Stephen Tharp

Categories: IPYA Winners

Stephen Tharp, described as having “performed colorfully, rousing and splendid” by The New York Times, and hailed as “the organist for the connoisseur” (Organ magazine, Germany), “the thinking person’s performer” (Het Orgel), “every bit the equal of any organist” (The American Organist magazine) and “the consummate creative artist” (Michael Barone, Pipedreams), is recognized as one of the great concert organists of our age. Having played more than 1300 concerts across 39 tours worldwide, Stephen Tharp has built one of the most well-respected international careers in the world, earning him the reputation as the most traveled concert organist of his generation. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

His list of performances includes many of the notable concert halls and cathedrals around the world. He has given master classes at major universities, and for chapters of the American Guild of Organists. He has also adjudicated for competitions at the Juilliard School and Northwestern University.

Stephen Tharp is a champion of new organ music, and continues to commission and premiere numerous compositions for the instrument. The first such piece was Jean Guillou’s symphonic poem Instants, Op. 57, which Tharp premiered at King’s College, Cambridge, England in February 1998. Several composers have dedicated works to him, including George Baker, David Briggs, Samuel Adler, Eugenio Fagiani, Thierry Escaich, Phillip Moore, Anthony Newman, Martha Sullivan, and Morgan Simmons. Stephen Tharp is a composer in his own right, having received commissions by Cologne Cathedral, Germany to compose Easter Fanfares for the inauguration of the organ’s new en chamade Tuba stops on Easter Day 2006, as well as Disney’s Trumpets, composed in 2011 for the organ in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, where it was premiered by the composer.

In April 2008, Stephen Tharp was named the Official Organist for the NY visit of Pope Benedict XVI, playing for three major events attended by more than 60,000 people that were broadcast live worldwide. Mr. Tharp’s playing has also been heard on both English and Irish national television, on Radio Prague, in the Netherlands, and in the U. S. on American Public Media’s Pipedreams. In both 2005 and 2011, Pipedreams broadcast entire programmes dedicated exclusively to his career, making him one of the few organists in the world so honored.

He is also an active chamber musician nationwide, having performed on organ, piano and harpsichord with artists such as Thomas Hampson, Itzhak Perlman, Jennifer Larmore, Rachel Barton Pine, the American Boychoir (James Litton, conductor), the St. Thomas Choir (John Scott, conductor, in Duruflé’s Requiem), and at Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. His solo organ recordings can be found on the JAV, Aeolus, Naxos, Organum and Ethereal labels, and are available from the Organ Historical Society, JAV Recordings and Aeolus.

His commercial release The Complete Organ Works of Jeanne Demessieux on Aeolus Recordings, received the 2009 Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Germany’s premier critic’s prize for recordings, as well as the French 5 Diapason award. The release was celebrated in October 2010 with Mr. Tharp’s performance of the complete Demessieux works live over three concerts at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Stephen Tharp plays St. Bavo, Haarlem, The Netherlands on the JAV label was called “the most beautiful CD of 2009” by Resmusica in France.

Stephen Tharp earned his BA degree, magna cum laude, from Illinois College, Jacksonville, Ill., and his MM from Northwestern University, Chicago, where he studied with Rudolf Zuiderveld and Wolfgang Rübsam, respectively. He has also worked privately with Jean Guillou in Paris.

Tharp has held positions at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, and is currently Artist-in-Residence at Grace Church (Episcopal), New York City.

Stephen Tharp’s recital for the International Performer of the Year Award took place on 19 February 2012 at The Church of St. Mary the Virgin as part of the Chapter’s Presidents Day Conference.

Click here to view the actual program with notes. (PDF)

Click here to listen to performances by Stephen Tharp and conversation with Michael Barone on Pipedreams.

See also Stephen Tharp’s personal website: