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Milwaukee’s World-Renowned Organist

Off the Cuff sits down with Karen Beaumont

Aug. 27, 2014
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Karen Beaumont is a nationally renowned organist. She was born and raised in Hartland, earned a music history degree from UW-Milwaukee and has lived in Milwaukee since 1983. She is also an excellent writer, writing reviews and short fiction. She recently sat down with Off the Cuff to discuss multi-century repertoires and tips for young musicians.

When did you first know you were an artist?

I was 13, though I had no idea what that meant. I grew up in a small town and didn’t know any classical musicians. I just knew that was what I was going to do.

Do you play other instruments?

Piano and harpsichord. Dabbled in dulcimer and recorder. Considered going pro at French horn. I also sing in choirs.  

What was your first pro gig? Where have you played since?

A horn in “Music Under the Stars” in 1983. My first organ gig was a funeral in 1985. I’ve played regularly in churches since 1987 and have done solo concerts basically monthly since 1990. Off the top of my head—Boston, Chicago, Denver, Des Moines, Montreal, San Francisco, St. Paul, Toronto. I’ve played the United Kingdom at least seven times (just in the last decade) and at least 10 different venues in New York City (including St. Patrick’s Cathedral three times). I have no idea how many performances.

Coolest building you’ve played?

I fall in love with every room I play.

Biggest audience?

Present Music’s Thanksgiving Concerts (annually, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist). I had very close connections there for about 20 years and have participated ever since. They draw 500 per concert, easily.

Favorite piece?

One great thing about the organ is the 700-year repertoire. I love so much music and I’m too antsy to sit still for too long…

Tips for young musicians?

Do something with music every day. Remember it is about music! Not being “good” or “perfect.” As a musician, you have something unique to say and your job is to find places where people need and want to hear it. Take good care of your health and life’s practical details—they are important tools, too.

How/Where can people hear you?

I play All Saints Cathedral [818 E. Juneau Ave.] most Sundays at 8 a.m. Upcoming: Grace Lutheran [1209 N. Broadway; Sept. 5], St. Casimir [2600 N. Bremen St.; Oct. 5] and St. John’s [812 N. Jackson St.; Dec. 31]. I’m playing Denver Nov. 23 if you want to come.

 Why should people come? What can they expect to see and hear?

I hope they hear something meaningful to them. My best compliment is always people talking about the music they heard and not how or who played it.


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