Review: Cameron Carpenter and his International Touring Organ captivated Centennial

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Jen Pimentel | The Daily Wildcat

Organist Cameron Carpenter takes a bow after his performance at Centennial Hall on Feb 6. Carpenter was the first organist to be nominated for a Grammy for a solo album.

If you saw Cameron Carpenter walking down the street, your first thoughts wouldn't be "former child prodigy" or "world-class organist." First, you'd probably mentally process his glorious hairstyle.

Organist Cameron Carpenter performed at Centennial Hall last night, dazzling the crowd with his music and glorious mohawk. Carpenter challenges the stereotypes of organists and classical music, and has a blast while doing it.

Carpenter loves his instrument. “I’m fascinated by the organ," he said on stage. "It has been called the king of instruments, but I’m not fond of that phrase due to its gender specificity and I don’t believe in favoring one version of human expression over another.”

Carpenter encapsulates the epitome of cool. His organ is definitely not your grandma’s organ. The monstrous creation, named the International Touring Organ, weighs nearly two tons and was partially designed by Carpenter. It is a sight to see and takes about two hours to set up before every show.

Susan Holden, marketing manager at UA Presents, said Carpenter's talent was initially surprising to her. "He has completely shattered the mold of organists and organ playing," Holden said. "From his technical perfection to his often flashy costumes, he has single-handedly changed the art of organ playing. You’ve never heard or seen the organ like this before.”

From the second Carpenter took the stage, the audience became immersed in the world of the organ. Carpenter played a wide variety of music that conveyed different emotions throughout the performance. One moment Carpenter created the feeling of being trapped alone in the forest, and the next soothed the audience to complete calm and relaxation. Dispersed throughout the performance were pieces of insight and musical food for thought from Carpenter, allowing him to further connect with the audience as well as demonstrate his intelligence and keen awareness of music and its place in our society.

Geof Gates, an organ enthusiast who attended the show, said “I enjoyed it. We had seen him play a number of years ago and he’s just gotten better.”

Carpenter grew up a child prodigy who studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts conservatory, the American Boychoir School and the Juilliard School.

“I like the enthusiasm and the sense of showmanship he brings to it,” Gates said.

Viewers packed Centennial Hall, but Carpenter still found ways to make the performance personal and intimate for the audience. He played several pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach among other well-known composers. While Carpenter has a reputation for performing highly untraditional organ melodies, including those from pop music and film scores, in an effort to appeal to a younger demographic, he kept it classical for this performance to appeal to the older crowd.

The show felt like a love letter to the organ. Carpenter is a talented organist and a charismatic performer. The music of the organ may not appeal to everyone and watching Cameron Carpenter won’t automatically turn you into an organ enthusiast, but Carpenter's performance demands viewership because of his phenomenal talent, groundbreaking instrument and, of course, that glorious mohawk.


Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter.



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