Latest News

Music at First Church in Boston 

In Gibbons’s ‘Cries,’ a social portrait, and a subtle warning

By Matthew Guerrieri Boston GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  


"Any Kitchen Stuff.”

Today, First Church in Boston offers a special service marking Boston Charter Day (which was officially celebrated on Sept. 7), commemorating the 1630 formal creation of what was then the town of Boston. The service’s music re-creates something of what Boston’s first English settlers left behind, by means of works by a… Read more

A most excellent book review! 

Paul Cienniwa. By Heart: The Art of Memorizing Music. Reviewed by Mark Kroll
EMAg, The Magazine of Early Music America


Playing from memory can be the elephant in the room, the “Waterloo” for many performers. I’ve used more than enough clichéd, I’ll ask a few questions. Who is to blame for starting a practice that is now standard, at least among pianists? And memorization is so difficult and potentially traumatic, why do it at all? Perhaps more important: if we must play from memory, how do you learn to do… Read more

French ornamentation 

Yesterday I received an email from someone who shared the same piano teacher when I was an undergraduate. She wrote, "Could you recommend a book on musical ornamentation in Rameau and Couperin?"

I replied:
  Although quite a few books have been published on this, there's never has been much need to. Both Couperin and Rameau followed D'Anglebert's ornamentation table--and that's the same one that Bach followed.   Rameau's table fits onto one page. (See p. 20 here (i.e., p. 6 in the PDF): http://burrito.wRead more

By Heart (book review) 

Memorizing Music (blog), Caroline Wright, August 15, 2015

Earlier this year, I received a copy of “By Heart: the Art of Memorising Music” by harpsichordist and blogger Paul Cienniwa. Published in 2014, this little gem is exactly the kind of book I had been searching for when I started this blog back at the start of 2013!

The book provides some clear guidance as to how to approach the daunting task of memorising a piece, from nothing to performance. Cienniwa’s personal perspective on this topic is… Read more

First Church Awarded 2015 Gian Lyman Silbiger Grant 

Beacon Hill Times, August 14, 2015

Through the collaboration of violist da Gamba Carol Lewis and music director Dr. Paul Cienniwa, First Church in Boston, located at 66 Marlborough St., has been awarded the 2015 Gian Lyman Silbiger Grant of the Viola da Gamba Society of New England ( The award fosters the performance of music for viols and voices around New England and encourages further exploration of the viol and its music.

As recipient of the award, First Church in Boston will present… Read more

New folk duo's debut show set at Westport Point 

SouthCoast Today, July 24, 2015

On Thursday, July 30 at 6:30pm at the Paquachuck Inn (2056 Main Rd., Westport, MA), mezzo-soprano Allison Messier and harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa will give their debut concert as ALLISON, a new ensemble dedicated to the art of the contemporary folk song.

Messier says, “Last month we gave a recital at St. Andrews by-the-Sea in Little Compton. For that program, we performed a lot of music by people like Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and Harry Chapin, but I never expected such… Read more


In memoriam: Roger Goodman 

Over the weekend, I learned that my first harpsichord teacher, Roger Goodman, died from AIDS-related renal failure. I studied with Roger in Chicago from 1991 till I left Chicago for Boston in 1995.

Roger was a controversial figure in his approach to spirituality and sexuality, and those two elements were strongly apparent in his marvelous music making. As a 19-year-old trying to find my place in the world and in the world of music, I came to Roger as a discouraged pianist, wary of the ego-driven repertoire… Read more

'From Popular Songs to Art Songs' concert at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea 

The Herald News, Posted May. 21, 2015 at 12:21 PM

LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. — On Saturday, June 13 at 6:30 at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, mezzo-soprano Allison Messier and harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa will collaborate on a program that elevates many of today’s folk and pop classics to the art songs of the Elizabethan era. From Popular Songs to Art Songs will feature music of singer/songwriters Harry Chapin, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Neil Young interspersed with 17th century
Read more

Karl Henning: Plotting (y is the new x), Op.116 

About a year ago, violinist EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks and I premiered a work by Karl Henning. What  a great piece! There are three sections: Introduction, Passacaglia, and Toccata. The video (below) highlights them quite clearly. Give it a listen!


