Organ artist Anna Lapwood sparkles for Pittsburgh

Organist Anna Lapwood performed at St. Michael the Archangel Church on Friday. The Director of Music at the parish, Chaz Bowers, said they have never seen an audience this large for a concert.

Emma Polen | Editor-in-Chief

United Kingdom native Anna Lapwood might be known best to her younger audiences for her organ performance clips on TikTok.

From 2024 hits to reimagined classical pieces, Lapwood reminded her audience that “good music is just good music, no matter what the genre.”

On Friday, Lapwood came to Pittsburgh, shared learned wisdom from her trials as a musician and played eleven organ arrangements for about 900 Pittsburgh concert-goers at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Mt. Lebanon.

With over one million followers and world renown, Lapwood’s visit to Pittsburgh was a big deal.

“Anna’s concert appearance in Pittsburgh was a huge feat for the Organ Artist Series of Pittsburgh, as well as for Music at St. Michael the Archangel,” said Chaz Bowers, Director of Music at the parish. “We were one of only six stops on Anna’s tour and many of the other venues were large concert halls across the country. People came to Pittsburgh for this concert from Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kentucky and Canada, as well from the tri-state area.”

Larger crowds have assembled in the church for 4 p.m. Christmas Eve, but, out of hundreds of organ recitals and concerts hosted by the parish over the years, “We have never seen an audience this large for a concert,” he said.

“You’re never going to see another organ concert with 900 people, at least in Pittsburgh,” said Duquesne musical liturgy director Nathan Bellas after the show.

For Lapwood, every organ is different. She called St. Michael’s organ, built by Casavant Frères in 1961, “the most remarkable music storyteller” out of all the organs she had visited on her U.S. tour so far.

The organist shared before how emotional a musical performance should be and how focusing on storytelling releases some of the nerves of the live performance. She said on social media that for artists, “If you make your priority … to communicate emotions and have kind of an emotional experience with the audience, then it becomes something very different, and I find it becomes much more enjoyable.”

Lapwood’s homebase is the organ inside Royal Albert Hall in London, arguably THE performing hall of England’s capital city. Since the venue is so popular among visiting shows, Lapwood often practices at odd hours. In one of her TikToks, Lapwood comments that, at 3:20 a.m., it is the appreciation of a night janitor (heard applauding the end of her piece in the background) and her sparkly jacket that help her stay awake.

With Lapwood’s natural energy at the organ, though, it was difficult to imagine she ever tires around the instrument. After each piece at Friday’s concert, Lapwood leapt from the bench, hopped up and down enthusiastically, bowed, then jumped back onto her seat, eager to return to playing.

“You can tell she’s enjoying it,” said audience member Aidan Bartholomew, a freshman Duquesne music education major who was invited to the performance through his organ teacher at the school of music. “She got up after every song and danced.”

Lapwood’s movement was accented with a dazzling suit jacket that resembled a starry night. The sparkling jacket is a staple piece of Lapwood’s wardrobe, along with a pair of golden organ shoes.

“Their [musicians’] performance is a form of personal expression which extends to the clothes too,” said Lapwood on social media. In fact, Lapwood encourages her audience to dress in sparkling attire as well, so that they can sparkle back.

And the audience got the memo. Tom Parkes and his fiance Laura West both sported glitter. Parkes wore a silver bowtie along with a patterned purple dress shirt. West had on boots, leggings and a dress that all met the sparkling dress code. In fact, the bold footwear caught the attention of Lapwood herself, who motioned her enthusiasm for West’s boots more than once while facing the audience to bow.

“You will delight my ears, I will attempt to delight your eyes,” West said.

Parkes was the first in the couple to be introduced to Lapwood’s arrangements, seeing her covers on YouTube. He was booking tickets for her Cardiff show, much closer than Pittsburgh to his hometown in Wales, but when he found there was a show in Pittsburgh and the couple would be in the area anyway, he knew he had to come.

West is originally from Youngstown, and since the two met online on Reddit and spent most of their initial relationship over long distance video calls, Lapwood’s videos and music made it into their time together.

West compared Lapwood’s sparkling jacket to the total eclipse the couple viewed earlier that week in Ohio. The total eclipse meant more than a chance to see the stars during the day, though. West and Parkes proposed to each other, and got engaged, during the totality of the eclipse.

“She looks like the night sky,” West said.

Lapwood’s sparkling jacket came off for the second half of her performance. The eleven pieces printed on the program ended up differing from what Lapwood played, and she explained why.

Originally, Lapwood had intended to play “Naiades” by Louis Vierne. However, once the church was packed with people, the organ music became “a very different piece” from rehearsal, she said, losing its intended acoustic sound.

“I had kittens about it,” said Lapwood while rehearsing “Naiades.” The expression is the English version of “I’m getting butterflies.”

Still, Lapwood finished her concert with an encore performance of “Test Flight” from the animated movie “How to Train Your Dragon,” rounding out her performance at the eleven songs promised.

Her program included two original arrangements of Hans Zimmer’s “Cornfield Chase” and “No Time for Caution” from “Interstellar.”

Lapwood also performed her arrangement of Alan Menken’s “The Bells of Notre Dame” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Before she began playing, the church bells went off. The time was 8:37, leaving audience members to assume the bells feature was intended.

Lapwood remained animated while talking about the Hunchback tune, hopping up and down while explaining the church bells and her use of the organ in the solo arrangement.

“Sorry, I’m like a child in a toy shop sometimes with the organ,” she said.

Bartholomew, a student of the Pittsburgh Organ Academy through Duquesne, said the concert inspired him to become more invested in organ music outside of traditional hymns.

It was not just music that he could hear with his ears – he could also feel it under his feet.

“You can physically feel the music, each note, each stop,” he said.

While online followers will miss that live feeling of low note vibrations under their feet, fans can at least, for now, follow Lapwood’s journey on social media.

“Whoever you are, you are welcome,” Lapwood said.