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October 4, 2012

Organist, mechanical circus open Hatfield Hall season

TERRE HAUTE — Rose-Hulman’s Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall Theater kicks off its 10th anniversary season next week with two of today’s most innovative touring acts from the realms of music and circus-theater.

The performing arts series will begin with a show by flamboyant, cutting-edge organist Cameron Carpenter on Tuesday.

Forget what you know about the organ — Carpenter is smashing the stereotypes of organists and organ music alike. His dramatic performances, combined with a repertoire including classical and original compositions, as well and jazz and pop collaborations, have garnered both acclaim and controversy.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun kicking off our 10th anniversary season with a week of exciting performances,” said Hatfield Hall’s Bunny Nash. “Cameron Carpenter definitely doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional organist,” she laughs. “Not only am I thrilled to have such a world-acclaimed artist play our Hatfield Hall organ but I can’t wait to see what he wears!”

Carpenter is the first organist ever nominated for a Grammy Award for a solo album. He was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the rare musicians who changes the game of his instrument … he is a smasher of cultural and classical music taboos.”

As a keyboard prodigy, Carpenter performed Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier at age 11. During his four years of high school at The North Carolina School of the Arts, he made his first studies in orchestration and orchestral composition, and transcribed for the organ more than 100 major works, including Gustav Mahler’s complete Symphony No. 5.

Carpenter continued composing after moving to New York City in 2000 to attend The Juilliard School, from which he received a master’s degree in 2006.

“Another highlight of the concert will be the ability of the audience to watch Cameron’s lightning-fast footwork projected live on a big screen,” Nash adds, “ [It’s] definitely not your typical organ recital.”

Then on Oct. 14, Hatfield Hall will welcome a two-show engagement of Cirque Mechanics Birdhouse Factory.

If engineers ran away and joined the circus, this might be the result. Inspired by modern circus, Cirque Mechanics finds its roots in the mechanical and its heart in the stories of American ingenuity.

The stories are wrapped in circus acrobatics, mechanical wonders and a bit of clowning around.

Hailed by Spectacle Magazine as “the greatest contribution to the American circus since Cirque du Soleil,” Cirque Mechanics’ visual display of acrobatics, music and comic interpretation mesh with mechanical elements to create storytelling in three dimensions.

Set in a factory where the workers are acrobats and the machines are props, the storyline and style of Birdhouse Factory was inspired by the industrial murals of artist Diego Rivera, the outrageous illustrations of cartoonist Rube Goldberg and the slapstick-style humor of Charlie Chaplin’s film “Modern Times.”

The show imparts a nostalgic tale set in a Depression-era widget factory, transformed by the resourcefulness and creativity of the American worker.

The New York Times found Birdhouse Factory “exceptional, evocative … and engrossingly entertaining” and the show recently enjoyed an extended run at the New Victory Theater in New York City, an eight-city European tour and a debut performance in Hong Kong’s Lyric Theater.

“I scheduled two performances of Birdhouse Factory because I knew that it would be a popular show for families,” Nash explains. “Also, since it’s fall break, I wanted to make sure that people who may have plans over the weekend would have a chance to see the Monday evening show. I know it sounds cliché, but this really is a show that audiences shouldn’t miss.”

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