World-renowned organist Xaver Varnus plans to host a series of mini-concerts during the holidays at the former Pilgram Church in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia.
Varnus bought the church earlier this year and installed a pipe organ shortly afterwards.
He’s made many friends of the neighbours who would stop in to check on his progress.
“In Toronto, in one year, I met only one of my neighbours,” said Varnus. “Since I’m here, I don’t know how big is the population of Brooklyn, perhaps one thousand, I think I already met 999.”
Initially, Varnus had hoped to mount a concert in his church to repay the warm welcome he has received.
Because of COVID-19, he needed to rework his plan. Instead of one gathering of over a hundred people, he will host five nights of organ music for up to 20 people at a time.
“I don’t want to play a very long concert. Maybe 30 minutes or 35 minutes and then after, maybe we have some chat outside the church,” said Varnus.
In fact, he calls Bach, “his first language.”
“It’s very easy to understand Bach for the twentieth century because, like Shakespeare, of course, one-third of his work was made for his own age but the other two-thirds is general for all over the ages and people.”
Varnus says some of the people who stop in to visit have had little experience with classical music prior to his arrival in the community.
He’s touched to see them embrace the genre so fully as evidenced by a performance by a visiting musician friend.
“This very nice lady was sitting in the first bench next to the piano and during Walter’s wonderful performance of Brahms, she was crying. I thought, this is the first touch, when classical music was touching this lady’s heart.”
Varnus is already making plans for a larger performance in the fall of 2021. Several of the top figures in classical music from around the world have committed to perform in his Brooklyn Church, now rechristened ‘Varnus Hall’ at a festival in September.
“I want to give some hope to people that after COVID we still have light, we still have sunshine, we still have Debussy and Bach and we still have big red apples, so everything, you know?”
Varnus will play his mini-concert series at 5:00pm each evening from Dec. 26 – 30. Admission is free but a donation towards his 2021 festival and ongoing renovations is appreciated.
Unfortunately, if you haven’t secured a seat, you’re out of luck. The concerts were announced Thursday and by Friday, all performances have been filled.
Reported by Ed Halverson