Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thank you Charles Barnett, Organist.

"I cannot find words words to thank you as I wish, but if there was an organ here I could tell you." - Anton Bruckner

We all have moments in life that change things. Forever. One such moment for me occurred on July 4, 1977. We attended the First United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas at the time. I was 12 years old. The church organist was a man named Charles Barnett. In addition to his regular duties, he occasionally gave recitals. After church that day, my parents took me to hear him play. It changed my life forever.
I don't know much about organs, but the one at our church was least it seemed big to me. And it was LOUD. And it made so many different sounds. And Charles not only used his hands to play it, he used his feet! Both of them. The quote from Anton Bruckner, a great organist himself, made sense to me. The organ is capable of great expression.
His recital that afternoon featured 3 pieces that stand tall in the organ repertoire: Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Widor's Toccata from his Fifth Organ Symphony in F, and Variations on America by Charles Ives...perfect for the 4th of July.
Since that afternoon long ago, I have been a huge fan of the organ. A few years later, in March of 1990,  I traveled to Paris with my family and heard the great organ at Notre Dame, as well as a recital given by Vincent Genvrin at Chapelle Des Catechismes de Sainte-Clotilde. (here is that program, which includes the Widor).

Here are links to the 3 pieces above that Charles played at his recital in 1977.

Charles Ives: Variations on America

Charles Marie-Widor: Toccata from the Fifth Organ Symphony in F

J.S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Charles Barnett passed away in 2012. He was also a composer and arranger of music. Here's a great story. On my mother's birthday one year, he wrote a special arrangement of "Happy Birthday" for her and played it in church during the service. He did it in such a way that almost no one had any idea that they were hearing "Happy Birthday". But if you were listening closely, delicately interwoven in an otherwise beautiful sacred organ work, bits and pieces of "Happy Birthday" were dancing beneath the surface. It was perfect.
Thank you Charles Barnett.

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