Murray Forbes Somerville, Harvard's new University Organist and Choirmaster, learned to play the organ at a preparatory school in Rhodesia when he was 13 years old.
There, says Somerville, his teachers boasted a good music program and a terrible organ, which they allowed him to play "in hopes that I would break it, which I never actually succeeded in doing."
Many years and many organs later, Somerville has settled in Harvard Yard as the newest addition to Memorial Church's musical staff.
Somerville came to Harvard this year from Orlando, Florida, where he was Cathedral Musician at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and director of the Winter Park Bach Festival Choir.
The London-born organist says he is pleased now to become a part of the tradition of Harvard's University Choir. "I remain committed to the idea that this choir is from the Harvard community," he says.
Somerville is also enthusiastic about the potential which he recognizes in the University Choir. And although he says he has not made any "very radical" changes in Memorial Church's choir, Somerville is moving the 50-member group forward with his own style.
For example, Somerville has already added a new dimension to the Morning Choir repertoire. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, this 18-member branch of the University Choir now chants Anglican psalms in Appleton Chapel.
His further musical plans are even more adventurous. He has already planned to stage the American premier of Jean Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville's "De Profundis" with the University Choir this spring.
And while Somerville says he is excited to be at Harvard, members of the choir seem just as excited to have him here. Margit McGrath '92, co-president of the choir, describes the transition between choirmasters as "smooth and positive."
"It has been a good blend of continuing the quality of the choir and his bringing new ideas and enthusiasm," says McGrath.
Matthew Butterick '92, the choir's other co-president says that choir members "might have been wary at first, but they have seen that he knows whathe's doing. I'm excited."
Somerville will also be responsible for much ofthe organ music that will sound at Memorial Churchin the coming years.
Somerville anticipates a stimulating future forthe music of Memorial Church. He brings years ofexperience to magnify the sound of the church'sorgan, and the singing of the choir.
Of the University Choir Somerville says, "Iwill challenge them. I think they can rise to it.