The churches of Copenhagen are often used for free concerts. Organ and classical music is the most common but not necessarily with religious themes.
Free pipe organ concerts are often held in Copenhagen’s large number of historic churches. The magnificent organ of Copenhagen cathedral (Domkirke – Vor Frue Kirke) may be enjoyed most Saturdays at noon. The three organs of the nearby Trinitatis Kirke are often played on Friday afternoons. The outstanding organs of the Holmens, Helligaands, and Vor Frelsers Kirkerne are also frequently used in free concerts. The program of free concerts is particularly full in summer (July & August) and in the advent period preceding Christmas.
Free Organ Concerts in Copenhagen Churches
Most of the churches in Copenhagen have fantastic pipe organs and fortunately for music lovers, many of these organs are frequently played at free concerts. The music is not always of a religious nature and may range from early classical to modern. Buxtehude and Carl Nielsen are often heard, as are other Nordic and Scandinavian composers. Bach is ever popular, while many performers seem to favor French organ composers from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
As usual in Denmark, a free cultural event has no bearing on the quality of the musicians or performance. Regular concerts are usually played by top Danish and Scandinavian organists while international performers are frequently heard during the summer festivals.
The program is usually posted at the door or noticeboard at the entrance to churches – see also the link to Kultunaut below for a very comprehensive listing of events in Denmark.
Regular Free Organ Concerts in Copenhagen
The dates and times of Copenhagen’s regular organ concerts may vary, and there are often gaps in the schedules, but the following are fairly reliable times year-round:
- Noon on Saturdays – a half-hour organ concert (Orgelmatiné) usually on the main organ of the Vor Frue Domkirke (Copenhagen Cathedral). In July and August the concerts are usually a full hour.
- 16:30 on Fridays (but not in summer) – concerts in the Trinitatis Kirke (Holy Trinity Church next to the Rundetaarn). The performers are often by students from the various advance music academies in Copenhagen. The church has three organs but other instruments and vocals are often heard too.
- Noon on weekdays – 20 minutes of organ music in the Helligaandskirken on the Strøget pedestrian street. (Usually not in July and August.)
- 15:00 on Fridays – hear the carillon of the Vor Frelsers Kirke playing for half an hour. The bells are best heard from next to the canal in Christianshavn.
Other churches in central Copenhagen that often have free concerts include amongst others: the Garnisons Kirke, Holmens Kirke, Kastelskirken, Marmomrkirken, and Vor Frelsers Kirke.
Free concerts are usually during the day but the Heiligaandskirke, Marmomrkirken, and Vor Frelsers Kirke sometimes have evening events too.
Admission to these concerts is free to all. Donations are always welcome but there is absolutely no pressure to contribute.
While the churches are closed for sightseeing during concerts, music lovers will do well to sit far from the entrance, as visitors arrive late or leave early. (An unwritten rule seems to require early leavers to drop keys or knock over a chair while trying to tiptoe out.)
Clap only at the end of the complete concert. Encores are basically unheard of in Copenhagen.
Free Summer Concerts and International Organ Festivals in Copenhagen
Several churches in central Copenhagen have special summer organ concerts. The organists at these concerts are often foreign visitors and thus many of these series are styled as international organ festivals.
The majority of these free concerts are in July and August but sometimes concerts may be held in June and September too.
The schedule is roughly:
- Tuesday at 20:00 in the Marmorkirke – only evening concerts, usually only in August.
- Wednesday at noon in the Holmens Kirke – a free glass of wine (and an opportunity to talk to the visiting organist) is often available afterwards.
- Wednesday at 14:00 in the Trinitatis Kirke – a short program on the Italian Baroque organ; a close-up look of the instrument is possible after the concert.
- Friday at noon in the Trinitatis Kirke – usually only in August
- Friday at 16:30 in the Helligaandskirken – just off the Strøget pedestrian street, the largest number of concerts in the summer program.
- Saturday at noon – Cathedral (Domkirke) has an hour-long program rather than the half hour of the rest of the year.
Music During Copenhagen Church Services
Another option to enjoy the organs of Copenhagen churches is to attend a church service. Music services (Musikgudstjeneste) are normal Lutheran Christian church services (in Danish) but usually include a lot of music (and singing) as part of the short religious service.
A musical service is an easy way to hear the organ of the Grundtvigtskirken – usually at noon on Wednesdays. The famous Grundvigtskirken is a bit outside the city center and it is well worth planning a visit to coincide with hearing the organ, which includes the largest single organ pipe in Scandinavia.
Larger musical performances such as Bach’s masses or cantatas are sometimes performed after church services or held as separate concerts. The Petrikirke (German services) and Trinitatis Kirke are frequently used for such performances (not always free). Handel’s Messiah is a Copenhagen Advent institution – many performances are held but not free.
Other Free Musical Performances in Copenhagen
A great source for cultural events throughout Denmark is the Kultunaut – searches are partly possible in English. It is also possible to specify a specific geographic area, type of music or cultural activity, and free events only if preferred. Set the “target” to “Not children” to avoid long listings of community events for babies and toddlers.
Copenhagen’s vast number of music schools and colleges also often have free performances to give orchestras and soloists opportunities to play to live audiences.
The Copenhagen Jazz festival held each July also includes a large number of free concerts.