Organist's love of music leads him to London

March 30, 1999

Mark KingBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Mark B. King's earliest memories are of voices raised in song and the strains of the violin and piano.

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It was through the influence of his musician parents and grandparents that he developed a love for organ music, and turned that love into a career.

As the minister of music and the parish organist for St. John's Episcopal Church at 101 S. Prospect St., King performs regularly for a Hagerstown audience.


Last month, he got a chance to share his love for sacred music with others across the Atlantic during an organ recital at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

"It was an incredible opportunity for me," said King, 38, of Hagerstown. He said he was proud to be chosen and to represent his church and the city.

Built in the 1600s, St. Paul's Cathedral was the setting for the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

King was invited by clergy at St. Paul's to perform as part their Evensong recital series, he said.

He was not sure how he came to be selected, but has been a featured performer at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists, the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., and St. Thomas Church in New York.

King's St. Paul's repertoire included the works of Ronald Arnatt, Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Wilcox Jenkins, Samuel Barber, Girolamo Frescobaldi and Charles Marie Widor.

"He is a gifted organist. He's able to play music from a wide variety of periods and styles convincingly," said the Rev. Kenneth Dorsch, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church.

During his one-hour recital on Feb. 28, King played for 300 St. Paul's parishioners and 10 members of St. John's, who traveled to London to watch him perform.

"It was absolutely spectacular, said Bill Young of Hagerstown.

Young and his wife Frances made the trip to England to hear King's performance and to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

He said he enjoyed King's choice of music.

"It displayed not only the brilliance of the organ but a reverence for the setting," Young said.

Choir member Joy Rath of Hagerstown said the performance was awe-inspiring.

"It felt like the heavens were opening up," she said.

King said he prepared for the trip by performing the same music for Saint John's Episcopal Church's Music at Saint John's series.

In London, he was given about two hours to practice on an organ that had five levels of keyboards and 32 foot pedals. The 1927 Moller organ at St. John's has three levels.

King said he caught on quickly. "It's like driving a 5-speed," he said.

The cathedral, with seating for 5,000 people, was so large it had a nine-second reverberation delay, he said.

"When you release your hands from the keyboard the music still sounds for nine seconds," King said.

The delay was both challenging and beneficial, allowing him to give full effect to the music's pauses and the organ's echoes, he said.

When he concluded his performance, King received a standing ovation.

"It was such an honor for me. The final chord of the final piece was an overwhelming moment of achievement," he said.

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