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Have an opinion? Click to post your message directly to our Feedback column below. Opinions expressed in this column are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BACHorgan.com. BACHorgan.com reserves the right to remove any message which it deems offensive and/or not in the spirit of this forum.

"I Can Do This and It's Going to Be Great"
Hi Dan, regarding the book you mentioned, "Happy For No Reason," I just had thought number 60,001!
Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
organist
Bethesda, MD
10/16/2010

"Still Surviving on the Street"
Interesting article. As an organist and also string bass player I never memorized, didn't need to.
But about 20 years ago I decided to do some theater, particularly Mark Twain at the urging of a friend. There was now no choice, memorizing was what I had to do. At first I said I couldn't do it, but found that working on a script while hiking and walking worked well. I eventually had a couple of hours of Mark Twain script, I could do on the stage.

Now that I think about it, the idea of memorizing organ music is interesting, especially thinking about registrations, different instruments, etc. I suspect there is then a totality of experience not gotten in any other way.
Ben Helmke
bhelmke@scotthelmke.com
80 year old retired from mental health
ann Arbor, MI.
8/25/2010

"Taking Bach's Name In Vain"
Dan, you put forth some valid criticisms about the facts in this article. Since you know a great deal about Bach and organ-building, I definitely think you should submit your letter to the New York Times. You're right, how can the people at Eastman claim "this organ is more suitable for the music of J.S. Bach than any in North America"?! Definitely not true. I checked out all the links in your Rampage, and the one showing the Vilnius organ in Lithuania didn't play any music, it just gave a tour of the pipes in the workshop, but it was interesting.
Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
organist
Bethesda, Maryland
1/31/2010

"Taking Bach's Name In Vain"
I'm interested in your Rampage for a few reasons. The obvious first is you're absolutely correct on a number of points. Bach didn't have his fingers in this pie or the one on which it is modeled, and yet he gets credit for both. Second, as a former organ builder, I'm reasonably assured that nobody aspires to build an organ as an exact duplicate of another, irrespective of the original's worth. Their aim is to create an organ others may want to reproduce.

What made me want to read the article, though, was to ensure you hadn't included a "Bach-damn" in there. Taking a name in vain has too long been associated with swearing. I have even been castigated for saying "Thank God it's Friday," as though it were sacrilege to thank God for anything in a heart-felt manner. I learned long ago, though, that ascribing someone else's approval or disapproval of an act, or in this case a thing, in an offhand manner is using their name without owning it. I suppose that's why people are so hard on prophets, thinking them to be false prophets, taking the Lord's name in vain.

Thanks for shedding light on this.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Director of Music/Webmaster
Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal
Asheville, NC
http://church-of-the-redeemer-episcopal.org
1/27/2010

"Learning a piece "Bach-wards" ..."
I was surprised and pleased to see your article on learning a piece in reverse, as I have not run across it elsewhere before. I've used that for myself and in my teaching for some time now -- especially for 'important' pieces -- i.e. when I or one of my students is preparing for a recital or competition -- for all the reasons you cited. It simply cooperates well with our learning experience and fosters greater success towards the end. The summer when my son was 11 he (we) got our first Nintendo. The deal was -- 30 minutes of Nintendo, 30 minutes of piano; we worked "Bach-wards" 3 measures at a time on the 2-part invention in F - each hand alone, then together; as we moved "Bach" we always played through to the end. He learned it beautifully -- and that considering he had no prior piano lessons ... it REALLY DOES work !!
I love your site -- I am a had-to-leave-it-behind-for-work organist who has hopes of one day returning on a more regular basis to the ranks -- both of organists and the pipes we play :-) Thanks for a great site!
Charlie Hoilman
choil2u@juno.com
11/10/2009

"your workshop on memory & practice"
Dan, your ideas about learning a piece from the end and backtracking are a tried and true method I've heard about at a few piano teachers' workshops etc. I had forgotten about it, and was stuck in a rut learning pages 46 & 47, Kalmus edition, of the Finale from Vierne's 1st symphony. The chords repeat & just change by a half step, so you lose your place and get mixed up what key you're in. But by using "start at the end of a section & work backwards," it worked like a charm! I finally got the 2 pages 75% well learned, after months of returning to it frustrated. Thanks!
Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
organist
Bethesda
Maryland
10/22/2009

"Let's Talk About Inclusion"
Dan, about renewing your AGO membership, I hope you do. We need more people like you, with your fresh ideas and bold leadership qualities. Also Max Messmer, author of "Job Hunting for Dummies," believes anyone who is serious about his career should join the trade association related to his career field. Finally, being a church organist is a difficult life in many ways, ignored and unappreciated by the majority of people in the world, so we need to band together for solidarity purposes!
Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
Associate Organist
1st Church of Christ Scientist, Mt. Vernon, VA
Bethesda, MD
4/7/2009

"Let's Talk About Inclusion"
Dan, as you know, I passed the CAGO test in 2003. It's very difficult, I failed it twice, in 1999 and 2001.

