And Sometimes It Just Doesn't Work Out
Richard Bushman had a brilliant idea: "Let’s use the gorgeous St. Paul’s Chapel in New York," he said to me one day, "for a concert during the Mormon Arts Center Festival in June." He told me about their famous Aeolian Skinner organ, but he warned, “They don’t let just anybody play that instrument.” So I thought to myself, All right, let’s aim high, and I wrote a letter to Mormon Tabernacle organist Clay Christiansen. Soon after, I was in the Tabernacle, listening to him play a noontime concert, and we sat down afterward to discuss a strategy.
I was aware that he had received a PhD in Music Composition—many people don’t know that about him—and I asked him who his organ teachers had been. "J. J. Keeler and Alexander Schreiner,” he said. Then I asked him whether he played any of their music. A smile came across his face. He knew where I was headed. We mapped out a program that was autobiographical. His portion of the concert would be based on people who made a difference in his life, almost like a musical genealogy chart. It would also include a transcription of his dissertation composition. Finally, he told me that he is composing again, and he offered to premiere his new piece he was finishing at the Festival.
Months passed and he was busy at work on the concert. In the meantime, we also contacted Linda Margetts, also a Tabernacle organist, and she was working on music by Mormon composers at mid-century—all of this music would be by Mormon composers. A young LDS man named Levente Medveczky is currently studying at Juilliard, and I reached out to him to be the third of three organists for the concert. Everything seemed to be going great….
And then we received word two weeks ago that the organ at St. Paul’s Chapel would not be available after all. It is going to be dismantled for a year, for maintenance. Noooooooo!
Those next emails to Clay, Linda, and Levente were hard to write. I was so bummed. But they all wrote back immediately commiserating with me. They were incredibly gracious about it. Clay reported that the deadline of the Festival had actually helped him finish composing, that he was sending his new piece off to his publisher, that he had a premiere lined up, and that he is going to dedicate the work to his wife—their 50th anniversary is in July.