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Virgil Fox - JPop.com
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Virgil Fox

Virgil Fox

Virgil Fox


Virgil Keel Fox (May 3, 1912–October 25, 1980) was a renowned organist, known especially for his flamboyant "Heavy Organ" concerts of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach appealing to audiences in the 1970's more familiar with rock 'n' roll music, staged complete with light shows. His many recordings made on the RCA Victor and Capitol labels in the 1950's and 1960's have been re-mastered and re-released on CD's in recent years and continue to be widely available in mainstream music stores. Read more on Last.fm
Virgil Keel Fox (May 3, 1912–October 25, 1980) was a renowned organist, known especially for his flamboyant "Heavy Organ" concerts of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach appealing to audiences in the 1970's more familiar with rock 'n' roll music, staged complete with light shows. His many recordings made on the RCA Victor and Capitol labels in the 1950's and 1960's have been re-mastered and re-released on CD's in recent years and continue to be widely available in mainstream music stores. Fox was born in Princeton, Illinois to Miles and Birdie Fox, and it was soon clear that he was a prodigy. Fox began playing the organ for church services at the age of ten, and made a concert debut in 1926 before 2500 at Withrow High School, Cincinnati. From 1926 to 1930 he studied in Chicago under the German organist-composer Wilhelm Middelschulte. Fox's other principal teachers were Hugh Price, Louis Robert, and Marcel Dupré.

He was an alumnus of the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore, Maryland, where he became the first student to complete the course for the coveted Artist's Diploma within a year. During August and September 1938 he played in Great Britain and Germany; Fox was the first non-German organist to perform publicly in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig — a special occasion, since J.S. Bach served as cantor of the Thomaskirche until his death, in 1750, and is buried within the church. During the Second World War Fox enlisted in the Army Air Force and took a leave of absence from Brown Memorial Church in Baltimore and the Peabody. He was promoted to staff sergeant, and played various recitals and services. After having played more than 600 concerts while on duty, he was discharged from the Army Air Force in 1946. He then served as organist at the famed Riverside Church in New York City until 1965, when he resigned to devote his considerable talents to full-time concertizing. From 1971 until 1975 he performed his famous "Heavy Organ" concerts, touring around the country with an electronic Rodgers Touring Organ, built by Rodgers Instruments that sounded credibly similar to a cathedral pipe organ. He underwent unsuccessful surgery for prostate cancer in 1976.

His last commercially released recording was made at his farewell Riverside Church concert on May 6, 1979. Fox's 50th year of concertizing began when he appeared with the Dallas Symphony in September 1980, in what was to be his final public performance. One month later, he died of cancer in Palm Beach, Florida. ------ Fox stressed pushing the limits of the instruments available to him rather than requiring that they, or his playing, be authentic to the era of the music. His style, particularly his taste for fast tempos and flashy registrations, is in counterpoint to that of many organists, notably E. Power Biggs, who took a more traditional approach to Bach and others.

Fox maintained more than 250 concert works in memory, and could call them up, playing at double speed or faster in rehearsals, which went late into the night. Many organ purists strongly criticized Fox for his unconventional interpretations of classical organ music. But on the album "Heavy Organ", in the introduction to the familiar Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, Fox summed up his approach to Bach and to music in general: "There is current in our land (and several European countries) at this moment a kind of nitpicking worship of historic impotence. They say that Bach must not be interpreted and that he must have no emotion, his notes speak for themselves. Pure unadulterated rot! Bach has the red blood.

He has the communion with the people. He has all of this amazing spirit and imagine that you could put all the music on one side of the agenda with his great interpretation and great feeling and put the greatest man of all right up on top of a dusty shelf underneath some glass case in a museum and say that he must not be interpreted! Despite his often controversial approach to organ music, it is undeniable that Virgil Fox was a musical celebrity, not unlike Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould and others of his time. He was one of the rare organists to perform on nationally televised entertainment programs in the 1960's and 1970's, such as The Mike Douglas Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and CBS Camera Three, bringing organ masterworks to mass audiences as perhaps no other organist has done before or since. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..

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