Concert celebrates musical genius lost to AIDS in 1984

By | November 24, 2022

Lawrence Cosentino

Should you had been hanging out in Manhattan within the early Nineteen Eighties and needed to mild up your night time, Studio 54 wasn’t the one place to go. On Fridays at midnight, at Calvary Episcopal Church in Gramercy Park, folks got here from far and huge to listen to the organ music of Calvin Hampton, typically accompanied by a blinding mild present.

Hampton inspired listeners to put on the ground as he steamrolled them with the whole lot from towering Bach fugues to his personal sonically ravishing and adventurous compositions, shattering the air and shaking the soul as solely a mighty pipe organ can.

On December 1, at All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing, Music Director and Organist Quincy Dobbs will deliver Hampton’s music to life on the church’s nice organ, together with the All Saints Choir and visitor audio system, to mark World AIDS Day.

Hampton died of AIDS in 1984, simply earlier than his forty sixth birthday.

For Dobbs, it is the gig of a lifetime.

“It is the very best degree of live performance music you possibly can play,” he mentioned.

Anybody anticipating soporific hymns or mournful background music from an organ live performance can be amazed by the vitality and drive of Hampton’s music.

“There’s nothing soothing about it,” Dobbs mentioned. “It’s full of the fervour and emotion of a artistic particular person’s life.”

Though Dobbs had a doctorate in music, all he may consider to explain the primary dance, “The Primitive”, was, “Oh my God, nobody will go to sleep.”

The showpiece of this system, “5 Dances for Organ,” is a 40-minute epic that juxtaposes deep meditations with righteous rage and full-throated cries of pleasure.

A eager for love and neighborhood fills Hampton’s music, nevertheless it’s fractured by battle and doubt.

“Being within the homosexual neighborhood, he was in and he was out,” Hampton mentioned.

Dobbs described one of many dances, “An Exalted Ritual”, as a “lengthy, plaintive, repetitive piece, as if your complete viewers is in a private ambiance of their very own ritual. It is simply lovely.

The dance, partly, occurs by probability – one in all many cutting-edge methods Hampton has deployed with extra conventional types – over a repeating bass line “that brings the whole lot again to middle for each particular person to listen to”. .

Hampton was a musical omnivore who performed the whole lot from early to fashionable music, and likewise led a rock band, Sevenfold Reward. The finale, “All people Dance,” erupts with a pointy melody, surprising harmonies, and what Dobbs referred to as “rhythmic stuff.”

“I am unsure you possibly can dance to it,” he admitted, “nevertheless it’s an invite.” His description nearly ended with a disclaimer: “That is for the total organ, and I am not afraid to make use of the sources of the total organ.”

On the December 1 live performance, Kristina Schmidgall, director of the Lansing Space AIDS Community, or LAAN, will converse in regards to the historical past of World AIDS Day, HIV within the Lansing neighborhood, and the providers supplied by LAAN.

“We have made progress, however the AIDS disaster is not over,” Dobbs mentioned. Worldwide, round 650,000 folks died of AIDS-related sicknesses in 2021, based on the World Well being Group.

“We’ll by no means know what Calvin Hampton might need accomplished for the following 40 years of his life,” Dobbs mentioned. “The lack of the artistic neighborhood, from Broadway to theater to the organ world, and all that goes on behind the scenes – it fills me with unhappiness to think about what we have misplaced.”

At his peak, Hampton was broadly acclaimed as the best hymnwriter in America. The All Saints Choir will be part of Dobbs on December 1 to play two.

The winding melody and rolling bassline of Hampton’s haunting anthem, “There is a Width in God’s Mercy,” washes the soul like a quiet, tirelessly flowing woodland stream.

Dobbs grew up in North Florida in a musical household with a fundamentalist bent, so “not enjoying music was by no means an possibility”.

After incomes his doctorate in music from Arizona State College (his dissertation was on the fascinating organ music of Finnish minimalist Arvo Pärt, who nonetheless writes music), Dobbs took a job at a church in Flint to nearer to his household. After some time, the church gig grew to become “stale bread,” in his phrases, and he joined the Flint College of Performing Arts, the place he nonetheless teaches. Dobbs joined All Saints Church as organist and music director practically 4 years in the past.

“I’ve carte blanche there,” he mentioned. “I needed to do that AIDS Day live performance to let LGBTQ folks in Lansing and East Lansing know that there’s a church they’ll go to that cares about all points of their lives.”

Dobbs additionally hopes the live performance will recreate the vitality of Hampton’s midnight recitals at his church in Gramercy Park.

“From 1974 to 1984, it was Studio 54 for spiritual minds,” he mentioned. “I am unsure Andy Warhol or Twiggy had been there, however they might have been.”

Hampton performed after midnight as a result of that is when the subway stopped and the vibes weren’t rocking the church, Dobbs mentioned, but additionally as a result of “church leaders couldn’t be there and discover out what he was doing”.

Hampton is fairly certain the leaders of the Church of All Saints in East Lansing have not heard of these items earlier than both.

“It is type of like Calvin Hampton,” he mentioned. “I practiced it at midnight on Friday.”