Christoph Bull, organist extraordinaire

It’s impossible to miss Christoph Bull in the organ scene here in Los Angeles. I think I first heard him play at one of the weekly concerts at First Congregational Church, which lays claim to having the largest church organ in the world—actually, three organs controlled through a single console. After playing some of my favorite Bach and Reger pieces in his clean, powerful style, he asked the audience for a theme to improvise on, and ended up choosing mine: “Michelle”, on which he did a great job. That reminds me: he promised to send me the recording on a CD and never got around to doing that. He also played a concert at the new organ in the Catholic cathedral here.

Last week Sakiko and I went to a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall that he called “Organica 2004”. I was surprised at the huge turnout for an organ concert; that was probably due both to the popularity of UCLA’s music series, and Bull’s mastery of the e-mail medium: he’s the Howard Dean of the organ world, complete with his own website, although he doesn’t have a blog yet.

The organ console was down at the bottom of the orchestra pit and then raised dramatically, facing forward, to the level of the stage, spotlighted, as the concert began. On the screen behind the console were projected huge images ranging from shots of the actual pipes producing the sounds we were hearing above the ceiling, to real-time shots of his hands on the manuals and feet on the pedalboard, to abstract kaleidoscopic images.

Bull is trying to pull the organ into the 21st century with his Organica series. In addition to solid renditions of the classics, and performances of his own compositions, he did a beautiful duet with an electronic violin, and in the final piece, Toccata and Fugue in D minor which we’ve actually all heard a bit too often, he pulled off the amazing stunt of playing the organ at the same time as a synthesizer placed to his side.

You may be thinking that this sounds too weird and contrived to really be any good. But actually the effect was glorious and exhiliterating. And there’s more: Bull was actually singing some of the songs. He has an excellent voice, and his rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s Blackbird was ethereal. He turned half around, facing the audience, playing the organ with one hand and one foot, and sang to us.

Some may find this all contrived, but I it worked wonderfully. Christoph Bull is our new Virgil Fox.

2 Responses to “Christoph Bull, organist extraordinaire”

  1. sonia Miller Says:

    How much does Christoph Bull charge per
    concert and does he handle his own bookings or which agency does this?
    Thank you.
    Sonia Miller

  2. Jennifer Zobelein Says:

    Our Ventura County chapter of the AGO would like to feature Christoph Bull at a concert next spring. How do we go about bookings, and what are his fees?
    Please reply ASAP as we are finalizing our calendar for 2006-07. Thanks.
    Jennifer Zobelein 7-11-06

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