Classical 89 Organ Fest performed live for the first time in two years

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Richard Elliott, a Temple Square organist for over 30 years, plays “Agincourt Hymn,” arranged by John Dunstable. Friday night’s concert was the first time in two years that Classical 89 hosted its Organ Fest. (Liesel Allen)

Classical 89’s Organ Fest, featuring six internationally-acclaimed organists, was held at the Salt Lake Tabernacle Friday, Sept. 23.

After a pause because of COVID-19 restrictions, hundreds of people attended the concert. 

“It’s been three years since we’ve done this, and we’re grateful for the circumstances that allow us to be here,” event emcee Luke Howard said.

The concert featured tabernacle organists Richard Elliott, Andrew Unsworth, Linda Margetts, Joseph Peeples and Brian Mathias. 

James Goldrick, the assistant organist at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, also played. His performance marked his first time playing live in the Tabernacle.

Goldrick said he was nervous to play at the Tabernacle for the first time and just tried not to let his hands sweat too much.

James Goldrick performs live at the Tabernacle of Temple Square for the first time at Classical 89’s Organ Fest. The Sept. 23 night’s concert was the first time the event had been organized in two years. (Liesel Allen)

Among the concert attendees were Hilary and Wade Christiansen, a couple from Ogden, Utah. They said being back in the seats of the Tabernacle felt amazing.

“I just like to feel and hear the power in those awesome organ pipes,” Hilary Christiansen said.

The concert began with a powerful rendition of the “Agincourt Hymn,” arranged by John Dunstable and played by Richard Elliott, a Temple Square organist for over 30 years.

The lights behind the organ pipes changed color in accordance with the mood of the piece that was being played. During Elliott’s piece, they were bright red. Over the course of the concert, the lights shifted across an entire rainbow of colors.

During Linda Margetts performance of “Jubilate” by Emma Lou Diemer, the lights were a warm yellow. Margetts was the only female organist at the concert and the only person to play a piece arranged by a female composer.

Linda Margetts played “Jubilate” by Emma Lou Diemer. The Sept. 23 concert was the first time in two years that Classical 89 hosted its Organ Fest. (Liesel Allen)

The concert ended with all six performers returning to the stage to a standing ovation.

“The audience was just so fantastic — I fed off of that,” Goldrick said. “The response at the end was just ‘wow.’” 

The six organists — Linda Margetts, Joseph Peeples, James Goldrick, Brian Mathias, Andrew Unsworth and Richard Elliott — receive a standing ovation at the end of Classical 89’s Organ Fest. It was the first time the event had been hosted in two years. (Liesel Allen)

Audience members ranged from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve to a man with a harmonica who serenaded the crowd with an impromptu song after the performance.

“It was really nice to be back,” Joseph Peeples, the newest Temple Square organist, said. “This was a good one to come to. I can’t speak for myself, but all of the organists were incredible.”

Since 2008, the five Tabernacle and Temple Square organists have collaborated with the organist of the Cathedral of the Madeleine to celebrate organ music and to support Classical 89, Utah’s classical radio station.

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