The Bach Gamut IIArtist/Band: Virgil Fox
Ted Alan Worth, producer of THE BACH GAMUT, writes::
We titled the festival “A Triumphant Blaze of Sound and Light,” and advertised it as a “Festival of Organ Virtuosos and Illumination.” We commissioned wonderfully colorful and artistic posters that were literally plastered all over town. There were newspaper, radio, and television ads on all the time. Ticket sales began to mount, and we soon realized that we would be a success—largely because of Virgil’s name.
The opening concert was Friday evening, September 10, 1976. Virgil’s concert sold out all 2,500 seats. But we were unprepared for the throngs that lined up around the cathedral to buy tickets at the last minute, or to purchase whatever standing room might be left (we warned them to “bring your own pillow”). I was nervous about our first concert, since it conflicted with the great San Francisco tradition, Opening Night of the San Francisco Opera. I needn’t have worried, since 5,500 people crammed into the cathedral on opening night.
As the audience poured in, two harpists accompanied the setting of the sun. The cathedral slowly began to be bathed in gorgeous light provided by the incomparable Crystal Rainbow. The four-manual console of the cathedral’s Ruffatti organ and the Royal V’s console were both moved into place on platforms so that the performers were visible from anywhere in the building.
When the announcer welcomed Virgil, and a pink spotlight hit his sequined jacket and diamond-studded shoes, the audience gave him a tremendous ovation. He went right to work on nearly one and a half hours of Bach.
The first section of each of Virgil’s two programs was called “The Bach Gamut.” These pieces were all the preludes and fugues from the ‘A’ tonality, straight through all the keys.
The audience was composed of people from every age, class, musical taste, and lifestyle; but hordes of young people, which Virgil had captured as his fans from “Heavy Organ” concerts, dominated.
The whole audience sat silent and attentive, transfixed by Virgil’s dynamic and musical approach to the transcendent counterpoint of Sebastian Bach. These “Bach Gamut” concerts were tours de force, and I never failed to marvel at Virgil’s stamina and prodigious technique—and memory!—as he tossed off one after the other of the monumental preludes, toccatas, fantasies, and fugues with comparative ease, permeating them all with pure joy. The audience erupted with spontaneous praise after each of the mighty blockbusters.
VIRGIL FOX, ORGAN