About E. Power Biggs

E. Power Biggs

E. Power Biggs


Edward George Pow­er Big­gs (March 29, 1906 – March 10, 1977), pro­fes­sion­al­ly known as E. Pow­er Big­gs, was a British-born Amer­i­can con­cert organ­ist and record­ing artist.

Lis­ten to record­ings of E. Pow­er Biggs

About the Scholars Program

THE OHS BIGGS SCHOLARS PROGRAM of the Organ His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety is lead­ing the way in career devel­op­ment for excep­tion­al new tal­ent, with spe­cif­ic focus giv­en to fields of organ per­form­ers, his­tor­i­cal research, and organ builders/​designers. The intent of the pro­gram is to lever­age the OHS com­mu­ni­ty and resources to equip the next gen­er­a­tion with nec­es­sary tools for a suc­cess­ful career.

The award is a 3‑year engage­ment, includ­ing finan­cial sup­port for three con­sec­u­tive nation­al fes­ti­vals dur­ing the sum­mer and pro­fes­sion­al sup­port with a vari­ety of mid-year events.

About E. Power Biggs

200px-EPowerBiggsBig­gs was born in West­cliff-on-Sea, Essex, Eng­land; a year lat­er, the fam­i­ly moved to the Isle of Wight. Big­gs was trained in Lon­don at the Roy­al Acad­e­my of Music, where he stud­ied with G.D. Cun­ning­ham. Big­gs emi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed Statesin 1930. In 1932, he took up a post at Christ Church in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Big­gs did much to bring the clas­si­cal pipe organ back to promi­nence, and was in the fore­front of the mid-20th-cen­tu­ry resur­gence of inter­est in the organ music of pre-Roman­tic com­posers. On his first con­cert tour of Europe, in 1954, Big­gs per­formed and record­ed works of Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach, Sweel­inck, Dieterich Bux­te­hude, and Pachel­bel on his­toric organs asso­ci­at­ed with those com­posers. There­after, he believed that such music should ide­al­ly be per­formed on instru­ments rep­re­sen­ta­tive of that peri­od and that organ music of that epoch should be played by using (as close­ly as pos­si­ble) the styles and reg­is­tra­tions of that era. Thus, he sparked the Amer­i­can revival of organ build­ing in the style of Euro­pean Baroque instru­ments, seen espe­cial­ly in the increas­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of track­er organs — anal­o­gous to Europe’s Orgelbewegung.

Among oth­er instru­ments, Big­gs cham­pi­oned G. Don­ald Har­rison’s Baroque-style unen­closed, unen­cased instru­ment with 24 stops and elec­tric action (pro­duced by Aeo­lian-Skin­ner in 1937 and installed in Har­vard’s Busch-Reisinger Muse­um, Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts) and the three-man­u­al Flen­trop track­er organ sub­se­quent­ly installed there in 1958. Many of his CBS radio broad­casts and Colum­bia record­ings were made in the muse­um. Anoth­er remark­able instru­ment used by Big­gs was the John Chal­lis ped­al harp­si­chord; Big­gs made record­ings of the music of J.S. Bach and Scott Joplin on this instrument.

e_powers_biggs_recordingBig­gs was elect­ed a Fel­low of the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Sci­ences in 1950. For his con­tri­bu­tion to the record­ing indus­try, Big­gs has a star on Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame, at 6522 Hol­ly­wood Boulevard.

Big­gs’ crit­ics of the time includ­ed rival con­cert organ­ist Vir­gil Fox, who was known for a more flam­boy­ant and col­or­ful style of per­for­mance. Fox decried Big­gs’ insis­tence on his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy, claim­ing that it was rel­e­gat­ing the organ to a muse­um piece”. How­ev­er, many observers agree that Big­gs should be giv­en great cred­it for his inno­v­a­tive ideas as far as the musi­cal mate­r­i­al he record­ed, and for mak­ing the organs he record­ed even more famous.” Despite dif­fer­ent approach­es, both artists enjoyed huge­ly suc­cess­ful careers and Big­gs rose to the top of his pro­fes­sion. In addi­tion to con­certs and record­ing, Big­gs taught at the Longy School of Music in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts, at var­i­ous times in his career and edit­ed a large body of organ music.

The OHS Mission Statement

The Organ His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety cel­ebrates, pre­serves, and stud­ies the pipe organ in Amer­i­ca in all its his­toric styles, through re­search, edu­ca­tion, ad­vocacy, and music.

The Organ Historical Society

330 North Spring Mill Road
Vil­lano­va, PA 19085 – 1737
(484) 488-PIPE (7473)