Cameron Carpenter dazzled the audience last Thursday night with his phenomenal artistry with playing the Historic Orpheum Theater Wurlitzer organ. His approach to playing demonstrated pedals which literally resembled a ballet and fingers the flowed from one keyboard to the next playing Chopin, Dupre, Bach, and yes, even Gershwin.
I was amazed with his pedaling. Wearing sparkling-heeled boots, his feet were in constant motion actually resembling a dance while constantly adjusting the volume with his right foot. Every line, had obvious crescendos and decrescendos without once touching the crescendo pedal. He constantly played on the choir and the swell keyboards with one hand, thumbing down to the lower keyboard and making it all seem so easy while continuing the consistency of each selection on the great keyboard.
As most experienced keyboard players know, you can never completely know the challenges of the instrument where you will be performing. Every piano and organ has their own idiosyncrasies which the performer must respond to quickly bringing out the best of the instrument as well as the performer. Cameron Carpenter discovered this quickly with the Historic Orpheum Theater Wurlitzer organ. In his frustration with the instrument, he spoke to the audience comparing the organ to a 1927 semi-truck on an icy road and having technicians fix both the pedal board and a pipe during the intermission. Being this is not an unusual problem, Carpenter is currently building his own portable organ for his future performances.
However, Cameron Carpenter did work miracles with this organ in utilizing almost all the stops creating a menagerie of voices. In the Gershwin medley, he literally would change a stop with each note to allow the audience to hear all the multitudes of voices in this legendary theater organ. Observing one of his Chopin selections, it was fascinating to see his fingers literally ascend up one keyboard to descend down the one above it. His choice of voicing for each of his selections gave a fresh perspective to the listening ear. The pedaling was extremely light, which amazed me, and poetic to watch. New to me, John Downland's "Now, Oh Now, I Needs Must Part" was hypnotically gorgeous.
The River City Theater Organ Society generously funded the repair of the organ and this performance. Cameron Carpenter is truly a genius in the performance of organ technique. He created organ voices that I was amazed could be produced on any organ, not to mention an organ that is not digital. He showed his talent as well as exhibiting the glorious sounds of this phenomenal instrument. It is evident why he was nominated for a Grammy Award.
If Cameron Carpenter comes to any place near you, see him. Whether you are an organist, musician, or some who just enjoys superb music, he unquestionably has a fresh perspective about organ music.