WASHINGTON, D.C. — The sounds of a Bach fugue and several other musical works filled the sacred space of the church at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington’s Brookland neighborhood as Gabriel Galdo played the monastery’s Lively-Fulcher organ.
The Nov. 14 organ recital was noteworthy for at least a couple of reasons.
First, it was the second musical event in a monthly schedule of recitals and concerts the monastery has resumed since reopening the church Nov. 2. It is welcoming people back with the pandemic lessening after altering life pretty much everywhere for the past 20 months.
Second, it was a performance by a 15-year-old wunderkind from the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.
Gabriel and his family are members of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Purcellville, Virginia, where his father, Michael, has been music director for nine years.
Gabriel, now a 10th grader, is home-schooled and attends weekly classes at the Classical Cottage School in Winchester, Virginia, and his parish home school co-op. At age 5, he began taking piano lessons with his father and later began studying the organ in group lessons at St. Francis.
After the recital, the teen, who currently is the interim organist at St. John the Beloved Catholic Church in McLean, Virginia, told Catholic News Service he felt humbled to play the organ in such an ornate church.
He said it would be “pretty awesome” to become a professional musician, but he has lot of other interests right now, including playing baseball — and has a lot of time to decide on a career path.
He recently took second place in the 2021 American Guild of Organists’ Mid-Atlantic Region Young Organists’ Competition. His father told CNS the award is a nice accomplishment for Gabriel, but what’s more important is that his son “loves music” and “loves what he is doing.” Gabriel is one of Michael and wife Carla’s six children.
One piece for the recital was Naji Hakim’s “Rhapsody for Organ Duet,” which father and son performed together.
In September, Gabriel gave an organ recital at the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle in Washington. The performance was arranged by Tom Stehle, the cathedral’s pastoral associate for liturgy and director of music ministries.
He called the teen “a remarkable talent from a talented family.”
“We are delighted to give young aspiring organists an opportunity to experience a world-class instrument in a nearly perfect acoustic space,” Stehle told CNS. Like the monastery, the cathedral has a Lively-Fulcher organ.
“Gabriel certainly demonstrated that he was worthy of that opportunity,” Stehle added. “And we were especially happy to encourage someone who is already sharing his gifts in music ministry in parishes in our neighboring diocese. … His focus and dedication to his craft is obvious and at his young age, a marvel to experience.”
Father James Gardiner, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement who serves at the Franciscan Monastery, was delighted to have the 15-year-old perform at the monastery, adding that even though he himself “can’t sing, can’t play anything, can’t read music,” he has a deep appreciation for “the incredible acoustics and ambiance of the monastery church,” which “make it the perfect place for organ music.”
The priest also was happy to see a crowd gathered in the church for the recital, which drew a lot of members of the public.
“I can always tell first-time visitors to the monastery church,” he told CNS. “They look up and practically gasp at its ornate interior, but none of that, as several saints have pointed out, can compare with a full church.”
“It’s the people,” he added, “who are the real ornamentation.”