Christopher Holman

Degrees BM, Organ Performance and BM, Vocal Performance (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign); MM, Organ Performance and Literature (University of Houston); MA, Historical Performance Practice (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis)
Course DPhil in Music
College New College
Address New College
Holywell Street
Oxford OX1 3BN

J.S. Bach, organ music, performance practice, early recordings (especially player organ rolls)

My dissertation focuses on performance practice of the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach in France in the long nineteenth century. During this period, members of the French Romantic Organ School (Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, Charles-Marie Widor, Alexandre Guilmant, et al.) developed and taught their students interpretative ideas that made special use of organbuilding technology that did not yet exist in eighteenth-century organs in Saxony and Thuringia. Eventually, these ideas were codified in theoretical writings, and later editions by Widor and Albert Schweitzer, Guilmant, and Camille Saint-Saëns. Yet in the early recordings by these masters and their students, some of these very editors do not follow the interpretive instructions in their own editions. The aim of this dissertation is to develop new methods of analysing these recordings — especially early organ rolls by the Welte company — to trace the development of French aesthetics of Bach performance practice during this pivotal era in organ history, giving performers new perspectives on ways to interpret these masterpieces today. This project is supervised by Robert Quinney.


Paper: “Swiss Renaissance Keyboard Ornamentation,” Keyboard Perspectives 12 (in press).

Paper: “Rhythm and Metre in French Classical Plainchant”, Early Music 45, issue 4, 657–664.

Recording: Bach and His Teachers: Music of J.S. Bach and His Contemporaries (HDTT), 2017.

Recording: A New Year Organ Recital (HDTT), 2016.

Conference Papers/Lecture Recitals

“Swiss Renaissance Keyboard Ornamentation,” Royal Musical Association Conference. Manchester, UK: 11 September 2019.

“Basel and St. Gallen Renaissance Keyboard Ornamentation,” Medieval-Renaissance Music Conference. Basel, Switzerland: 6 July 2019.

“Bach Organ Rolls in Nineteenth Century France,” Early Recordings: Past Performing Practices in Contemporary Research. London, UK: 22 June 2019.

“Vox Humana in der Orgelliteratur,” Vox Humana Symposium. Marienmünster, Germany: 7 June 2019.

“Alternation Practices in France during the Classical Period” (co-presented with Robert Bates), Eastman-Rochester Organ Initiative. Rochester, New York, USA: 27 October 2016.

“Alternatim Performance Practice in French Classical Organ Works,” National Convention of the American Guild of Organists. Houston, Texas, USA: 23 June 2016.

Additional Activities

Organ Scholar, Exeter College

Organ Teacher, Dragon School (Oxford)

Editor, Vox Humana (