Harvard Organist Leaves After 32 Years of Service

Memorial Church Loses 'Hidden Treasure'

After 32 years as University Organist and Choirmaster, John R. Ferris--called "Boston's hidden treasure" by critics--will retire at the end of this academic year.

Administrators expressed their appreciation of Ferris, yesterday, and said they regretted to see him retire.

"I find it difficult to think of Memorial Church without the Ferris sound," said Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, Reverend Peter J. Gomes.

New Blood

Horace T. Allen, a visiting lecturer on ministry, echoed Gomes' statement, saying of Ferris, "It is a matter of great sadness that he is going."


Ferris, who studied as an undergraduate with noted musician Marcel Dupre at the University of Chicago, said he was retiring because he has been at the job for a long time and would like to see "some new blood come along and rejuvenate the place."

Ferris also said that he enjoyed working with students but plans to pursue his teaching career outside of Harvard, after his retirement. He will continue to give private organ lessons and teach at Boston University.

"I will miss my job and the students very much," said Ferris, "especially the students."

Ferris directs the church's four-part mixed choir, which he created upon his arrival in 1958, and plays the organ at church services. He also edited the University's third hymn book and designed the Isham Organ, heralded upon its installation as the largest American-built tracker action organ in the United States.

Gomes, who has worked with Ferris since 1970, praised Ferris's work with the choir, saying, "It is not for the sake of the clergy that undergraduates give up their Sunday mornings and their early mornings six days a week to sing: it is for John and what he does for them."

The Search Begins

While at Harvard, Ferris has given a number of outside organ performances and travelled to the West Indies to direct choral groups and instruct organ students.

A search committee, including Allen, gas been convened to advise Gomes on the selection of a replacement for Ferris. About 40 American and British organists have applied for the position, Allen said.