Virgil Fox, 68, an internationally known organist who gained fame not only as a master of organ techniques but also as a flamboyant showman, died of cancer Saturday in West Palm Beach, Fla. He lived in Palm Beach.
During his long career, which began when he was a child, Mr. Fox had traveled more than 10 million miles around the world to play recitals and at orchestral engagements. His last concert was in September, when he played at the opening of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra season.
In recent years, Mr. Fox had played at Wolf Trap Farm on several occasions, presenting an organ-and-lights show that he called "heavy organ" on some occasions and appearing with the National Symphony Orchestra at other times. He also had played at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here.
When he first came to Washington in 1942 as a soldier and chapel organist at Bolling Field, Mr. Fox already had a world-wide reputation as a concert organist. He had played concerts on the great organs at St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminister Abbey in London, Rouen Cathedral in Rouen, France, the Dome Cathedral in Berlin, Carneige Hall in New York and the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. He had been head of the organ department at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he had won high awards as a student.
He had enlisted in the Army. His assignment was to entertain the servicemen here and to help raise funds for campaigns related to the march for victory. He played at Walter Reed Hospital, the Stage Door Canteen, the Washington Cathedral and Constitution Hall. He gave regular concerts at the National City Christian Church in Washington.
After the war, Mr. Fox became organist of the prestigious Riverside Church in New York City. He held that position until resigning in 1965 to undertake a full-time concert career. From then until 1970, he played at cathedrals in England, France and Germany as well as in this country.
After developing his "heavy organ" in 1970, in which he combined organ music and a rear-projection light show, which was developed by his longtime companion, David Snyder, he used the show to introduce classical music to young people.
His style drew adverse criticism from many of his colleagues, who found his approach too flamboyant. He wore rhinestone-studded shoes and a flowing cape. He was frequently compared to Liberace. The criticism did not deter him.
Mr. Fox had made many records on famous organs throughout the world. He arranged pieces for the organ and recently had completed a book of Christmas music and was working on a book on organ techniques at the time of his death.
Mr. Fox was born in Princeton, Ill. By the age of 10, he was playing the organ at church services. At 14, he gave his first full organ recital. He studied with some of the masters of the organ in this country and abroad.
Before moving to Palm Beach, Mr. Fox had lived in a castle in Gloucester, Mass. Before that, he lived in an enormous house in Englewood, N.J.He never married.
He is survived by his mother, Birdie E. Fox of Pasadena, Calif., and a brother, Warren E., of Oregon.