I think it's time to play this piece again...

Paul Cienniwa appointed director of the Collegiate Chorale at Stonehill College 

Paul Cienniwa, DMA, has been appointed director of the Collegiate Chorale at Stonehill College, a liberal arts college in Easton, MA, founded by the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He will continue as Chorus Master of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, choral director at Framingham State University, and director of music at First Church in Boston, where the professional First Church Choir can be heard weekly on WERS (88.9 FM) Boston. For more information, visit more

Exploring the Dark Side of Bach 

From the Taunton Daily Gazette:

Dorian Komanoff Bandy and harpsichordist and Fall River resident Paul Cienniwa will present the second part of their recital-series “Bach Explored.” 

Posted Jan. 7, 2015 @ 12:15 pm
Updated at 12:24 PM 
NEW BEDFORD — On Wednesday, Jan. 28, violinist Dorian Komanoff Bandy and harpsichordist and Fall River resident Paul Cienniwa will present the second part of their recital-series “Bach Explored.” Each program focused on a different aesthetic facet of Bach’s musical language,
Read more

RIP Richard Rephann, my teacher, friend, and mentor 

photo credit: Harold Shapiro

Last night, I learned that Richard Rephann passed away yesterday morning. I studied harpsichord with Richard at Yale from 1995-1998. From 1998-2003, when I was a DMA candidate, Richard took on an advisory role.

Richard's wife, Susan Thompson, wrote to tell me the news, sending this photo, one that I had never seen before. In it, Richard and I were preparing a performance on matching Taskin epinettes. Susan wrote, "What a great picture!  Here you are blessed with the better of… Read more

A review from many years ago... 

Back in 1991, I worked with Chicago poet Michele Fitzsimmons to create a theater piece based on her poetry. My piano/keyboard accompaniment was improvised to her picturesque poems. The following review was in the Chicago Tribune.

Poetry Takes A Seductive, Feisty Turn In A Poet`s `Sirens`

June 08, 1991 By Sid Smith, Entertainment writer.

Poetry has been on a frisky roll in this city for some years, mostly in the form of live recitations in high-speed meets at select clubs and watering spots.

One of the… Read more

By Heart: The Art of Memorizing Music now available! 

My book, By Heart: The Art of Memorizing Music, is now available in print and Kindle editions! Click here to visit my author page at Amazon.


By Heart: The Art of Memorizing Music   Authored by Paul Cienniwa, Foreword by Larry Thomas Bell FAAR         List Price: $12.95 6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm) 
Black & White on Cream paper
112 pages ISBN-13: 978-1496180698
ISBN-10: 1496180690 
BISAC: Music / Instruction & Study / Techniques   By Heart: the Art of… Read more

CBS Boston: Boston’s Best Upcoming Classical Music Performances 

November 10, 2014
Classical music has been a staple of Boston entertainment and culture for hundreds of years. In fact, it is now more so than ever. So many talented professionals and accessible institutions offer up classical music in the city so anyone in the area can enjoy anything from church music to the great operas. Enjoy some holiday entertainment or take in a concert in one of the oldest cities in the country.

Dorian Komanoff Bandy publicity photo (Photo credit: Bryce Vickmark

Read more

American Guild of Organists 2014 National Convention service in review 

The November 2014 issue of The Diapason includes a review of one of the two services that I led at First Church in Boston for the 2014 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists. The review neglects to mention that I am the Director of Music at First Church. Among the comments:
  • "the service...[was] certainly [a] convention highlight...model of liturgical music"
  • "The choral music [directed by Paul Cienniwa] for this service was beautifully done, much of it a cappella by a small and… Read more
©2013 Paul Cienniwa