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'Modern Mozart' Paul Todd performs Christmas concert Tuesday in Spring Hill

SPRING HILL — For the fourth year, a musician who has been called a modern-day Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is coming to Northcliffe Baptist Church.

Paul Todd will perform his "Paul Todd Spirit of Christmas" concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

All of the previous concerts have sold out, with about 900 people attending.

"Paul's Christmas concerts are always amazing," Senior Pastor Jerry Waugh said. "It's amazing to watch someone play five keyboards at the same time. It's amazing to close your eyes and believe there is a 60-piece orchestra right in front of you. It's amazing to watch someone play and sing with off-the-chart passion. And it's amazing how he can take requests from the audience and play any song like he's been practicing it all his life."

Todd shyly admits that his concerts are different.

"I guess I'm a unique act," he said. "I use one main instrument, which actually is a console organ with a full pedal board, as my base, and then I surround myself with four other synthesizers, where I can play whatever other orchestral sounds that I need. I play everything live, and nothing is sequenced."

Todd also sings and will perform a mixture of Christmas standards and his own material.

"I have written many Christmas songs," he said. "As an added bonus, the Northcliffe church choir will also be performing with me."

Todd's son, Paul Todd Jr., will also perform.

"I must say, he's becoming quite the singer," Todd said. "He is 15, and I'm very proud to share the stage with him and the choir."

The elder Todd also began performing at a young age. Born and reared in Minnesota by his football coach father, after his mother died when he was 11, Todd found that he had an unusual gift, much like another composer.

"In his time, Mozart was kind of a 'freak of nature,' " Todd explained. "It seemed like his music was so different in his time period. He would hear entire music scores in his head and then just write it down. Since I was a young child, I could do the same."

At the time, the young boy didn't know how to write it down.

"I was fortunate to be born in a time when keyboards and organs almost sounded like a full orchestra," he said. "I was a dedicated student and practiced four to six hours every day. I trained my fingers and my feet to play exactly what I heard in my head."

Todd would change the settings on the keyboard to match all the instruments and learned to play the keyboards in styles to imitate the orchestral instruments as closely as he could.

"With my feet playing the bass, I could almost imitate a full orchestra," he said. "That is exactly how I compose today. I just hear the whole orchestral score at once, and I don't even think about what I'm playing. My hands and feet just do it automatically from what I hear in my head."

Todd said being able to play the parts live allows him to record it and let a computer program "score it out."

"Poor Mozart had to do it by hand," he said.

Todd began performing for audiences after he won the National Yamaha Keyboard Contest when he was 14. His career began with classmate Linda Eder, a singer. They were "The Paul and Linda Show," and played clubs and opened for celebrities.

After launching his own solo career, Todd began headlining in theaters and concert halls worldwide.

He has performed on Broadway and has worked onstage with several Christian artists, including Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Phil Driscoll.

One of the highlights of many of Todd's concerts is his Five Note Symphony.

"Someone comes up from the audience and gives me five notes, and I just improvise a symphony from their notes," he said. "It's kind of a fun thing."

One of Todd's loves is performing concerts for charities.

"I especially enjoy raising funds for small charities like food shelves, homes for children — things that don't receive a lot of funding."

Numerous charities have benefited from Todd's concerts.

In 1988, he wrote the theme song for the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots program and raised money for several years for the organization's program in Minnesota.

In 1993, he wrote the theme song for the Make a Wish organization that was recorded by Crystal Gayle.

During the Midwest floods of 1997, he organized a tour of concerts that, with help from Lutheran Brotherhood matching funds, raised more than $70,000 for flood relief.

In 2005, Todd established Paul Todd Charities, a nonprofit public charity that helps other charitable organizations. The first major fundraiser brought in more than $30,000 for Feed the Children to use for Hurricane Katrina relief.

When he's not giving concerts, Todd performs for a program at 10 p.m. Saturdays on the Christian Television Network.

He has three current DVDs and CDs that will be available at the concert. Other music is available for download at www. paultodd.com.

Waugh's ministry assistant at Northcliffe, Jackie Laird, said she appreciates more about Todd than his musical abilities.

"Paul has a remarkable talent, no doubt, but what I found equally, and perhaps more, remarkable was his humility," Laird said. "He is just a very humble man who seems so thankful and surprised, even, that people are crazy about his music.

"Once he gets on stage, of course, he's bigger than life. But on a personal level, he seems like just another guy in your Bible study class, or the neighbor you invite over for barbecue — with really big hair, of course."

if you go

Tuesday's concert

Northcliffe Baptist Church, 10515 Northcliffe Blvd., will present the Paul Todd Spirit of Christmas concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the church office or at the door. For those arriving early, the church choir will present five songs beginning at 6:30 p.m. To see Paul Todd perform, visit www.youtube.com/user/

ptmozart.

'Modern Mozart' Paul Todd performs Christmas concert Tuesday in Spring Hill 12/05/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:19pm]
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