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Kotzschmar: Beauty in the playing but a beast in the saying

Its name may not exactly be musical, but the sound made by Portland's Kotzschmar Organ certainly is.

PORTLAND, Maine — The slurring and stuttering that results from people trying to pronounce the name of Portland's municipal organ is in direct contrast to the heavenly sounds of the Kotzschmar itself.

That music flows from the fingertips of James Kennerley. His one job with the city of Portland is to play the Kotzschmar at Merrill Auditorium. If that sounds like a light workload, think again. As the biggest instrument in Maine, the organ has 7,000 pipes controlled by 330 keys.

Portland is one of only two cities in the country with a municipal organist. Between performances this winter, Kennerley set out to spread awareness and excitement about this musical treasure. 

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Kennerley tried a different tack than simply inviting strangers to join him for a concert. Instead, he carried a sign around Monument Square and challenged the people he found there to pronounce Kotzschmar. Once he caught their attention with the curious word, he hoped they might be interested enough to actually see the Kotzschmar in action.

Kennerley will fire up the Kotzschmar for his next performance on March 20 at 7 p.m. to celebrate the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach.

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