By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
SUNTREE -- There is no doubt that music is the life blood harmoniously flowing through Josiah Armes' veins.
The 26-year-old accomplished organist will grace the A.E. Schlueter organ at Advent Lutheran Church in Suntree on Sunday, Feb. 23 during two performances at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The concerts are free, but tickets must be reserved.
Originally from Lancaster, Pa., Mr. Armes said that until he was 10 years old, he had never heard or seen a pipe organ, much less played one.
"I had taken some piano lessons, and when my family moved to Florida in 1997, we looked around for a piano teacher," he said. "We found one and, on the hunch that the organ would be more interesting to me, this teacher showed me the Hammond organ at her house, then took me to a church with a real pipe organ."
Mr. Armes said that his teacher's hunch was right, as he was immediately captivated with the grand instrument, mostly because he would be able to play "loud and fast."
While growing up, Mr. Armes was homeschooled and enrolled full-time at Stetson University in August 2003 when he was just 15 years old. He graduated with honors and a degree in organ performance in May 2007.
Mr. Armes then entered Yale University at 19, where he obtained a master's degree in 2009 and also completed a year of postgraduate studies at Eastman School of Music.
Like his impressive schooling background, Mr. Armes has collected many awards for his musical prowess.
During his time at Yale, Mr. Armes was awarded the Robert Baker Memorial Scholarship and the Richard DeLong Prize in Church Music. Mr. Armes was also awarded first prize at the prestigious Regional Competition for Young Organists in June 2009.
Today, Mr. Armes is the organist and assistant director of music at the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando.
At Sunday's concerts, audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy some of the finest compositions, written by one of the most talented organists.
"I'm looking forward to opening the recital with the Bach 'Prelude and Fugue in D Major' because, aside from the fact that Bach is my favorite composer, it begins with a D major scale in the pedals and expands in an exciting way," Mr. Armes said. "Everyone is familiar with a scale, so it will immediately engage the audience, and then they will, hopefully, enjoy and marvel at what Bach ended up doing with those eight notes."
In addition to pieces by Josef Rheinberger, Hugo Distler, Herbert Howells and more, Mr. Armes will treat the audience to his own composition, "Fantasy Variations."
"'Fantasy Variations' started out as a free improvisation assignment, during my year at the Eastman School of Music," Mr. Armes said. "It was one of those moments where, excited by the new environment, the wonderful instruments, extraordinary teachers and gifted students around me, I just got lucky and came up with, what I thought, was a nifty, little musical theme and built a piece around it."
Mr. Armes said that he followed his intuition more than any conscious, pre-planned process, while composing "Fantasy Variations."
"So, what came out was a loosely-structured set of six variations -- some featuring the theme, others tied together by form or similar harmonic progressions -- hence the 'Fantasy' part," he added. "And it ends with a toccata. I do still enjoy playing loud and fast, after all."
Advent Lutheran Church's own organist Betty Jo Couch is thrilled to have Mr. Armes sit at her organ bench, and hopes that music lovers of all ages come to enjoy his talent.
"People should attend to experience the talents of this young, virtuosic organist, combined with the range of sounds and colors of Advent Lutheran's pipe organ," she said. "Armes' deep passion for his music is exhibited, not only in his technical skill, which is masterful, but in the deep expressiveness and artistry that he conveys, as well."
While just a hair older than a quarter-of-a-century, Mr. Armes' love for the pipe organ is a tale as old as time.
"I have a different appreciation for the organ now," he said. "Playing and listening to the organ is meaningful to me on many levels -- spiritual, emotional, intellectual and aesthetic. It is truly an instrument of great beauty and capable of such an incredible variety of colors and sounds. And it was, uniquely among instruments, created for a specifically sacred purpose."
Mr. Armes said that the pipe organ, as we know it, came to be in the great churches of Europe.
"It is really the King of instruments in my mind," he said. "That this instrument can enable one person to unlock such amazing powers of expression is really remarkable."
Josiah Armes will host two, free concerts at Advent Lutheran Church in Suntree on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Advent Lutheran Church is located at 7550 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne.
For more information or to reserve a free ticket, call (321) 259-8515, Ext. 226, or visit www.AdventSuntree.com.