Albinas Prizgintas was born in Germany along with his older brother Antanas at the end of the of the second world war of Lithuanian parents. Both brothers were born in the lower Franconia region of Bavaria - Albinas in Schweinfurt and Antanas in Lohr Am Main. These were difficult times for the family. Displaced from their homeland and they were there not of their free will.
The family arrived in the States in the late 1940's, settling in NJ, where Albinas' Mother was the organist and choir director at a Catholic church.
This church just happened to have a large old pipe organ - a grand old structure in the upper choir loft of the church. Quite a magical, enticing and mysterious instrument with many pipes, pedals and keyboards and the story begins...how enchanting to a little boy. The making of an organist.
Albinas showed remarkable talent for the complicated instrument very early, as a child. His talent and progress brought him to the Juilliard School of Music in NYC as a youngster where he first studied with Bronson Ragan for several years, then Anthony Newman and Vernon de Tar, who recently passed away at the age of 94. Albinas stayed at Juilliard through his advanced studies. Along the way, he continuously developed his masterful skill with the organ, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, performed at the opening of Alice Tully Hall (Lincoln Center, NYC), and added numerous commendations and awards to his list of credits and accomplishments. While at Juilliard, Albinas won a concerto competition and gave the NY premiere performance of Norman Dello Joio's Antiphonal Fantasy for Organ Brass and Strings with the Juilliard Orchestra conducted by Jean Morel.
Albinas also studied and lived with Michel Chapuis in Paris and Burgundy. Michel is considered the leading authority on the French classical style. While Manon was in Paris, she befriended Olivier Messiaen, and Albinas was invited by Messiaen to attend classes at the Paris Conservatory.
Albinas has performed classical organ concerts in New York at St Patrick's Cathedral, The Church of the Ascension and at Calvary Church. At Calvary Church, Albinas became a close friend of Calvin Hampton who offered advice on music and organ playing and became a mentor. In Paris, Albinas played a concert at St Severin and a chuch service of Couperin's Church, Saint Gervais. In the early '70's, Albinas participated in the Grand Prix de Chartes.
While Albinas was the accompanist of a vocal recital at Carnegie Recital Hall in the early '70's, he was noticed by Theodate Severns, sister of the famed architect Philip Johnson. Theodate, an intimate of Jean Sibelius, engaged Albinas as her personal accompanist for several years of weekly visits at the Dakota House in NY. While there Albinas often glimpsed Yoko Ono in the countyard and heard delightful gossip about other residents at the Dakota - including Leonard Bernstein and his wife, and Rudolph Nureyev.
At the performance of Dello Joio's Antiphonal Fantasy at Juilliard, Albinas was noticed by Rudoph Loening, who together with his brother Gover was a pioneer in aviation. Rudolph generously donated an organ to St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue and asked Albinas to personally advise him on the design. Albinas was privileged to be a frequent guest at his apartment at the Essex House, where he lived, and at the Metropolitan Opera Club. Rudolph also arranged for Albinas' appointment at St. John's Church in Southampton, NY
Being a very diverse musician with interests in classical music, jazz and blues, Albinas has had a long and rewarding relationship with the famed blues artist Memphis Slim, and performed with him both in Paris and New York. At a performance at the Village Gate in NY, Albinas introduced Johnny Winter and Edgar Winter to Memphis Slim. In Paris, Albinas nightly performed with Memphis at Au Trois Mailletz and other venues in the Les City. Albinas and his son Albinas Jehan performed nightly at the Freibourg Jazz Fest in Switzerland, performing blues music as singer/keyboardist.
While in NY, Albinas met Long John Baldry, performed with Sugar Blue, jammed with Richie Havens at his studio in Greenwich Village, and did a demo with Billy Ocean when he first arrived in the states at Magnagraphic Studios. Albinas also took private lessons in jazz music from Lee Konitz at his upper west wide apartment. While playing for John Sinclair, poet and manager of "60's rhythm n' blues sensations MC5, Albinas likes to recall John's observation that "the blues is a calling".
