November 10, 2008 / 12:14 PM / 11 years ago

Organist's life: Trash collection to concert hall

KARMIEL, Israel (Reuters Life!) - Organist Roman Krasnovsky barely had time to acknowledge the applause at the end of his recital at a Tel Aviv church last month before he had to rush back home to start his day job — collecting rubbish.

Picking up the trash in Karmiel, a town in northern Israel, is steady work, allowing the Ukrainian-born Krasnovsky, 53, time for playing, teaching and composing.

But his job, riding a rattling garbage truck can strike an odd note at his performances in Israel and abroad.

“At some concerts when I have been introduced, the announcer said: ‘Today Roman Krasnovsky will be playing, he is a famous organist but in Israel he has to work as a rubbish collector’,” Krasnovsky said.

“Moments like those made me feel really bad because the audience felt sorry for me.”

Krasnovsky began playing the piano at age 5. He studied at various musical academies in the former Soviet Union and among his teachers counted famed composer Aram Khachaturian.

Before immigrating to Israel in 1990 at age 35, Krasnovsky

was the principal keyboard player at the Kharkov Symphony Orchestra. He was drawn to the organ after the city installed a new one at its main concert hall.

But with two elderly parents to look after, Krasnovsky decided to remain in Israel even though he knew it was not a good place to further his career. Despite having many churches, the Jewish state has only a small number of good organs.

“I knew that I could not make a living here, but at the time it was important for me to be in a free country, to play anywhere I wanted, give concerts and perhaps teach somewhere,” he said.


Krasnovsky cuts an enthusiastic figure as he scurries down Karmiel’s quiet residential streets in the early morning, dragging out the full bins in preparation for emptying by his colleagues on the crew’s truck not far behind.

He has reconciled himself with the job he has been doing for the past 17 years while taking particular care not to injure his hands or feet before a concert.

“There were some cases that ahead of some of my most important concerts, I was scared that something might happen to my hands so I took time off,” he said.

“Thorns and splinters can be a very serious problem and because I also use my feet to play, I have to take extra care.”

He has played at many of Europe’s most famous churches, including Notre Dame in Paris, Cologne’s massive cathedral, St. Paul’s in London and at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

Krasnovsky dreams that one day he may be invited to play at venues further afield.

“There are so many great organs around the world that I have heard of and would love to play, particularly in the Far East,” he said.

Proudly holding up a compact disc of his Three Organ Symphonies whose cover illustration shows the stones of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Krasnovsky said his organ music is the first ever written on Jewish themes.

“When I saw the disc I said ‘Now I can die’ because I have done the most important thing in my life. Never before has a Jewish symphony been written for the organ,” he said.

Additional reporting by Naama Shilony; Editing by Paul Casciato

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