“Vampire” delivers midnight Halloween organ recital

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Emerging out of a coffin dressed as Count Dracula, University Organist and Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Mark Steinbach delivered the annual Halloween Midnight Organ Recital to a full Sayles Hall Wednesday night. Steinbach played a 45-minute program of works by composers ranging from J.S. Bach to Henry Mancini.

The evening began with pallbearers carrying a coffin into the hall. Wearing a black velvet cape, Steinbach climbed out of the coffin, ascended to the organ loft and started the concert.

The first piece of the night was “The World Awaiting a Savior” from “Symphonie-Passion” by Marcel Dupre, a French composer known for his organ works. Characterized by staccato chords, the piece began mysteriously, had a serene middle section and concluded with three wrenching blasts before achieving resolution.

Another French piece on the program was Leon Boellmann’s “Suite Gothique.” The four-movement work started with resounding chords that exploited the organ’s tonal capabilities. After a minuet and a flowing pastoral section, a ghoulish toccata – a type of piece that showcases the organist’s technique – highlighted the piece’s Gothic nature.

Steinbach shifted gears to play Mancini’s catchy “Pink Panther Theme.” Concert-goers spontaneously snapped along as Steinbach played the popular saxophone melody on alternating reed stops. The piece was somewhat brief, however, as Steinbach did not play the theme’s second section.

A highlight of the concert was “Pari Intervallo” by Estonian composer Arvo Part. Introduced by Steinbach in a mock-Transylvanian accent, the hauntingly beautiful piece made good use of the organ’s flutes, and its delicacy contrasted with the rest of the program.

Steinbach concluded the concert with Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” almost certainly the best-known work in the organ repertoire and a Halloween classic. Steinbach played the toccata at a fast tempo that seemed a bit rushed at times. His lively pace was better suited to the fugue – a type of piece that focuses around one or a few musical themes – with its intricate counterpoint, keyboard runs and pedal solos. The deafening finale was a fitting end to the enjoyable recital.

Installed in 1903, Sayles Hall’s pipe organ is the world’s largest remaining instrument made by Hutchings-Votey. The Halloween concert was the second of the semester, following the traditional orientation week recital on Sept. 4.

In addition to his duties at Brown, Steinbach serves as organist and choirmaster at St. Paul’s Church in Wickford. Educated at the University of Kansas, the Eastman School of Music and Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts, he has given concerts across the United States and in Europe.