Christian Alejandro Almada, titular organist of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, made a stop at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock to perform an organ recital Aug. 2.
About 100 people attended the free concert by the Argentina native. Almada has served as the main organist of the papal basilica since 2008 and is responsible for the music office of the basilica, which he founded in September 2015.
Beau Baldwin, organist and director of music at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, said it was a surprise how the performance fell into place.
“The Cathedral has a year round-concert schedule, including a music schedule for the summer and fall,” he said. “We typically throw in an organ recital or two. We don’t have many because of the cost of travel and performance. Oftentimes we’ll host an organist from the American Guild of Organists, and work out the fees and schedule with them. But this one came about in a completely random way. (Almada) knows Father Ruben Quinteros, the pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Mary Church (both in North Little Rock) … Father Ruben contacted me several months ago and explained that he’s got a really good friend coming to the United States in the late summer to play an organ recital at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York, and he’d love to visit here and play.”
“We’ve known each other for a long time. We are both from Argentina, and we were born in neighboring states,” Father Quinteros said. “We both pursued a vocation in the beginning (before Almada chose to pursue music).”
Almada’s pursuit of music and love of the Catholic faith led to completing a master’s degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology, as well as publishing a collection of music and responsorial psalms composed for Sundays and liturgical feasts. He also regularly holds conferences in Italy and abroad.
But it was Almada’s curiosity about the American South that brought the Cathedral concert to fruition.
“We hadn’t seen each other in a long time,” Father Quinteros said. “He does a tour in the United States every summer, and I didn’t have the chance to see him in previous years … This time I couldn’t go (to New York), but I told him, ‘Why don’t you come to Little Rock and do a recital?’ He said he would love to, because he had never been able to visit this part of the country.”
Almada began creating a composition line up, taking advantage of the organ’s power and capabilities. Baldwin shared his amazement at Almada’s ability.
“Normally if I have someone coming in for an organ recital, they would practice for many hours for several days. (Almada) only had to come in for four or five hours the day before and the morning of the recital to practice,” Baldwin said. “It was amazing how quickly he was able to put that together.”
Almada’s one-hour concert featured seven songs from Bach, Mozart, Saint-Saens and Vierne.
“He transcripted a lot of this music for organ; most of these pieces are meant to be played by an orchestra,” Baldwin said. “He has this way of making the organ play all of these beautiful sounds, called colors. It was a really well-balanced, well-thought-out program.”
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