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Virgil Fox

Virgil Fox
Virgil Keel Fox

(May 3, 1912 in Bach. These events appealed to audiences in the 1970s who were more familiar with rock 'n' roll music and were staged complete with light shows. His many recordings made on the RCA Victor and Capitol labels, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, have been remastered and re-released on compact disc in recent years. They continue to be widely available in mainstream music stores.


  • Birth and studies 1
  • Early career 2
  • Military service 3
  • Riverside Church 4
  • Concert tours 5
  • Music 6
  • Honors 7
  • Personal life 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Birth and studies

Fox, born in Mendelssohn's Sonata No. 1 in F minor.

From 1926 to 1930, he studied in Wilhelm Middelschulte. His other principal teachers were Hugh Price, Louis Robert, and (once he had moved to France) Marcel Dupré. He was an alumnus of the Peabody Institute of Music in Baltimore, where he became the first student to complete the course for the Artist's Diploma within a year.[1]

Early career

Beginning in 1936, Fox was organist at Thomaskirche in Leipzig — a special occasion, since Bach served as cantor of the Thomaskirche until his death in 1750 and was reburied in that church in 1950.

Military service

During World War II, Fox enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and took a leave of absence from Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore and the Peabody. He was promoted to staff sergeant and played various recitals and services. After having played more than 600 concerts while on duty, he was discharged from the Army Air Forces in 1946.

Riverside Church

He then served as organist at the prominent Heavy Organ: Bach Live at Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, by Johann Sebastian Bach:

For once making a similar speech at one of his recitals, music critic New York Magazine.[4]

Despite (or perhaps because of) his controversial approach to organ music, Virgil Fox attained a celebrity status not unlike that of [5]

In a sign of continued recognition unusual for a performer (as distinct from a composer), Virgil Fox memorial recitals and concerts continue to be staged, more than a quarter-century after his death.[6]


Fox was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.[7]

Personal life

Virgil Fox (The Dish): An Irreverent Biography of the Great American Organist by Marshall Yaeger and Richard Torrence (2001), a compendium of reminiscences by contemporaries of Virgil Fox, expanded upon an unpublished autobiography by Ted Alan Worth, a student of his.

Fox lived for many years in a 26-room mansion in Englewood, New Jersey.[8]

Fox is buried at the Pioneer Cemetery, Dover, Illinois, USA.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Torrence, Richard; Yaeger, Marshall (2001). Virgil Fox (the Dish). An Irreverent Biography of the Great American Organist (Special Edition: Book, CD, DVD ed.). New York: Circles International.  
  2. ^ "The Top 20 — The World's Largest Pipe Organs".  
  3. ^ "The Virgil Fox touring organ". Allen Organ. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  4. ^ Rich, Alan (21 January 1974). "The Foot-in-Mouth Disease in Music".  
  5. ^ Whitney, Craig R. (22 October 2000). "An Organ Legend in Vivid Memory".  
  6. ^ Kozinn, Allan (11 October 2005). "The Legacy of an Organist Who Pushed the Limits".  
  7. ^ "National Patrons & Patronesses".  
  8. ^ Dyer, Richard (29 September 1974). "Who Is the World's Best Organist? Ask Virgil Fox; Who Is the World's Best Organist?".   (subscription required)
  9. ^ "Virgil Fox".  

External links

  • The Virgil Fox Legacy
  • The Virgil Fox Society
  • Virgil Fox YouTube Videos
  • The Virgil Fox Allen Touring Organ
  • Review of "The Fox Touch"
  • Virgil Fox at Find a Grave
Many organists, however, have strongly criticized Fox for his unconventional interpretations of classical organ music. On his album

Fox was also famous for his musical memory, and could instantly recall over 250 concert works, playing at double speed or faster in rehearsals (which usually went late into the night). He did not read from written scores at his organ concerts, even when playing alongside an orchestra.

Always Fox stressed pushing the limits of the instruments available to him, rather than requiring that they, or his playing, be authentic to the era of the music. His style (particularly his taste for fast tempos, flashy registrations, and a willingness to indulge in sentimentality) was in contrast to that of his contemporaries, such as E. Power Biggs.


[1], for which he had undergone unsuccessful surgery in 1976.prostate cancer of Palm Beach, Florida His last commercially released recording was made at his farewell Riverside Church concert on May 6, 1979. Fox's 50th year of performing began when he appeared with the Dallas Symphony in September 1980, in what was to be his final public performance. Racked with pain, he completed the concert only with difficulty. One month later, he died in [1] Fox was one of the rare organists to perform on nationally televised entertainment programs in the 1960s and 1970s, such as

[3][1] From 1971 until 1975, Fox performed his famous "Heavy Organ" concerts in auditoriums, popular music concert halls, and other nontraditional organ music venues, touring around the United States with an electronic

Concert tours

. Frederick Swann Recordings made during this period brought his playing to ever-larger audiences. In 1965, Fox resigned to devote himself to performing full-time and was succeeded at Riverside Church by [1] His extemporaneous hymn accompaniments at Riverside's Sunday services and concert performances were widely acclaimed.[2]

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