When one thinks of the American Guild of Organists, what comes to mind is usually the staunch dignity of sacred music. As a new AGO student member myself, I must admit that when I see that an event is being put on by the organization, I immediately expect a formal affair. That being said, the Phantom Pipescreams concert, held at Christ United Methodist Church in Downtown St. Petersburg, was nothing less than a crowd-pleasing celebration of all music eerie and mysterious written for the organ.
The program offered an entertaining mix of re-styled Christmas carols (the lyrics rewritten in honor of the spooky season), along with absolutely spectacular pieces of traditional organ repertoire. Costumes were worn by both performers and audience members alike, and during the production, the audience was encouraged to sing amusing carols such as “We Three Ghosts” and “Deck the Halls (with Poison Ivy)” while accompanied by the performers. The program was played on the five-manual Aeolian-Skinner housed at Christ united Methodist, an organ that boasts an impressive 4,000 pipes.
The traditional repertoire ranged from Bach to Gounoud, and featured several show-stopping pieces. Robert Todd, dressed festively as Professor Snape from the famous Harry Potter series, played a mystifying rendition of Gigart’s Toccata in B minor, a piece punctuated with beautifully creepy descending lines. Jack Rain, of Tampa, played an absolutely astonishing rendition of Tournemire’s “Improvisation sur le Te Deum,” a very rarely heard sacred piece gone seriously eerie. Of course, no Halloween concert would be complete without Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. This iconic piece, so rarely heard live, was played by Christ United Methodists’ own Barry Stevens. Experiencing the work in person was an absolute thrill. Mr. Stevens performs this piece every year as a traditional part of the Pipescreams concert.
On the whole, the event was an enjoyable time. I would recommend this annual concert for anyone who enjoys a good, spook-tacular time, and especially to those who love the wonderful music created for the organ! In the words of Elizabeth Rose, a SPC student who attended the concert, “It was awesome! I am definitely coming back next year!”
To learn more about the American Guild of Organists you may access the St. Petersburg Chapter’s website at: http://www.stpetersburgago.com/