Bradenton's First United Methodist Church organist prepares to perform in London

Mary Mozelle will play the historic pipe organ at St. Paul's Cathedral

mclear@bradenton.comAugust 4, 2013 

Mary Mozelle has had the date circled on her calendar for a year. Now it's a week away.

At 4:15 GMT on Aug. 11, Mozelle will sit down at a 400-year-old pipe organ at St. Paul's Cathedral in London and perform a solo concert.

Even if you've never been to London, you probably know St. Paul's. Prince Charles married Diana there, and Margaret Thatcher's funeral was held there just a few months ago.

"This organ was built in 1696," Mozelle said. "It's been added onto, but some of the pipes, some of the parts, are original. George Frideric Handel played this organ. Felix Mendelsohn played it. To be able to even sit on that bench, let alone play that organ, is such a thrill for me."

Bradenton residents don't have to travel 5,000 miles to hear Mozelle perform. Most Sundays, she plays at First United Methodist Church right here in Bradenton, where she has been the music director for the past 18 months.

Mozelle, who lives in Venice, has made her career as a church musician, mostly in Washington, D.C. She and her husband, Bruce, who retired from the U.S. State Department, moved to Florida four years ago. She worked at a church in Fort Myers before she took the Bradenton job.

"My 9-to-5 job has always been church music," she said. "I love it and it's always been very personal to me. But my passion is playing concerts. Organists who play concerts, there are not that many of us left. We're kind of a rare breed."

But still, the competition is for a spot at the Sunday afternoon concerts at St. Paul's is fierce. The finest organists from all over the world vie for a chance to perform there.

"I emailed them a year ago and said, 'What would it take to perform one of your Sunday recitals?' " she said. "They wrote back and said to send them a recording and a resume. They needed a live recording."

She didn't think she had a realistic chance of being chosen.

"I'm not famous, but I've done OK," she said. "I've played at the National Cathedral in Washington and at the Kennedy Center. So I have the credentials. Still, it was kind of like buying a lottery ticket."

Just 11 days later, the people from St. Paul's invited her to perform there.

That was year ago. She's been anticipating next Sunday for all that time.

She'll perform Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C," Charles-Marie Widor's "Allegro from Symphony No. 6" and Daniel E. Gawthrop's "Nocturne."

Mozelle is something of a Gawthrop specialist. In 2006, she was the first artist to record all of his organ music, in an acclaimed recording titled "Exulatate."

When she returns from England, she has a busy schedule ahead. Aside from her full-time job at First United Methodist, she has a number of local concerts coming up. (You can see her complete concert schedule at www.pipeorganpro.com.)

And these days, when she's not working or performing, she has a new preoccupation.

Michael Mozelle, one of her two sons, is a captain in the U.S. Army and was recently sent to Afghanistan.

"I don't like that at all," she said. "When your kid goes to Afghanistan, it changes everything. You just sit and worry and keep your fingers crossed and hope everything's going to be OK."

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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