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David Briggs Plays All the Right Notes in McAfee Concert Hall

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Briggs improvising a 30 minute piece, Courtesy of Belmont University

A cacophony of chaos and dissonant chords channeled directly through musician David Briggs as he showcased his unmistakable connection and passion for the organ.

“I believe the organ can move people more deeply than any other instrument,” Briggs said.

Known as “one of the world’s greatest contemporary organists” by the New York Times, Briggs performed on the stage of Belmont University’s McAfee Concert Hall Sept. 14.

In total, Briggs played six different pieces, ranging from classic organ symphonies to Disney’s “Fantasia.”

His final piece, lasting almost 30 minutes, was an improvisation created on the stage.

“This is music created for this moment in time, by me, on this beautiful instrument,” said Briggs. “At the end of it, it’s gone forever. It’s a funeral.”

Briggs is not just a performer, but also a prolific composer and transcriptionist. He has a variety of CDs filled with original compositions and transcribes symphonic works into organ pieces.

Despite its tedious and complex nature, Briggs is committed to his craft of transcription.

“It takes about four hours to transcribe one minute of a symphonic piece into sheet music for an organ,” Briggs said.

Audience members were taken aback by Briggs’ display of synchronicity with the instrument.

“It was amazing seeing the awareness he had for the instrument. Seeing all of the knobs and the foot pedal stuff, it blew my mind,” said Isabel Fisher, a music therapy student at Belmont and a classical pianist herself.

Kimmie Rauscher, a violin performance major, was reminded of her roots when the organ began to play.

“I grew up hearing organ in the church,” she said. “It was a lot cooler hearing all of the different kinds of compositions. I’m also a classical music person, so I was just geeking out over it.”

Whether playing for 10,000 people or 10 people, Briggs said he puts the same care and passion into every performance.

“It’s all about enrichment. Music is a great healer, and it can really enhance the way you feel about yourself and about the world,” he said.

Briggs recalled his start as an organist in his youth—sitting next to his grandfather on the organ bench.

“I marveled at his improvising, and all of the stops, the keys, the sound. I just fell in love with the sound and wanted to be an organist at that age, really, when I was very, very little,” he said. . He quickly added, “Or a pilot.”

And pilot he did. A lesser-known fact about David Briggs is his experience in aviation. He was a pilot in his early 30’s, and still holds a passion for aviation today. Outside of music, he studies aviation in his free time.

“I still am really thrilled by the concept of flight. Each time you break through the cloud base, it’s amazing.”

Frequently quick-witted, Briggs explained his connection between his piloting years to his current organist lifestyle.

“It’s all about coordination—both hands, both feet, keeping all the stops all in check. The only big difference is that if I play the wrong note, I don’t kill anybody,” he said.

More introspectively, he summarized the similarities between the spiritual plight of the organ to the steadfast flight of piloting with one word: “Transcendence.”


This article was written by Cadence Moore

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