Organ Club

The Wellesley College Organ Club

Join us for weekly meetings of the Wellesley Organ Club! We meet in the balcony of Houghton Chapel to make music together, to provide the wind for the C.B. Fisk organ, and to discuss topics related to the pipe organ. No prior experience with the organ or with music is required – just a curiosity about this amazing instrument and how it produces such beautiful sounds.

Since its inception in ancient times, the organ was the most complex machine for centuries. We can experience some of this history back to the 17th century when playing and pumping the Fisk organ. Built in 1981, it draws inspiration from North European organs of the early Baroque period, specifically St. Jacobi Church in Lübeck, Germany (1636).

Members of the organ club play pieces together or on their own, depending on their experience in reading or playing music, and they take turns performing the role of the calcant. Pipes of an organ require wind to make their sound and the calcants provide the wind by pumping the bellows. While this may seem to be an easy task, any student will tell you that small changes in your pumping produce big changes in the way the pipes speak! A calcant “rides” the bellows down with the weight of their body, climbs several steps and repeats the action – over and over as long as the organist wants to play. Calcants provide the wind for all musical events in the chapel that require the organ. This generous donation of time and energy creates a living and (literally) breathing instrument of exquisite sensitivity. Only a handful of organs have such a pumping mechanism still intact!

No application is required for the Organ Club, but registration via email to the College Organist, Erica Johnson, is requested at any time during the academic year.

Students may audition to join the Organ Scholars. Open to all students and effective for the full academic year, organ scholarships are awarded to organists who have a serious interest in learning how to play the organ. Recipients will be expected to take organ lessons, practice regularly, attend weekly Organ Club, study a variety of historical and contemporary repertoire, and develop an appreciation for the many styles of organ construction and performance practices. Applications are available at the start of the fall semester. Beginners are welcome.

Please contact Erica Johnson at for more information.