Friday, May 19, 2006

Organist Impostor

The archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica has issued a warning to concert organizers about people presenting themselves as the official organist of St. Peter's or of Pope Benedict XVI.

The only legitimate official organist of the basilica is James E. Goettsche, a Los Angeles native who has held the title since 1989, said Cardinal Francesco Marchisano, the basilica's archpriest.

The cardinal's May 15 letter was published as concert organizers in Germany were promoting a tour of an Italian musician who, organizers claimed, "Pope Benedict XVI has appointed as the new organist of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican."

Goettsche, meanwhile, is in Rome playing the organ at St. Peter's Basilica during papal Masses as well as during Sunday and feast day prayer services.

"I have been advised to take legal action," Goettsche told Catholic News Service May 19, "but for now I am looking more for clarification and correction."

He said he already has had some success: a U.S. agent representing the "phantom organist" has dropped the pretender from his Web site roster of artists and has written a very apologetic e-mail to Goettsche.

The U.S. agent provided the Vatican with the documentation the Italian organist had used to convince him he was legitimate, documentation the Vatican says is not authentic.

The U.S. agent's withdrawn Web site biography of the Italian even contained the fanciful detail that the Italian organist travels the world on a Vatican diplomatic passport.

Goettsche said he had heard that the Italian organist, in addition to organizing concerts in the United States and Germany, is preparing to perform as the papal organist in New Zealand.

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