The Weird Uncle of Instruments

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I have a few musical guilty-pleasures--the accordion, the musical saw and certain kinds of close harmony singing among them. But I’m sure the one that most marks me as, shall we say, a bit odd, is--I’m hesitating to say it, actually--the theater pipe organ.

If the pipe organ is the King of Instruments, then the theater pipe organ is the Weird Uncle of Instruments. Designed to accompany silent movies by enabling one person to imitate a whole orchestra, it makes sounds no other instrument--including an orchestra--makes.

So I’m always excited when this obsolete behemoth finds a fierce advocate. The latest is the maverick organist Cameron Carpenter, whose new album contains classical works he’s transcribed specifically for theater organ and which he plays with jaw-dropping virtuosity on a real Mighty Wurlitzer. (See video below.)

Cameron’s holding a release party at Le Poisson Rouge on Tuesday night at 6:30 to celebrate his new recording and he’ll perform, too, using an electronic instrument. (Nothing that makes music is less portable than a pipe organ.) I’m sure that Cameron’s performances on his new DVD will make the theater pipe organ some new friends.

Okay, now that I’ve confessed, what’s your musical guilty-pleasure?

Click below to hear WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon's talk with Cameron Carpenter about his new double-disc album Cameron LIVE! and Tuesday's album release party or check out a video of Carpenter performing.