By Natalie Bieser
March 21, 2012
What do organ players, Cincinnati, and Kate Middleton have in common? Let me tell you — it’s called the MusicNOW Festival and it’s coming to a concert hall near you. Every spring since 2006, a mix of established and up and coming musicians gather together for three days, for a one-of-a-kind, intimate music festival in downtown Cincinnati.
The festival is less about recognizing artists for their superstardom and more about the cultivation and appreciation of great music. We can dig that. Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner, a composer/guitarist for the indie rock band, The National, is responsible for putting on this amazing annual event.
This year’s festival takes places from March 28-30th, and James McVinnie is one of the unique talents that you must experience. Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey in London, McVinnie’s greatest claim to fame is having played at the Royal Wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William last spring.
The 29-year-old London native first fell in love with the organ at the age of eight when he sang for his church’s boy choir. Always stunned by the sheer power and volume of the instrument, McVinnie progressed from piano lessons to organ lessons only after he grew tall enough to reach the bass pedals.
McVinnie describes the organ as a, “Grand symphony orchestra controlled by one person manning a series of keyboards and pedals, stops and buttons. On the one hand, an organ can imitate orchestral instruments—the ardent string section of an orchestra, a lyrical clarinet, a French horn, timpani—and on the other, it has its own indigenous magisterial voice. Organs are built to speak into specific acoustic spaces and when you play, it’s as if you’re playing the whole building you’re in.” That’s a lot of power at your fingertips.
And you know what Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” During next Wednesday’s concert, McVinnie will have the responsibility of performing new pieces from Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire along with Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang. He’ll be accompanied by Nadia Sirota on viola, and Sam Amidon will also be performing.
Turns out Amidon, Sirota, and McVinnie go way back, and thus the FREE (yes I said free) performance at Christ Church Cathedral will a homecoming of sorts. “We are all open minded about collaborating with musicians from different backgrounds with confidence and conviction and share a common goal of making good music together,” McVinnie said.
It’s not very often that I converse with an organist, so I was curious how an instrument that doesn’t get much mainstream attention could be a cherished medium of expression. McVinnie answered in full. “I try to play music which allows me to bring my own individuality and personality to a performance whilst being as elegant, eloquent, persuasive and expressive as possible.”
While I’m certainly eager to enjoy McVinnie’s talents, there are plenty of additional musicians on the lineup who will surely satisfy any and all of my musical cravings. The MusicNOW festival schedule includes performances by Philip Glass, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, eighth blackbird, Sandro Perri, Nadia Sirota, Pedro Soler and Gaspar Claus.
For more information about MusicNOW and/or to purchase tickets, please visit: http://www.musicnowfestival.org/to top ↑