By Annemarie Marconi
When it comes to classic fall activities to do on a Sunday afternoon, attending a classical organ concert is not something that comes up on many people’s lists. And yet, there I was, sitting in the University Church this past Sunday, October 4, listening to nationally renowned concert organist Nathan Laube create beautiful music from what my untrained ear can only describe as a three-tiered behemoth of a piano. In fact, the church’s regular baby-grand piano looked almost miniscule next to the image of the grand and powerful organ, coming from a projector in the choir loft so that the audience could both see and hear Laube perform. A friendly usher told me that I would find the acoustics better in the front, and I am so glad I took his advice, because to be completely immersed in the world of Laube’s music was such a privilege.
Nathan Laube has made a living by teaching organ and performing all over the world. He is really young and hip, which is surprising considering his choice of profession, but this seems to give him a kind of Josh Groban-esque quality. The concert itself was put on in memory of Rev. James Boyce, O. Carm, who served as chair of the Department of Music and Art History at Fordham University until pancreatic cancer took his life at the young age of 60. It was the second annual performance dedicated to the late priest.
Before the concert started, I began to think that the organ might sound naked or incomplete without a choir. However, within the first few bars of Laube’s first selection, I knew that I was about to be proven wrong. Laube performed selections that displayed the full range of the organ’s musical capacity. He commanded the instrument to work, and it brought forth a powerful and magnificent sound from its pipes as his fingers moved deftly through winding, melismatic runs.
Nevertheless, in the next selection he tamed the beast, making the instrument sound as dainty and pretty as the garden-variety violin. Being able to see Laube through the projector added an invaluable multi-sensory experience to the concert. Everything about Laube was intentional, from his posture to the subtle movements of his head and rocking of his body. He never once slipped, faltered or hesitated. He and the organ commanded such a sense of awe that I felt almost guilty tearing my attention away to take notes for this article.
Laube’s performance became an invitation into the world of each song he performed, which was especially apparent when he would take a microphone after each selection to explain the origin of the next one. His second piece, which was written during World War I, made the sobriety and contemplativeness of war so vivid that there was actually no applause following its conclusion. The emotion of the piece sat thick and heavy in the air until Laube relieved the audience with a lighter, more jovial selection. When he was done, he received not only a standing ovation, but also a request for an encore, which was then followed by a second standing ovation.
Overall, Nathan Laube’s concert was a tremendous success. Mr. Robert Minotti, Fordham University’s director of music, said that over 60 more people attended this year than last.