Small world: Holy Land concert features New York organist

JERUSALEM — As surreal as it is to listen to a fabulous organ recital in a beautiful Franciscan church in Jerusalem, it’s even more surreal to find out the featured organist knows your co-worker.

New York-based organist Mark Pascoe speaks before his encore at the Terra Sancta Organ Festival in Jerusalem. (CNS/Barb Fraze)

New York-based organist Mark Pacoe speaks before his encore at the Terra Sancta Organ Festival in Jerusalem. (CNS/Barb Fraze)

Mark Pacoe, who serves as director of music for St. Malachy’s — The Actors’ Chapel in New York’s Times Square, was the featured performer at the international Terra Sancta Organ Festival at St. Saviour’s Church in the Old City Nov. 6. Since I was visiting Jerusalem, I attended the free concert.

I am not a big fan of church architecture, but this church was gorgeous. The organ was behind the crucifix and altar. We in the audience could watch the dampers open and close, follow Pacoe’s feet on the pedals, hands on the keyboard, and listen to him make the organ sing.

Note: I firmly believe that organ playing is a dying art. Pacoe is working to counter that belief.

I just wanted to listen, so it was not until the end when I picked up a discarded program that I discovered his link to St. Malachy’s. He smiled when I introduced myself because his office is in the same building as John Mulderig, CNS assistant director for media reviews.

Before playing his encore, “The Peace May Be Exchanged,” Pacoe told the audience he was feeling many emotions during his first trip to the Holy Land.

Later, he told me he had performed the previous day at Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation. The great attention to Mary reminded him of his mother, who died in 2007, he said. He also said that “it was just overwhelming” thinking about the journey of his musical career, from his teenage years to playing in the Holy Land.

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