Tony Imperatrice: Confessions of a Church Organist At Rogue 2012

Feb 29, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Arts & Entertainment

by Tony Imperatrice

This week we are taking a closer look at some of the performers coming to the 2012 Rogue Festival. Check back here every day through Thursday for more articles & soon for Rogue reviews & be sure and check out the ones we have already posted!

At the Rogue Festival, 2006, I saw a show called It’s OK to Like Porn. In that show, Aaron Bonilla told the story of his adventures working in an adult bookstore. After the show, it occurred to me that churches are a lot like adult bookstores, they are filled with interesting people. Most people who go to church have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. After 30 plus years I have seen it all, from fist fighting wedding parties to schizophrenic nuns.

Tony at the organ

At the Rogue Festival 2007, I performed the first version of Confessions of a Church Organist. The show was a success and I performed two more comedy shows at Rogue Festival’s 2008 and 2009. These were my first attempts at writing and performing comedy. While the shows were a success, I knew they could be better. So I took a break from comedy in 2010 and 2011.

The new show is a complete re-write. The best stories and parts of the original show remain, while the show has been expanded to include more of my funny drunken adventures. I also employed some help for this new show. Director Randy Stump and Producer Aileen Imperatrice have proven to be indispensable in making the show what it is. Randy is an excellent comedy director, and Aileen has proven to be more than a producer. And because Aileen lives with me, she is always on hand to advise about timing and delivery. Thanks to Aileen and Randy, this will be my best show yet.

My path to becoming a church organist was quite UN likely. You see I was raised in the 70s by a family of hardcore evangelical atheists. They had high hopes of me becoming a concert pianist. But after my first exposure to a real pipe organ the die was cast, I was destined to work for the church. My atheist parents were less than enthusiastic about the possibility that I would become a church organist. Most of all they were concerned about the “kind of people I might be associating with”. So my big teenage rebellion was to GO to Church.

In 1979, I turned 16 years old and got my first two organ playing jobs. I was hired to be the organist for hockey games at the Selland Arena in Fresno, and I was hired to be the organist for a Catholic Church. 1979 was also the year I discovered alcohol. As my organ playing career grew, my drinking got worse and worse. Until 2002 when I was fired from the Catholic Church.

Confessions of a Church Organist is a collection of stories from the 20 plus years that I worked for the Catholic Church. As one would expect a teenage, alcoholic organist is a bit prone to bad judgment.

It is these bad choices that make the show funny. Let’s face it, there is no humor in a good decision.
The show begins with a fun look at my childhood, with my crazy dysfunctional family. My father was a hard-core disciplinarian and my mother was chronically disorganized. My grandfather is in the mix with his strange and hilarious quirks. Along the way, we examine my introduction to music and my first encounter with a real pipe organ, and how I pursued organ lessons against my family’s wishes.

Later in the show, we see how my drinking habits affected my career choices and we have lots of fun reviewing my many drunken misadventures, including a fateful night when I got stoned at an organ recital.

You will also be invited to take a look at some of the mishaps that took place at a few of the numerous weddings I’ve played for. The show ends with my downfall and redemption. We will take a brief look at the dark side of alcoholism and the hope of recovery.

With my now more than nine years of sobriety, I have had the opportunity to redeem my life in many ways. After a two year break, I was back at the console of a pipe organ in a little church in Selma, CA. I’ve also had the chance to examine my life both privately and publicly. I really enjoy telling my story and giving others the chance to enjoy the humor that is my life. Sobriety has also given me back some of the things I lost to drinking. After more than a decade, I am playing public concerts once again. Along the way, I am finding a new enthusiasm for classical music and instruments like the pipe organ. In some cases,
I get the privilege of introducing some of the world’s greatest music to a new audience.

So, I invite you to come see Confessions of a Church Organist at the 2012 Rogue Festival. My show will be at the Tower Lounge inside the Tower Theater. On Friday 3/2 at 10 p.m., Saturday 3/3 at 2:30 p.m., Friday 3/9 at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday 3/10 at 5:30 p.m.. All shows are $8. And you can buy tickets at the Tower Theater box office. For more information visit my page on the Rogue Festival website.

Watch for more Rogue articles this week, as well as Rogue reviews beginning this weekend. Check out our Rogue Performances event page for info on more of the performers and our Rogue Preview article.

1 Comment

  1. Great article, Tony! I am now even more psyched up about seeing your show than I already was! Break a leg, buddy!


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