The “Pavarotti of the organ” was the “catalyst” for the restoration of Melbourne’s fine instrument.

Concert organist Carlo Curley has died in England at the age of 59. No cause of death has been made public.

Curley was born into a musical North Carolina family in 1952. The precocious organist accepted his first professional post at the age of 15, began touring the USA at 17 and the following year became Director of Music at Girard College, Philadelphia.

He studied under two of the greatest organists of the 20th century: Virgil Fox and, in London, Sir George Thalben-Ball. Early in his career, he was invited by the President to play at the White House, becoming the first classical organist to give a solo organ recital there. Recording primarily for Decca, he enjoyed an international reputation for his elegant performances, sense of humour and defiance of concert convention.

Curley was a frequent visitor to Australia, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he championed the restoration of the Melbourne Town Hall organ. June Nixon, organist at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, recalls that Curley “did a concert on the organ at Hamer Hall, and had some very outspoken opinions about it.