When Cameron Carpenter plays the organ, listeners are treated to sounds unheard. He played the refurbished Melbourne Town Hall Grand Organ in early July with flair. But, unlike Phillip Glass or the swirling sounds of The Necks, each piece from this program was controlled with threads from art history; hard work for the gleaming instrument and its master.

The last time Cameron Carpenter played he was upheld by the instrument, which boasts serious size and weight. Its 7849 pipes make up the organ – which also happens to be more than 9 metres high. The line waiting to get in to the Melbourne Town Hall was stretched along the footpath on Swanston Street and around the corner up the hill on Collins; people excited to see the artist billed as the most exciting organist since Handel. The program we heard spoke of the passion and sensitivity that Carpenter maintains. His virtuosic playing explores the past and is not fatigued. The rearranged music of J.S. Bach, Chopin and Stan Rodgers is played with considerate effort given to the choices of sounds and velocity. All this, created by the attention to playing of fingers and feet flying across the pedals. Each note carefully made from the array of levers and buttons at the controls called ‘stops’.

Carpenter explained that Charles Ives referenced the sound of the wedding march and the organ has now taken a new direction … so if you were thinking about taking up the organ, now has never been a better time.

Since 2003, a free lunchtime concert series called Organic Lunch has been running, offering up the sounds and sights of the grand organ in action. I have been treated to the organ’s majestic sounds and will hopefully be back soon to hear its other transformations.

To find out more about the Grand Organ, including tours, visit here and here.

Image credit: Image 2