When you think of a classical organ recital, you don’t usually think of seven men in suits and sunglasses harmonizing in the spiritual groove while Stevie Ray Vaughanesque guitar jams in the background.
Organ being an instrument with multiple identities, it’s difficult to imagine Bach and the Blind Boys of Alabama in the same set even though the Hammond B3 is a staple in countless blues, rock, and soul bands. But that’s exactly what Diane Snider will be performing on Saturday, September 14 at 3:00 at First United Church of Christ in Hampton.
On the playlist is “Wade in the Water,” a traditional spiritual that has been performed by everyone from Mavis Staples to Dr. John to The Carter Family. But so is “Concerto in A minor (after Vivaldi)” by Bach. When you talk to Snider, it’s hard not to be affected by her enthusiasm for the organ, or the “King of instruments!” She says “There is such joy in being able to introduce others to the music and instrument I love. Many haven’t been exposed to the pipe organ or the beautiful music that was written for it, so I include music in my recitals that demonstrates the variety of tonal colors the organ can produce.”
But are the two worlds the organ inhabits all that different? Instead of the Blind Boys of Alabama, imagine for a moment a blind Frenchman. He is also in a suit, and he is also wearing sunglasses. He looks like he could either be a mad scientist or the sort of guy your mother warned you about. He sits at an organ in a grand hall and improvises, hitting shades of purple and midnight. He grooves. It is not Saturday night in a smoky bar, but it feels like it. It’s not totally the blues, nor is it totally Bach.
Presented by the Church and Thomas Nelson Community College, the performance is free but nonperishable food items can be donated to the H.E.L.P. food bank, and monetary donations can be made out to Relay for Life. Also on the bill is “Give Me Jesus,” and an arrangement of “Every Time I Feel the Spirit” penned by ODU Professor Adolphus Hailstork. “Fantasie in C” by Cesar Franck, and “Suite Médiévale” by Jean Langlais add to the plain truth: the organ’s multiple personalities are fascinating.
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