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Husband, wife to perform duet on pipe organ
Raymond and Elizabeth Chenault will perform their organ duets at 4 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville.

The Chenaults

When: 4 p.m. Sept. 15

Where: First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville, 800 S. Enota Drive

Cost: $20

A husband-and-wife team known best as "America’s Most Famous Organ Duo," will share their musical talents with Gainesville residents Sunday.

The Chenaults will perform instrumental selections at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville as part of the church’s 2013-2014 concert series.

Called "virtuosic" by The Los Angeles Times, the couple has played at some of the largest venues in America and Europe, including Washington National Cathedral, St. Paul’s of London and the Spoleto Festival.

During their professional career, the two musicians headed the music department of the Lovett School for more than 30 years. But Raymond and Elizabeth Chenault are known simply as "Beth and Ray," to Michael Henry, director of music at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville.

A longtime friend of the performers from their work together at All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Henry said he was eager to feature them on the church’s pipe organ as soon as possible.

"When we started looking for our concert series this year at First (Presbyterian Church), we wanted a nice variety of different things," Henry said. "Since we have a new, very nice pipe organ, we thought we’d like to get somebody in here and feature them on that."

He said since the Chenaults play duets on the organ, their sound is not what people expect.

"There are not too many organ duos out there. It’s kind of a rare thing," he said. "I think they bring an appreciation for the great standards of organ repertoire, but a lot of it is arranged differently, because you have four hands and four feet."

Henry said the Chenaults provide a fresh experience for music lovers because they enjoy performing.

"They have a great time sharing their talent with the listeners," he said.

Beyond their performances, the Chenaults have also pioneered a new style of organ music.

Raymond Chenault explained since he and Elizabeth are a duo, they had to work to commission new music for their unique style.

"My wife and I began to explore the organ duet literature in the late ’70s when we, as a husband-and-wife organ team, wanted to play organ duets," Chenault said in a phone interview earlier this week. "We found that there was very little written for the organ duet genre, and so we decided to begin to commission, that is, ask various publishers all around the United States and Europe to begin writing duet organ music for us."

After searching for and finding the right composers to publish their music, Chenault said the style became so popular they made a career out of it.

"It caught on," he said. "People started really liking it."

However, they not only owe their success to organ music, but also their marriage. Chenault said he met his wife while studying music at Virginia Commonwealth University.

While he began playing the organ at age 15, he said his wife did not play until they met.

"She was a piano major, but then minored in organ," he said. "She fell in love with the organ and me."

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