Rialto's Christmas concert to feature Joliet organist

The "A Very Rialto Christmas...Making Merry Music" show at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25 will feature Joliet-area organist Beverly Holt on the Rialto's m the Barton Grande Theatre Pipe Organ.

It’s the not the first time Holt has played that organ. But it’s always memorable.

“First of all, even the look of it is very impressive,” Holt said. “It’s a theater organ and very few places have an organ like that, the size of it. “

Also, the xylophone and percussion sounds the organ makes are from real instruments.

“It’s not just an electric organ that duplicates what the sound should be,” Holt said. “It’s the real instruments that are being played.”

In the early 2000s, Holt served as music director for John Barrowman’s cabaret shows, with performances in the Lincoln Center in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Holt said.

“We performed in Belgium,” Holt said. “We performed in England for Prince Charles and Camilla in their home. We did private parties in Ne York. We played one party where Stephen Sondheim was in attendance.”

Holt recently retired as the director of music and liturgy at Holy Family Catholic Church in Shorewood.

Ironically, it was Santa Claus who began Holt’s love for the organ.

“I started taking lessons at 5,” Holt said. “Santa Claus had brought me a little toy piano. My mom used to play 45s on the record player and I would go over to the little toy piano and play what I heard on the record. A few people heard me do that and told my parents they felt I had talent and should start lessons.”

By 7, Holt was taking private lessons. By 13 she was a church organist at First Lutheran Church in Joliet. By 15, she was teaching lessons, first at a studio in Hillcrest shopping center and later at the Lyon-Healy Music store.

Holt later also became the organist at the Universalist Unitarian church. She continued to study through high school and beyond. Twenty-five years ago, Holt started working with Nicholas Thomas, concert chorale and chamber singers ensemble director at Moraine Valley Community College, which continues to this day.

She's also worked at Joliet West High School as a full-time accompanist and was the organist at Grace United Methodist Church and Messiah Lutheran Church.

Even though Holt has retired from Holy Family, she’s not retired from playing organ. Hold tried describing the feeling when she plays, such as “an adrenalin rush” and “getting in the zone.”

But like many artists, Holt found it difficult to describe the appeal of playing organ.

“It’s who I am,” Holt said. “I think being a musician is something that’s born in you. I don’t think you choose it necessarily. I think it chooses you.”

Holt does not understand why organ is less popular today than in the past. But she does feel playing the organ is a “dying art.”

“Few homes have organs in them anymore,” Holt said. “And there are few organ teachers.”


Goal: “I think it’s to bring joy to people through the gift of music. I play for a lot of funerals. If I can give families comfort at one of their most difficult times in their life, then it’s a blessing to me to help them through that difficult time.”

Inspiration: “I guess it’s the hope that I continue to grow. Like I said before, It’s who I am. It’s what I love to do. I just thoroughly enjoy playing. It’s a blessing. It’s enjoyable. It makes me happy.”

Words of wisdom: "Keep trying. Don't give up."


WHAT: ...."A Very Rialto Christmas...Making Merry Music"

WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 25. Pre-show is 5:30 p.m. with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

WHERE: Rialto Square Theater, 102 N. Chicago St. Joliet

TICKETS: $20 for adults and $10 ages 12 and under.

INFORMATION: For tickets and information, visit rialtosquare.com or call 800-745-3000.