Saturday, February 24, 2007

Flying Fingers, Dancing Feet

About fifty souls came to Christ Church last night for what was quite possibly the organ concert of the decade. Acting music director Geoffrey Silver, in conjunction with the highly-talented James Kennerley, have organized (as it were) a series of six "Lenten Organ Meditations". The first of these took place yesterday, and it was a doozy.

The soloist was Mark Williams, a twenty-something British prodigy who relinquished his post at St. Paul's Cathedral in London to pursue what he calls a "freelance career". Being in this country for a recital at St. Thomas in NYC, he was easily persuaded by his friends Geoffrey and James to come to Greenwich and play for us as well.

The tireless engineering whiz Neil Bouknight hooked up a camera by the console, and fed the video to a projector and screen set up on the chancel steps. Thus everyone had an organ-side view of Mark's hands and feet as he performed. And perform he did!

From the first notes of Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, it was clear that Mark was the master of Greenwich's finest organ. Making full use of both the chancel and gallery divisions, he made the organ sound, as one listener put it, "better than it ever has before." His virtuousity was stunning to behold: fingers and feet flew over the five keyboards with dazzling dexterity. Playing some of the most difficult works in the organ repertory, Mark made it all seem incredibly easy. He defined, in a word, what the Italians mean by "sprezzatura".

Mark is probably the best organist who has ever played in Greenwich - and since we've had many extremely fine organists in this town, that's saying a lot. At the wine and cheese reception afterwards, your scribe asked James and Geoffrey who was the best organist in Great Britain, and they immediately replied, "Mark, of course." Which made your scribe feel as though all the superlatives that had been running through his mind along with the notes of the organ were validated. How often is it, dear reader, that you are confronted with something so extraordinary in its brilliance that you have almost no basis of comparison in all your prior experience? That's how it was for your scribe last night, and it was nice to know that musicians far more talented than he felt the same way.

One wishes the church had been packed to hear this rare performance. Certainly, if your scribe could turn the clock back 24 hours, he would now be making numerous telephone calls to various friends who would have loved to have been there. But there is no way to call back yesterday, or bid time return. One can only be thankful for the privilege of having been among those present at this splendid shining moment in the musical history of our Town. Thank you, Mark, and may God bless you and your talent throughout the days and weeks and months and years to come!


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