Bisexual organist and composer Cameron Carpenter loves Chicago. A previous boyfriend of his lived in Bucktown, and Carpenter loved getting to know the city with him on breaks as a student.
However, Carpenter has slightly mixed feelings about his upcoming debut at Symphony Center. Carpenter is providing live and improvised organ accompaniment to the classic 1920 German Expressionistic horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari on Halloween night.
"I don't consider silent film accompaniment to be my main work. It's a sideline," said Carpenter, an American now based in Berlin who is building an international career as a recording artist and a virtuoso organist playing his customized instruments. "It's something I do incidentally and there's only one film that I do it with."
Carpenter is also slightly wary about perpetuating Halloween stereotypes about the organ in the public's consciousness. After all, how many times have the first few organ bars of Bach's Toccata and Fugue been appropriated for spooky Halloween-themed commercials on radio and TV?
Instead, Carpenter is more concerned with highlighting his organ transcriptions of classical and jazz piecesplus his original compositions, one of which, "Music for an Imaginary Film," is featured on his debut album, If You Could Read My Mind. And though Carpenter is constantly fielding questions about the very glam outfits he performs in, he wishes that audiences and critics would look beyond that to focus more on the artistry he brings to organ playing and creating music from a variety of sources.
Instead of drawing from German classical music of the 1920s to accompany The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Carpenter said, "The score is much more implied by other musical influences, for instance disco, the kind of musical backing you tend to find in television advertisements, the backgrounds of soap operas and the film scores of the 1940s and '50sthe things that aren't regarded seriously by the musical intelligentsia."
Organist Cameron Carpenter accompanies the 1920 silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $30-$80; call 312-294-3000 or visit www.cso.org .
A new leader for CGMC
The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus ( CGMC ) recently announced James Morehead as the organization's new artistic director after an eight-month national search. Morehead takes over for Patrick Sinozich, who has been CGMC's artistic director since 1997.
Morehead, informally known as "Jimmy," already has a strong association with CGMC, starting in 2008 as a rehearsal pianist before becoming an assistant conductor and accompanist in 2010. Before he takes over full programming next season, Morehead will work with Sinozich on CGMC's upcoming holiday show titled Yule Tube: Holiday Favorites from Television, and its spring 2015 Stephen Sondheim-inspired concerts titled We're Still Here: CGMC Celebrates Sondheim at 85.
Morehead, a Pittsburg-area native, said he applied for the CGMC job because "I've been with them for a while and it was the next logical step to follow one of the best bosses I've had in Patrick."
"I am thrilled with the choice of Jimmy Morehead," Sinozich said. "It's great that he already has a history with the chorus, so he already knows the personality and the aesthetic of the group, and I think he'll be all ready to start in a really good place."
Music directing is also part of Morehead's many other music-related jobs that he's taken on since graduating with a Masters in Piano Performance and Music Theory from Roosevelt University. In addition to his duties with CGMC, Morehead is music director for the small-scale opera company VOX3 and become an adjunct professor for the Theater Conservatory of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
In terms of musical theatre, Morehead has been Jeff Award-nominated three times for music directing many mid-size productions. Among his credits are Bare: A Pop Opera and Jerry Springer: The Opera for the former Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, then Aida, Passing Strange, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Dessa Rose for the reconstituted Bailiwick Chicago.
Morehead said he has many ideas for the next few years of CGMC's future, with a particular eye on programming the concerts leading up to the international LGBT choral festival GALA scheduled for July 2016 in Denver.
CGMC performances of Yule Tube: Holiday Favorites from Television are slated for 8 p.m. Dec. 5 at Millennium Park's Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20 at University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. For more information, visit www.cgmc.org .
Note: The author of this column previously performed as a member of Chicago Gay Men's Chorus for two concerts in 1997 and 1998. He has also regularly sung on and off with the Windy City Gay Chorus since 2003.