This blog is about a musical instrument – not just any huff and puff wind thing, but the king of instruments, the pipe organ. Now before you think this is about a lot of boring facts and info, bear with me.
I fell in love with this beast back in the 70’s, when most others of my age were a gaga with heavy metal, I was smitten with the majesty, the sonics and shear size of this musical wonder. It was alive, it breathed! Not all have the where with all to master the pipe organ, it not only requires both hands but also both feet. Two prominent artists names that come to mind are Virgil Fox, and E. Power Biggs. But the one that afffected me the most was a showman by the name of Carlo Curley.
Carlo Curley was born in 1952 in the U.S.A., and died prematurely in 2012 in England. He was not your usual keyboard artist. He was indeed an organ master; he added humour and a level of flamboyancy that was not usually associated with the pipe organ. Along with a rather dry wit. In my mind he was the Victor Borge of the pipes. He was the consummate entertainer.
He was the first classical organist to perform at the White House for President Carter. He also played for several European heads of state and toured extensively, always in demand. Because of his unique style, he was nicknamed “The Pavarotti of the Organ”. He was the consummate performer. Always entertaining and having fun with his audience.
My personal experience with this gentleman was at a Toronto concert in 1982 at Roy Thomson Hall where he performed on the newly built Gabriel Kney organ. I was not disappointed.
For over two hours we were wowed by his playing and showmanship as he waded through such classic composers as Saint-Saen, Bach, Handel, Widor, Frank and Messiaen, at times becoming quite vocal and crying out to the audience, “yes” and “yea” after a rather laboured piece. But…. the best part of the evening was yet to happen..
During the concert the organ console and sometimes the pipes were illuminated, but for his encore the stage was darkened and only a soft spot fell across Carlo and the console. His choice of music, When you Come To the End of a perfect Day. And what a perfect selection to close the concert. After thundering his way up to this point, he chose to present this piece as light and airy, the notes just seemed to float out over the audience only to burst in a moment of emotion. All the while he was playing, the spot was slowly dimming and shrinking around him, until all that was left were his hands. As the last notes faded into the night, so did the spot. For a few seconds there was not a sound to be heard from the audience, as if each one was scared to be the first to applaud and destroy the feeling of the moment. And then it came, and it thundered out in response. There was much dabbing of the eyes, not in sadness, but in a personal experience of joy and contentment and peace. The perfect end to a memorable moment; and that moment got me to thinking about when my final moment is near….
I came into this world with only a few lines of announcement in the newspaper, not on the front page, no trumpets sounding. And as the light fades around me, I think it is only fitting that I depart in the same manner, due to symmetry and other considerations. I will do my kicking and screaming now, not when my stay is nearly over and it is too late. I will pass on the spotlight, hoping only that those closest to me will be able to share in my being part of their lives. Some may applaud, maybe some will dab an eye. Knowing this gives me a sense of security. I have a plan. The rest is out of my hands.