Sunday, April 18, 2010


The problem with living near a big city but not near enough to take advantage of what a big city can offer is one of my regrets. (I try not to have regrets, but they do sneak in from time to time.). Today, Cameron Carpenter, a 29-year old organist who is widely listed among the most gifted organists of his generation, is giving a concert at the First Congregational Church in the mid-Wilshire area of L.A. I am a fan of good organ music and good organists. And one of the classical music critics says of Carpenter that his “technical virtuosity is beyond imagining. He can do things with his fingers and his feet that nobody else can do.”

There are a number of reasons why I can’t drive in to LA today. Lord knows I drive in to other things going on there. But I simply didn’t know about this program soon enough, so I had already committed myself to something that I can’t get out of.

Aside from his huge talent, an article in the LA Times noted this young man doesn’t always dress with quite the formality that one expects when watching and listening to an organist play classical music. In fact, he often wears crystal-encrusted tee-shirts and tight-fitting jeans. There seems to be a real dither in organ music circles as to whether this “showmanship” approach is appropriate or not. One group sees him as way too flamboyant; others insist his artistry overrides any image problem. Meanwhile he just goes on making unbelievably good music.

To see what I will be missing, I went to YouTube to find him playing something of which I had a little knowledge. Boy, did I get an earful of music and an eyeful of virtuosity. For my money the young man can wear a toga if he so chooses. He makes music and makes it good! Which in turn makes me all the sorrier that I can’t go in to LA.

Anyway, watching him on a video was a wonderful thing to do and next best, of course, to seeing him in person. I love live performances, but I have to admit when a video is used I am enabled to see things (like fingers and arms and legs and feet all flying, making unbelievably gorgeous music) that are just impossible to see from a church pew. I don’t know how many of you like organ music but I’m going to suggest that you take 10 minutes out and watch this young man play. If you absolutely can’t bear to hear Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, even if he is wearing traditional attire, then go directly to YouTube yourself and listen to him play John Philip Sousa’s “Stars & Strips Forever.”. He does absolutely amazing things with that too. One way or the other, give yourself a treat today.

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