What you said about peer review of the CAGO test: I donít think it would work too well, peers arenít qualified to judge a rigorous test like that. It would be a little like peer review for the bar exam. You need experts in the areas of composition and improvisation to set high standards. I can see it now if peers were to judge the 8-measure modulation or the bridge to the hymn: "I gave him extra points because his modulations sounded just like "All we are is Dust in the Wind."óMary; or "I admired the way the rhythms in his bridge to the hymn reminded me of how Bach would have brushed his teeth!"óJohnny
Furthermore, what you said about how the judges always have to say nice things when they criticize you is true of other judging as well. Years ago I judged a few times for the MTNA lower level piano recitals, and we were instructed to give only constructive criticism so that the children would enter the same festival the following year. I have bad handwriting and it was too strenuous for me to write remarks in an extremely limited time frame. I had to write criticisms and suggestions for each 3 minute piece and keep everything moving so it wouldnít run over into the next recitalís period. I ended up running out of nice things to say, and would scribble, "My, how pretty you looked in your white dress!" After a few times judging they didnít ask me back, and I was relieved.
Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
Associate Organist
1st Church of Christ Scientist, Mt. Vernon, VA
Bethesda, MD
4/7/2009

"Let's Talk About Inclusion"
Forgive my ignorance, but what good does an AGO membership do exactly? (aside from supplementing one's resumť of course). Are there guilds as such in Europe or elsewhere?

by the way, this is my first post in 3 years or so, but it's good to be back on the site.
Ryan Bradfield
rb1685@yahoo.com
Organ/Harpsichord student
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX
3/30/2009

"Let's Talk About Inclusion"
Dan,

I think you are right that these tests are meant to sort organists into classes. Instead of ridiculously hard on-the-spot transpositions, how about a more realistic test. The organist gets to study an accompaniment and then play with the soloist who forgets parts of the music, takes the wrong repeats, and generally goes into unknown territory. The accompanist has to "fake" it and figure where the soloist is on the spot. This happens more often than not and the job of the accompanist is to make things appear that nothing happened.

I think you would be very interested in Alfie Kohn's philosophy on testing. He is a well known Canadian educator. He thinks itís a tool to keep class lines in place among other things. You can watch a riveting lecture on the topic if you click the "Click on to play clip" box in the lower left of the window at this link:

http://www.educ.sfu.ca/news/alfie-kohn-event.html

Rebecca Williams
fasalon@hotmail.com
Systems Analyst
Northrop Grumman
Fairfax, VA
3/28/2009

"Let's Talk About Inclusion"
I wholeheartedly agree on the absolute idiocy of the exams. I have been a church organist for 65+ years in many denominations in all parts of the country. Never in all these years have I been asked if I had an AGO certificate. Most church music committees don't even know what the AGO is or why it exists. So much for it bringing in a higher pay scale. Forget it. I have rampaged with the guild hierarchy over the years about the absurdity of the exam requirements. Why write Palestrinian counterpoint? Wouldn't it be more appropriate in this day and age to be able to score a chorale for trumpet, saxophone, trombone, guitar, accordian, etc. Most churches do not have the musicians available to provide a traditional "quartet" or other ensemble. You have to be able to make do with what is available. With today's organs (pipe as well as electronic)having transposers, why waste the time necessary for sight transposition. I still do a small amount of it since I came from a non-transposer generation. There are so many more important things to do in this era of so little available spare time like just practicing and learning more repertoire. I could go on and on, but you get my thoughts.
Doug DeForeest
ddeforeest@aol.com
Organist
First Church of Christ Scientist
Sebastopol, California
3/24/2009

