Brief History of the Cathedral Concert Series
Old St. Joseph Catholic Church sat two short blocks from St. Mary's Cathedral and also predated the Cathedral. The Cathedral Organist from 1949, Robert Schaffer began visiting and playing as guest or substitute organist at "Old St. Joe's" church in the 1950's.
c. 1969, Robert Schaffer plays the
Schwab Organ at Old St. Joe's Church
Through those years of playing the sonorous 1859 pipe organ there, Bob realized the historic value of the instrument not only to the Diocese of Covington, but also to the larger music community and historical associations.
Upon the closure, and just prior to the demolition, of Old St. Joeseph church, Schaffer received permission from Covington Bishop William H. Ackerman to reinstall the Schwab Organ in the West Gallery of the Cathedral.
In 1974, after delays and obstacles were overcome, the project of re-building the Historic Matthias Schwab Tracker Organ (c. 1859) from Old St. Joseph's Church, 12th and Greenup Streets in Covington, was completed. Through the cooperative efforts of Robert Schaffer, Music Director and Organist of St. Mary's Cathedral - and with the blessing of the Most Reverend Richard H. Ackerman, Bishop of Covington - the organ at St. Joseph's had been dismantled and carried two blocks across 12th St. in Covington (Kentucky) to its new home: the West Gallery of the spacious Gothic Cathedral, mother church of the Diocese of Covington.
To celebrate the completion of the organ's reconstruction - all done by volunteer artisans - a concert was planned. It was a duplication of the final concert heard in St. Joseph's Church before its closure, 4 years earlier. Bishop Ackerman kindly agreed to participate, and climbed the narrow and winding staircase to bless the organ in its new home in the West Gallery. The concert had a very large and appreciative audience. This brought forward in Schaffer's mind the idea of continuing the concerts on a monthly basis from Fall through Spring.
By 1978, Dr. Schaffer was receiving requests from area musicians to be included in the performing ranks of what had already become an increasingly attractive series, which all put the Cathedral Concert Series into full seasons of sacred and inspired classical music concerts.
The Series has been, and is still devoted to presenting music written or intended for a sacred space. The standard secular repertoire of concert halls is not presented on the Cathedral Concert Series programs. Even professional engagements; i.e., Cincinnati May Festival, Vocal Arts Ensemble, and various other groups from regional, national, and international localities present programs essentially drawn from the great storehouse of Western Liturgical Music.
The listener is not only witness to a most pristine acoustic space in which to hear music, but is also surrounded by sacred art in many forms. The experience has been identified as impossible to describe in words by many attendees throughout four decades of concert seasons.
Whether it be healing of spirit and body, an affinity for timeless pieces of music, a love of sacred spaces and art, or any number of other perspectives, the Cathedral Concert Series has rewarded the local community in many ways over four decades.