BENNINGTON -- Organist Charles Olegar, director of music of Bennington’s historic Old First Church, is offering four forty-five-minute recitals on the church’s pipe instrument during July and August (July 7 and 21, August 4 and 18), each program open to the public without charge (freewill donations encouraged). Olegar’s slate features a variety of classical organ music ranging from pre-Bach to twentieth century, with a major Bach work appearing on each program. Pre-Bach offerings include selections by Buxtehude and Pachelbel, with Romantic samplings drawing from Mendelssohn and Rheinberger, and the modern era including pieces by Britten and Langlais.
Commenting on the series, Charles Olegar states : "There is so much surpassingly great organ music that needs to be experienced through live performances! These pieces are among the chief treasures of classical music, and if they are not performed, they remain a closed book on a shelf."
Since this past December, Olegar has been heading the music ministries of Bennington’s First Baptist and Old First Congregational churches jointly, having come to the area from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where for the previous eight years he served St. James Episcopal Church as organist-choir director. As a career church musician and concert performer, Olegar’s professional activities have centered in the Northeast, South, and Midwest, including cathedral and college positions, along with independent arts organizations. During the 1980’s and 90’s his work in the English choral tradition earned international recognition. More recently, Olegar’s "Bach and Beyond" organ recital series in Great Barrington drew a large following as it yielded three CD recordings, one of which was hailed by the prominent organist journal The American Organist for Olegar’s " poetry and passion". Earlier accolades include some half-dozen first prizes in international choral competitions and festivals, including two consecutive wins (1992, ‘94) in England’s Elgar Festival, and an honorary degree from England’s Sherbourne Theological College for his work promoting English church music in America. A native of Akron, Ohio, Charles Olegar’s initial professional church music training was at the University of Akron and Cleveland Institute of Music, with post-graduate study at England’s Royal School of Church Music.
At-the-door donations will be directed toward funding improvements to Old First’s 45 year-old pipe organ, along with operational costs of the church’s new "Musick and Song’ series. Old First Church is located at 60 Monument Avenue and Main Street in Old Bennington, on the Public Green adjacent to Old Bennington’s historic cemetery.