"Planned Obsolecense"
The digital organ people, Allen and Rodgers, tout their products as equivalent to acoustic (pipe) organs at great cost saving. The fact is, in the long run, a well constructed pipe organ will, with proper maintenance, be serviceable for decades at less expense. The digital instrument will be obsolete within a few years of its installation. It usually cannot be upgraded and is certainly inferior in sound. Many pipe organs in Europe date back to the Bach era and still provide the acoustic aura, they have throughout the years. There is a legitemate use for digital instruments, but they should be sold for what they are, imitation pipe organs. They decline in value just as all electronic equipment. If the digital organ folks would provide a method whereby their instruments could be upgraded as the technology advances, it would indeed be a step in the right direction; but then they would loose sales of new instruments and that is their business. -- Making money!
Norman H. Buettner
buettner@FVI.net
Elgin IL
3/11/2009

"Planting Seeds"
A comment on organ shoes. When I was in Poland and West Germany in 2007 I found that many organist wore the same running shoes to play to organ as they used to walk in the street. I don't know if the reason was because they don't have the money to buy a lot of shoes, or perhaps that they have discovered something the rest of us don't know.

One also needs to keep in mind that most of the organ pedal boards are flat in that part of the world.
Rebecca Williams
fasalon@hotmail.com
Systems Analyst
Northrop Grumman
Fairfax, Virginia
3/10/2009

"Music Wants to Be Free"
Concerning pre-recorded music, more and more families want recordings played during funeral and wedding ceremonies in church. Whenever I am confronted with this, I tell priests and families,"If you enter into that type of logic, no one will ever want to become an organist anymore."
Frank Mento
frank.mento@neuf.fr
Titular Organist
Saint-Jean de Montmartre Church
Paris, France
2/9/2009

"Contemporary(?) Music(?)"
Hi Dan-----
Good to read your rampages again. I missed them. Today I was terribly upset. I usually listen to the rebroadcast of the service from the Christian Science Mother Church in Boston. Today they chose to introduce the new hymnal supplement---and what abomination did they choose as their initial offering? Siyahamba "We are walking in the light of God", repeated ad naseum in the style of the entertainment geared churches. Granted some of the old hymns in their hymnal are a little strange, but at least they try to be spiritual and sacred. This "thing" they presented today calling it a hymn is an affront to anyone with any musical taste! I thought that at least the Christian Science Church had some depth in thinking.
On another topic you asked today about playing without shoes. I had a teacher many years ago who pointed out that the wood of those pedals was a lot harder than the flesh on my feet. He said that when you stubbed your toe on that hard wood and said a bad word, you had already lost the rhythm and pulse of the music. I have never seen any redeeming reason to play with bare feet. If you can't find the proper pedal note maybe you should go back to playing the piano or a harmonica and forget about the organ!!!
Doug DeForeest
ddeforeest@aol.com
ddeforeest@aol.com
First Church of Christ Scientist
Sebastopol, California
none
2/9/2009

"Choral Music - the Kindness of Strangers"
Hi Dan. Thanks for taking the time to find all those links to the music Puderbaugh mentions in his article. That will be a big help! I, too, read that article about choral music for the small choir in "The American Organist" and thought, what an excellent article! I'm glad you took the time to provide more information about Dr. Puderbaugh and to make the music accessible for people. I saved your "workshop" electronically, in case I need it later (have to direct a small choir, perhaps)
Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
Church Organist
Christian Science church, Mt. Vernon, and sub
Bethesda, MD
2/8/2009

"Find the Organ book you're looking for!"
WorldCat.org lets you search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world. WorldCat grows every day thanks to the efforts of librarians and other information professionals. WorldCat is the world's largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.
Mark Blanchard
blancham@oclc.org
OCLC
Dublin, Ohio USA
http://www.worldcat.org/
1/22/2009

"The Big Day Has Come and Gone"
Like most people my age, I recall there being a piano in all of my primary school classrooms. By the time I got to middle school (which we called Junior High School in those days) it wasn't necessary, because we migrated from room to room for our classes, and the music class room had its piano. I remember my Kindergarten teacher could barely play, using the same C chord all the way through our "skipping around the room" music, whether it fit or not. I also recall being astounded when I was asked to play a melody on the black keys while my third grade teacher improvised an accompaniment - and it actually sounded rehearsed.

As for the sign at the Arizona church, it reminds me of a notice in the bulletin at one of the churches in Forest City, NC, that read: "Music for Prayer and Medication" each Wednesday in Lent, one year - Five weeks, and it was never corrected.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Cantor
Church of the Redeemer, Episcopal
Asheville, NC
http://church-of-the-redeemer-episcopal.org
12/27/2008

"Happy Halloween"
Hi. Nice to see that Dan's back. When I get time I will post some info about my trip to Poland and East Germany last fall. This was a tour for organists. Got to play some of the organs and see lots of famous places. I got to attend a service at the Thomaskirche where Bach was the music director.

