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Joe Vitacco playing a hymn pipeorgan

Joe Vitacco playing a hymn on an organ after years of not playing

Joe Vitacco unexpectedly had access to the magnificent Fisk/Rosales Organ at Rice University during a recent visit. He sat at the organ playing a hymn. Joe had not learned any music or played a pipe organ for many years. Normally when doing a recording there is little time for the recording engineer/producer to get on the organ bench. Ken Cowan had left Joe in the Edythe Bates Old Organ Hall at Rice University for a few hours with the organ staring at him. Ken was practicing on one of the small practice organs at Rice for a video they were recording. Ken Cowan, ever since Joe has known him, practices and practices his music, even when he has long ago mastered and memorized the work.

With Ken warming up for the recording, Joe knew he would have some time at the Fisk / Rosales Organ to learn a hymn. So, Joe figured what the heck and grabbed a hymnal. He opened to a simple but good hymn and slowly worked out playing a hymn. Everything Craig Cramer had taught him 20+ years ago popped into his head. With all of the organs Joe has recorded around the world he does lament he never just sat and played.

But, he always knew listening to the resident organists play was a better use of the limited time he had with famous pipe organs that he might never hear in person again. Why you ask? These organist know their instruments.

Sitting at the console you rarely can hear what an organ really sounds like, you need to hear it in the room. The sound of the organ in most places goes straight over your head and what you hear is not an accurate representation of the organ. 

The hymn Joe Vitacco plays in this video is “O Sacred Head, now wounded”, it is based on an old and long Latin poem, Salve mundi salutare. Sit back and enjoy listening to Joe Vitacco play J.S. Bach’s magnificent harmonization. Joe says he is happy to accept an alternative pedaling for the hymn. 

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22 responses to “Joe Vitacco playing a hymn on an organ after years of not playing

  1. I just wish to say how much I enjoyed your delivery of the Hymn O Sacred Head. You may not have been at the keyboard for some time but the clarity and melodic delivery really lifted me. Thank you for that.

  2. I’ve purchased several of your excellent recordings, Joe. What a wonderful surprise to hear you perform one of my favorite hymns. Good job & played from the heart. Bravo.

  3. Well done Joe, especially after such a lengthy playing lapse! People who have followed your organ recording journeys since you founded JAV Recordings must have wondered whether you actually had played any of the organs which you have recorded, such as the the wonderful Clicquot/Cavaille-Coll in Saint-Sulpice in Paris and superb Cavaille-Coll in St. Ouen in Rouen. France. With your sensitive playing of this appropriate Lenten/Good Friday hymn “O Sacred Head” on this Fisk/Rosales instrument we now may wonder whether you are thinking of embarking upon yet another career!

  4. Joe, I was not aware that you played! Top-notch recording engineer is what I have known you as, that and holding down the 100″ compressor 😉
    Nice to hear you play. Your pedaling was perfect – I heard no clinkers. Isn’t that the main thing?
    Good on you!

  5. Hey Joe: How wonderful for you to play the Fisk-Rosales Organ @Edith old auditorium Rice University so happy for you!!
    Do you plan to re-release the your magnificent JAV??? I meant to reorder it but finances were not there–story of my life! are you planning to record the Fisk-Rosales organ at Rice University???Here’s hoping!!
    Most warmly yours,

    1. Well oddly I don’t have access to a pipe organ anywhere anymore. I could use the one at my parish in Washington DC but now it is a long trip for daily practice.

  6. Very impressive Joe. I was touched by this. I agree with those who would like to enjoy more. Keep up the good work!

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