Upcoming Performances

July 18
10:00 am Eastern

Collaborative Organist, Organ/Brass concert, William Adam International Trumpet Festival, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

August 25
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Church of the Savior, Newland, N.C.

September 17
8:00 pm Eastern

Faculty recital, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

September 22
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Statesville, N.C.

Fall 2019
Guest recitalist, Third Baptist Church, St. Louis, Missouri

December 13
12:15 pm Eastern

Music at Midday, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 2, 2020
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tenn.

April 5, 2020
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Macon, Ga.

April 18, 2020
7:30 pm Eastern

Concerto organist, Milligan College

June 21-26, 2020
Worship Organist, Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

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Recruiting, Part 3: A thin slice of heaven

A colleague of mine, Prof. Laurie Semmes, usually says goodbye with, “Well, it has been a thin slice of heaven!” I routinely agree with that assessment.

I am just returning home from a thin slice of heaven, having played a recital on the l’Organo series at the Spoleto festival in Charleston, SC. Although this will come as a surprise to very few, I am delighted to report that music is still alive and well there. I have found no other place in this country that packs music venues to the gills for three weeks running, for all manner of musical performances. Audiences are appreciative and informed. Performances are high quality. Hosts, though harried, are gracious and quick with words of praise and thanks.

And air conditioning is plentiful. That may be the most heavenly part of the whole thing.

Then there is the beauty of the city itself, a complete assessment of which is far beyond the scope of this blog.

And then there is the food, which is definitely thicker than a thin slice of heaven.

Wait – did I say that venues are packed to the gills? Yes, I did. I’m thinking particularly of the organ recitals, which are played at 10:00 am every day. People actually GO to those things? Why in the world do they do THAT? Those recitals are more often than not held in churches, and churches carry bad connotations for many people these days. Churches look unfamiliar, scary, unwelcoming, closed-minded. I have heard many people say with pride in their voice that they haven’t set foot in a church in years. So what is it about Spoleto that has people creating nearly standing-room-only conditions, to listen to organ music (written by now long-dead composers), day after day, before lunch, for two weeks? In Spoleto’s case, the festival itself probably attracts all kinds, and there is something for everyone, and everyone finds what he’s looking for. Air conditioning may also be a draw. So Spoleto really is a thin slice of heaven, otherworldly, musically utopian.

And Spoleto audiences are smart. They know where to find the next performance. They know where to sit in case they need to hurry out. They know where to sit to get a good view or good sound. I overheard one woman arriving for my recital tell her companion that they should sit on THAT side so that the page turner wouldn’t block their view of the console. That was admirable advance planning, but she was in for a pleasant surprise – I don’t use page turners.

Well, for what it’s worth, the organ is making its generational comeback, regular as clockwork. Young people are discovering it, even if a little later in life due to decreased church attendance. The organ continues to hang in there and will probably never die. Its lifeblood will continue to be 1) organists who program for the audience; 2) audiences who continue to show up and bring friends; 3) young people who are allowed access.

I have preached that last line before. But I am not yet blue in the face, and so the preaching will continue. At least until a thicker slice of heaven arrives.

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