“If you close your eyes, it is like listening to an orchestra,” exclaimed an enthusiastic fan as the lush melodies of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin filled the air of the concert hall. But, instead of a full symphony orchestra, there were just two musicians on stage making beautiful music—David Dunlap and Wesley Pennington.
The duo, performing as Dunlap and Pennington, have been touring the country for three years amazing audiences with their performances, Pennington at the grand piano and Dunlap performing a custom-built organ manufactured in Germany by the Wersi Company.
The friends, both concert artists in their own rights with long lists of credits and glowing reviews, first met in Fort Lauderdale 21 years ago at Second Presbyterian Church (“The Sanctuary Church”), where Dunlap served as organist and choirmaster and Pennington directed the contemporary Praise Singers.
“We occasionally would play piano and organ duets during the service,” recalls Dunlap. “They were literally thrown together at the last minute, but they went over so well that the congregation kept asking us to do more. We wondered what would happen if we really practiced. We’d be dangerous!”
After Dunlap left the church three years ago and commissioned his new instrument, Pennington suggested they seriously pursue a performing career as a duo.
Nine months passed until Dunlap took delivery of his organ and there was a bit of a learning curve as he learned to harness the virtual orchestra at his fingertips, but soon they were playing the classics of the repertoire at performing arts centers, universities, churches and the “condo circuit.”
“Anyone can purchase an instrument. The difference is there are very few people who have the technical skills—the chops—and the musicality that Mr. Dunlap has to reproduce what 80 people would be playing,” Pennington notes.
Audiences expecting a stuffy, high-brow concert might be surprised, warns Pennington.
“We’re very versatile. If you don’t like one piece, stick around because it’s going to change drastically,” he explains.
The duo has augmented its repertoire over the years with jazz standards, Dixieland, gospel and medleys from popular Broadway shows, like Phantom of the Opera.
While many artists rely on pre-recorded tracks, pyrotechnics and gimmicks, the duo’s musical performance is only enhanced with multimedia designed by an Emmy Award-winning videographer utilizing four cameras trained on the two keyboards, a “footcam” on Dunlap’s feet and a wide angle camera on the stage.
“The projections give the audience a whole new perspective to the performance,” Dunlap promises.
Dunlap and Pennington will return to the place they met, The Sanctuary Church, 1400 N. Federal Hwy. in Fort Lauderdale, for a special concert on Sunday, July 15 at 4 p.m. and benefiting the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
Explains Pennington, “We feel very strongly about the work that (AHF has) been doing. A number of our friends have been helped by them. They offer cutting edge education, advocacy and services.”
And, The Sanctuary, with its architecturally distinctive mid-century design and amazing acoustics, will provide a perfect venue for the performance. Thanks to the wonders of the Wersi, they literally plan to “strike up the band!”
Dunlap and Pennington
Sunday, July 15, 4 p.m.
The Sanctuary Church (Second Presbyterian)
1400 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale
Tickets $15 at DunlapAndPennington.com or door
For more information, call 954-957-4140