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Phenomenal player

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Concert organist Felix Hell performs Thursday in front of Randolph-Macon Academy students inside Boggs Chapel on the school’s organ. Hell will perform Sunday evening for a public event. Rich Cooley/Daily

Organist returns to Randolph-Macon Academy for two-part concert series

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL - Felix Hell has been all over the world showcasing his talents on the organ, but when he drove into the area Thursday morning, his "whole mood changed."

"I was so glad to see that one doesn't have to go far to step away from this busy life," Hell, 26, said of his arrival into Virginia.

Thursday afternoon marked Hell's second visit to Front Royal and Randolph-Macon Academy to perform on their organ -- he was the first to play the organ four years ago when it was dedicated. Hell will be back Sunday evening for a concert that's open to the public.

Hell began playing the piano at 7 years old, and by age 9 he was performing all over Germany, where he was born. He moved to the United States when he was 13, established himself at Juilliard and then graduated from The Curtis Institute of Music at 18.
Hell currently resides in Baltimore, Md., but he has played in a variety of places, including Germany, France, Korea, Jamaica and 44 states in America.

Middle and Upper grade students attended the special performance, which included four classical pieces. In between songs, Hell gave brief descriptions of the organ -- how it works, what it can offer and why it's important.

"Think of the organ like an orchestra ... there are endless possibilities to make sound," he said.

After the concert, Hell took questions from students and after they filed out of the chapel, he continued meeting with those who had more to ask.

Sophomore Brandon Pizarro, 15, said he really enjoyed Hell's rendition of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings."

"It made me think a lot," he said. "It put thoughts in my head that I haven't thought about in a while."

Senior Ryan Sanders, 18, plays trombone and hand bells at the school, and called Hell's performance "a truly magnificent experience."

"We can't explain what music does to us, but it reminds me that we have souls," Hell said.
While he's an advocate for the organ, Hell said his ultimate goal is promoting more conscious listening.

"Especially during these times -- with the economy and war -- we need music more than ever. It's like a mirror for the soul, it lets us look inside ourselves," Hell said, and noted that "the medium of creating music is not as important as the music itself."

Hell admitted that his favorite artists are classical composers, but he mentioned the band The Beatles when talking about good music.

"It was high quality [music], because it mattered to them," Hell said. "In today's music scene, there is a place for the organ, but really for any art that is created passionately."

Hell hopes that local residents will "have the courage" to come to the performance on Sunday. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in the John Campbell Boggs Chapel on campus.

The school is asking for a $10 donation per attendees, but the concert is free of charge.

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