Music world mourns death of Carlo Curley, 59
15 August 2012
The organ world has joined with countless music lovers to express shock at the sudden death of American organist Carlo Curley.
Known as 'the Pavarotti of the organ', Curley had made his home in the UK, where he became widely known for his larger-than-life personality and outstanding gifts as a performer - these were expressed to the full for the thousands who came to hear him at his Alexandra Palace concerts in the 1970s, in which he and guest organists performed on a large Allen touring organ in the grand hall which once housed one of the most famous Willis organs ever built. For a televised event at 'Ally Pally', Curley - who always signed himself 'Carlissimo' in his emails and blog posts - made his stately progress to the stage atop a large Cadillac convertible.
Curley was born into a musical family in 1952 and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts; his mission to promote the organ and organ music to the masses made him the natural heir of Virgil Fox, with whom he studied. But the seriousness with which Curley approached his music-making was further encouraged by the friendship and mutual respect which flourished when he came to the UK and studied with Sir George Thalben-Ball.
Through sound recordings, TV, and personal appearances, Carlo Curley became a household name throughout the world - as well as the UK, he found strong friendships on the continent of Europe, particularly Denmark - his tireless advocacy of the digital organ in no way diminished the pleasure and satisfaction he derived from playing any organ , from small tracker instruments to large cathedral behemoths. Among many honours, he was the first classical organist to give a solo recital at the White House, invited by US President Jimmy Carter. His insightful and entertaining autobiography, In The Pipeline was published by HarperCollins in 1998.
Curley was a popular guest in broadcasting studios, prized for his forthright opinions expressed with gusto and ineffable Southern charm. A post on the Allen Organs UK site said simply, 'His inimitable style of presentation, consummate musicianship, warm wit and charismatic personality illuminated his concerts and endeared him to all he met. May he rest in peace.'