Josh Stafford, a seasoned organ recitalist, has long been a prominent figure in the orchestral music realm, having earned his Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music in 2012. While he has been a respected presence in the music scene for years, it was his rendition of a Queen classic in 2020 that thrust him into the spotlight, garnering millions of views on YouTube and introducing his talent to a wider audience.
However, tackling a complex piece like “Bohemian Rhapsody” is no small feat, even for someone of Stafford’s caliber. The iconic 1975 hit, featured on Queen’s album “A Night at the Opera,” is celebrated for its intricate structure and dynamic shifts. Yet, Stafford masterfully captures the essence of the song using only one instrument: the organ.
Performing on the largest pipe organ ever constructed, housed in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall and listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, Stafford demonstrates his virtuosity. With 33,112 pipes, 447 ranks, and 7 manuals, this colossal instrument provides the perfect canvas for Stafford’s musical prowess.
What sets Stafford’s rendition apart is his utilization of not just his hands but also his feet, as he navigates the organ’s extensive keyboard system. As the legendary rock section of “Bohemian Rhapsody” unfolds, Stafford seamlessly incorporates the bass keys below the organ, showcasing his multitasking abilities and technical skill.
Beyond his viral covers, Stafford’s repertoire extends to more traditional pieces, such as his captivating interpretation of the Christmas carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” His role as the Director of Music at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and Director of Sacred Music at the Chautauqua Institute in New York speaks to his deep connection to sacred music and his dedication to his craft.
In addition to his accomplishments as a recitalist, Stafford is also renowned for his improvisational prowess and his adeptness as a silent-film accompanist. While full-band performances often take center stage, Stafford’s organ recitals offer a unique and remarkable musical experience, showcasing the instrument’s versatility and his extraordinary talent.