Church organist is invited to play at Paris Cathedral

April 16, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - For showbiz performers, playing The Palace in New York was always equated with hitting the big time.

For church organists, "the big time" would have to be the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Just ask Mark King, organist at St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown, who is scheduled to perform there in late spring.

"I got an e-mail last June from Jean-Pierre Leguay inviting me to play. He wanted to know if I would be interested," King said.

After thinking about it for two seconds, King e-mailed Leguay back that he would be delighted. Leguay is one of three organists at the landmark Catholic cathedral in Paris.


The plans include a rather unusual practice schedule that King must work around.

"Notre Dame is a big tourist attraction during the day so my practice time is limited," King said. "I have been given six hours to practice - two sessions from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. each."

With water on several sides, Notre Dame really doesn't have any "neighbors" so King doubts that anyone will be hearing him play at those hours.

"The organ at Notre Dame has five keyboards while St. John's has three," King said, noting that he will need that practice time.

King, the minister of music at St. John's for 13 years, is a native of Pittsburgh. He earned his undergraduate degree in music education and organ performance at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

After receiving his master's degree in organ performance from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, King headed to Atlanta, where he held a similar post at the church there while teaching.

King believes his invitation to play at Notre Dame came via his reputation in performing.

"My work is known," he said. "Right after I came to Hagerstown, I was invited to play at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C."

He has performed at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in New York, St. Paul's Cathedral in England and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris.

"I also studied one summer at the Royal School of Church Music in England," King said. "It was a wonderful opportunity to also study the roots of the Episcopal Church."

In 1992, King performed at the national convention of the American Guild of Organists, and this summer he will be playing the organ at the AGO region convention in Baltimore.

King said he will be accompanied by friends from Hagerstown, New York and Atlanta when he goes to Paris.

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