergize a staid school of organists. Lane wants to challenge the organ’s reputation as an old-fashioned or outdated instrument.
He says that organists can even learn from the energy and identity of pop music from artists like Adele and Lady Gaga. According to Lane, musicians must engage their audience with the creativity and passion to lend a unique interpretation to their piece.
“Notes are only the beginning,” Lane says.
During his four years at Harvard, Lane has become an integral part of the Memorial Church and Lowell House communities—on Sunday, Lane christened the first new organ to be installed in Memorial Church in the past five decades.
But though Lane says he has found a home at Harvard, the 31-year-old will step down from his post as Lowell House tutor next year in order to pursue his larger goal: to bring new life to a dust-coated genre that has become in large part irrelevant in today’s popular music scene.
THE YOUNG ORGANIST
Lane grew up in Walkersville, Maryland, a small rural town that Lane has watched transform into suburbia for nearby Washington D.C. and Baltimore.
Although his family was not particularly musical, Lane says that he always gravitated towards music. According to Lane, his mother briefly studied piano while pregnant with him.
“I’ve always wondered whether that explains my musical bent,” he says.
He started to play the piano at the age of five, attending his first piano lesson on his first day of kindergarten. A year or two later, Lane had moved on to the organ.
Since Lane’s father is a pastor, Lane had access to an organ from an early age. The entrepreneurial youth used his talents to play for the church to supplement his allowance.