The Chaplain of the Opera

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Apr 13, 2013

"Moral progress is impossible apart from an habitual vision of greatness.”
Alfred North Whitehead

Years ago I came across a book by the title "Addicted to Mediocrity" (Schaeffer). I love that title because it warns the reader of the hazard of tolerating mediocrity in one’s life. And we don’t have to look far to find it.

From poor customer service at a retail store to dirty silverware at a restaurant, and from music that pains the ear to shoddy construction, there seems at times to be an epidemic of mediocrity. I suppose that’s why excellence – and I mean world-class excellence – almost literally stops us in our tracks. We all sit up and take notice when we see it or hear it or taste it or smell it or feel it.

Larry Wayne Morbitt is one of those people who exudes excellence. I first heard of him when I read an article about him in our weekly denominational magazine. At that time he was singing in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in New York City.

Over the years we have become friends. He performed several times on our VFCC campus. We attended The Phantom of the Opera in NYC and several times we met him for dinner before the show and after the show he gave us backstage tours.

For 17 years Larry played the role of Ubaldi Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera. He toured for one year with the National Tour company after spending two years with the Phantom production in Basil, Switzerland. After many years on Broadway, Larry moved to Las Vegas for the role of Piangi until Phantom closed.

In addition to playing in Phantom for 17 years, Larry’s career profile reads like a who’s who. But no matter what he has done, he has always maintained a deep faith in God. And it is that faith that earned him the moniker “The Chaplain of the Opera.”

Recently Larry was here at VFCC for almost one week meeting with students, faculty and all of us who have become his friends over the years. We will never forget his one hour presentation to our entire VFCC community. He sang 5 songs and between them he shared excerpts from his own life story. With transparent honesty he spoke of his challenging childhood and how he determined not to be victimized by that dark season. 

But it was his voice which mesmerized us. Each song took us to places we rarely go. He even sang one song (his most requested) from Phantom, Music of the Night.

 While visiting he talked about his commitment to excellence. As a musician, he tells those whom he teaches, “I expect very little from you. Not much at all. Just perfection.” And he was serious.

He also described the challenge for a male voice to reach “High C” which he does several times in Phantom. When he was on campus before he explained that there is a saying that a male voice has only so many “High C’s” in it. Fortunately, he hasn’t reached that limit.

When I asked him if he had sung that “High C” note for us he laughed and with a twinkle in his eye said, “That costs money for someone to sing that note.”  As we laughed together he did say that that note is often called “the money note.”

I was surprised to learn that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera was the longest running Broadway show celebrating its 10,000 performance on Broadway on February 11, 2012. With total world-wide box office receipts of over $6 billion, Phantom is the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time and most financially successful theatrical show in history.

Larry’s commitment to excellence moved him from the darkness of his past to the lights of Broadway and beyond. “An habitual vision of greatness” can do that for anyone.  

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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