In New Orleans, Albinas played nightly at Henry Lee's Genghis Khan for 7 years as the house pianist, and for four years with the Yellowdog Blues Band every weekend at Joe's House of Blues on Dryad Street with June Gardner (drums, Leroy and Johnny (guitars), who unfortunately are all now deceased. Then Albinas became a close friend to Earl King and Ernie K-Doe, with whom he performed occasionally. For 10 years, he was the music director of the annual Kingsley House Fall Fest, organizing a large authentic community blues and New Orleans Rhythm n' Blues festival featuring many local musicians such as Coca Robicheaux, Raymond Myles, Rocky Charles, Ernie K-Doe, Marva Wright, Johnny Adams, Albert Dogman Smith, Reggie Hall, Eddie Bo and many others.
And the list of activities can go on. Albinas has many talents, and interests and clearly a lot of energy and enthusiasm for music of any genre.
But as many of us know, Albinas is an organist at heart. One of his sister's fondest memories as a young girl was quietly sneaking into the church on a summer's day to listen to her brother Albinas practice the organ. She would be alone, sitting in the back of the church, listening to such grand music and sounds - for many hours as her brother played long and persistently at the organ. It was very special. He was constantly playing, practicing, reading, studying, and quietly doing his music everywhere and all the time. She remembers him being absolutely soaked as he closed up and walked home, having practiced in the heat of the summer almost all day long. He never knew she was there. It was remarkable to see the dedication and passion that this young man had for the organ.
Albinas comes from a musical family. In addition to his mother, who nurtured his musical talent as a child and still plays the piano at the age of 87, his maternal grandfather, Albinas Jasenauskas, in Lithuania was a well known organist and choir director in Telsiai. Albinas never met his grandparents but his passion for the organ seems to have been passed down very successfully through several generations. At the busy Prizgintas household, everyone was forever playing, practicing or rehearsing either the piano, violin, flute, clarinet, and yes, even a trombone. Albinas can blow a mean trombone - or at least he could.
Albinas says that after studying abroad and at various exceptional schools of music, it has become obvious to him that his best and deepest musical influence was his mother Therese. He recalls thinking that by the time he was 10 or 12, he really had learned about all he was going to fundamentally learn. And that she was the deepest and most profound musician he has ever met. Sadly, Therese died on June 2, 2010, shortly following the death of her husband, Viktoras, Sr.
While his father, Viktoras, Sr, was not a musician, he has a beautiful bass voice, and he also deeply encouraged and watched the progress of his son's musical education. For example, he knew a great deal about him young son's ambitions and talents:
Albert Einstein once said:
"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."
It seems that Albinas and Mr Einstein share a passion for music. When Albinas was a little boy, his father took him to meet Dr Einstein in Princeton NJ where Dr Einstein resided. Somehow he knew the little one and the brilliant physicist had something very special in common.
As a chauffeur, and patient parent waiting through the many long lessons, he always found the time to introduce the children to the extra-ordinary. In addition to the visit to meet Albert Einstein, he took his two young sons to NY to meet Harold C Schonberg, the well-known New York Times music critic who sadly died at the age of 87 in July of 2003. Again, he must have known the importance of music to the future of his young son's career. Viktoras Sr passed away at the age of 92 in 2010.
Albinas' music passion is also shared with his younger brother, Viktoras, Jr, who founded and is the conductor/director of the Allegro Youth String Orchestra of Hudson Valley (NY). The following links can take you to Vikoras and Allegro: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=dbdevkc&view=videos and
http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=PlatinumStudios&view=videos which is mostly Allegro, but other good stuff as well. The youth orchestra is exceptional with incredible intonation and spirit for the complex music they perform. Viktoras himself is quite adept with all of the string instruments, but he studied the clarinet.
Albinas grew up with two brothers and one sister. Sadly, his oldest brother, Antanas, was a casualty of the Vietnam War in 1968. His sister Rhyta who holds a PhD in chemical engineering designed and hosts this web site. Albinas is fluent in Lithuanian and had an opportunity to visit the country several years ago, right around the time of Katrina.
Living in New Orleans has been an excellent experience for Albinas. He really enjoys the people, the music, the overall happenings. Must be that exceptional gracious southern hospitality and amazing talent that seems to be everywhere. He is also grateful for the thoughtful recognition and acknowledgements he and Manon have received over the years.
Albinas practices Yoga faithfully.
Over the course of the next few months, we'll be updating this site, and adding more to this page so that you get to know Albinas and Manon better.
To contact Albinas or Manon, please use the following:
Albinas and Manon Prizgintas
Trinity Episcopal Church
1329 Jackson Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 670-2520 www.TrinityNOLA.com