Lucid Culture


Justin David Miller at the Organ at St. Thomas Church, NYC 1/27/08

At the risk of redundancy, we will continue to sing the praises of the stellar, 5:15 PM Sunday series of organ recitals that runs through the end of May at St. Thomas Church at 53rd and 5th Ave. Their 1913 Skinner organ is a magically potent instrument and the sonics in the church are spectacular, with about a three second decay (the time it takes for sound to fade completely after a note is played). As a result, all the best touring organists want to play here. But tonight was a completely unexpected treat. The scheduled organist was unavailable, so Miller was pressed into duty on short notice. A student at Westminster Choir College in New Jersey, the young organist’s regular assignation is Assistant Organist at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey. St. Peter’s head organist and music director, Brian Harlow, is a specialist in duets and a regular guest at St. Thomas, which may explain what Miller – who doesn’t look much older than 16 – was doing behind the console tonight. Whatever the case, he was a revelation, playing a difficult and frequently ostentatious program with uncommon subtlety and sensitivity.

He opened with the famous Allegro from Widor’s Sixth Symphony, whose intro and outro Elton John infamously ripped off for Funeral for a Friend. It’s a standard in the organ repertoire and something of a showcase, meaning that diehard aficionados would immediately pick up on any imperfection. But there were none. In the fiery cascades and long crescendos of the work, it was as if Miller was sending out a particularly auspicious announcement: he had arrived.

The subway rattled underneath, and the church bells rang within seconds after he finished. Slowly, it became apparent that he had already launched into the next piece, Max Reger’s Benedictus. Building very gradually from an almost subsonically low, sustained pedal passage, it’s Reger sounding uncommonly modernist and ambient. The next piece, the great British composer Herbert Howells’ Psalm Prelude made a marvelous segue. Howells’ work is rich with melody, warmth and optimism, and Miller brought out every bit in this trademark composition. He closed with Maurice Durufle’s famous tribute to Jehan Alain, where quotes from many of the great French composer and WWII hero’s best-loved works are sewn into a strikingly dark, bracingly imaginative suite, as far outside the box as Durufle, the great traditionalist, ever went. Other organists blaze through this. Miller didn’t, finding the room to emphasize all the strange dissonances, longing and unease woven into the piece. You read it here first: this young organist is someone to watch, and to experience live, certainly worth a New Jersey Transit trip for the time being.


January 28, 2008 - Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. That’s my roomate! Ha. Congrats on the good review.

    Comment by Nicholas C. Landrum | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. Go Justin! I’m so proud of you!

    Comment by Amanda Mackey | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  3. Congrats Justin! I always knew you would take the world by surprise.

    Comment by Chris Peoples | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. Great Job Justin! I move to Florida and I still hear so much about you! Congrats!

    Comment by Rebecca Sutfin | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  5. I’m Amanda Mackey’s mom and she is really raving about you. What a great review! And you google first on the list too!

    Comment by Laura Smith | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  6. Wow, Justin!!! So amazing!But then, I know I speak for many when I say that we always knew….this is only the first of many great reviews, I’m sure. All of us here in Spring Lake are so proud and wish you every great success!!!

    Comment by Patti Baldus | January 29, 2008 | Reply


    Comment by MOM | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  8. Justin, wow, job well done! Success is here in your work. We wish you the very best!

    Comment by Aunt Janine and Uncle Dwight | January 29, 2008 | Reply

  9. We are both so very proud of you, Justin. I am so glad to have been there to start you off on what promises to be a great future. We always wish the best for you.

    Comment by John G. Bryson & Claire Bryson | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  10. Great review! Wow, that is fantastic and I am so proud of you.

    Comment by Vicky Frantz | January 30, 2008 | Reply

  11. Howells is my favorite Canadian composer, and my how Justin played his Psalm Prelude lovelily!

    Comment by Derrick Goff | February 15, 2008 | Reply

  12. WELL DONE!! Justin. We certainly are proud of your (ongoing) achievements. It was an honor to have you at our church keyboards in Spring Lake and to see you going on using your talents to honor God.

    Comment by Ron & Karen Sparks | March 9, 2008 | Reply

  13. Howells was NOT Canadian!

    Comment by Alex Danson | March 21, 2011 | Reply

  14. born in the UK…but then again so were a lot of Canucks of that era…

    Comment by the boss here | March 21, 2011 | Reply

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