Also saw the grave of Martin Luther and got some great photos of the Castle Church. - To be continued...

Right now I am totally stressed out about the election. So I won't be human until that's over.
Rebecca Williams
fasalon@hotmail.com
Systems Analyst
Northrop Grumman
Fairfax, VA 22033
11/2/2008

"No More Mystery Organs!"
Funny, I know Ross Wards from New Zealand, where I originate from. He has been on a crusade for many years! On another subject, never mind there being no mention of the organ, how about there being no mention of any music because the church minister seems to be in some kind of battle with the music director! I suspect that she needs to be the only one praised. Somehow we soldier on. There used to be a link to my website where I listed the musical exploits of the congregation.
Dr Paul Jessen
info@paulemlynjessen.ca
Dr
Toronto / Canada
http://www.paulemlynjessen.ca
8/24/2008

"Former Brevard College Student"
When I read about the 50th anniversary of the Schantz organ at 1st UMC in Brevard, NC , it brought back a lot of fond memories.
My piano professor at the time talked me into trying the organ-and the rest is history. Not only did I change my major from piano to organ, I ended up becoming organist and/or music director at several churches throughout the years. The first organ I ever laid hands on was that Schantz in Brevard, and it remains one of the best organs I have played. In case you don't know, Dan, Brevard College installed a 3-manual Jackel (at least I think that's the name of the firm) tracker action organ in its Performing Arts Center about four years ago or so. An alumnus of Brevard donated 1 million plus for the instrument. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to hear it yet. Maybe they will let me play on it some at my next class reunion. Thank you for posting the Schantz's anniversary! May it play for at least another 50!
Erick Kroll
Syracuse, NY
8/17/2008

"Cursed with a Passion for the Truth"
Hi from New Zealand,
Yes, sadly, I feel you're right. We're often fed garbage these days and it is given a euophenmistic title so it evades the truth. To call someone 'vertically challenged' is stupid when the word 'short' is a fine old word. To call a computerised electronic thingie an 'organ' is false, as an organ has pipes and, whatever the salesman and cloth-eared players may say, any pipe, but any pipe, sounds better than something that comes through a loudspeaker.
I think of modern 'music'. A lot of it isn't. I remember the reply of a great conductor when asked if he liked so-and-so's stuff. He answered, "No, but I trod in some once."
Or modern art: I remember seeing a vast blue canvas once with two little orange dots on it - that was all. Yet it was called, "Three Nudes Descending a Staircase." Contrast that with the extraordinary beauty and skill of the old masters...
And organs again - I believe there is rarely any reason to toss an instrument out. There's something in society if people tell you to chuck oput an entire instrument when so much can be done in terms of re-voicing, re-scaling, all that kind of thing, to make an instrument perfectly capable of giving great enjoyment to the congregation.
And the music again - I cringe when I hear a local organist play Caleb Simper, William Wolstensholme and that sort of stuff. The fellow never plays Bach or Buxtehude or John Stanley or Frescobaldi.
And why dop we put up with 2nd-best in computers? Who has the damned right to say I cannot have anything but Times New Roman as a default font when I want to set Bookman Old? ASnd why do I have on my emails a system that always, but always, insists on deleting the next letter if I want to insert one? I can't reset it, no matter what I do. It's high time we made public the views of curmudgeons (like me)
Grumpily,
Ross
(The Rev.Dr Ross Wards)
Ross Wards
The Shieling@xtra.co.nz
The Rev.Dr
Hon.Asst Priest (I've retired)
New Zealand
-
8/15/2008

"Playing the Building"
HI Dan. I would like to hear that funny organ console make music of the giant things in the building. Sorry to learn of the passing of Norman Dello Joio. He was the composer-in-residence at University of Cincinnati in 1968 when I was at the Conservatory of Music there, and I sang in a choir that sang his newly commissioned "Proud Music of the Storm" with him conducting. I also really like his Christmas suite for piano duet. (not sure what it's called)

Sue Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
Bethesda, MD
8/7/2008

"The Neglectful Gardener"
So glad to have you back. I had been wondering if I had somehow gotten off your list. Wishing you all the best.
jim miller
7/4/2008

"The Neglectful Gardener"
Welcome back, Dan. I was thinking, just last week (... and boy is my mind tired!) "I wonder whatever happened to Dan." And here you are again. Good stuff.

As for me, I ran a course of pain medication that blocked the communication between my eyes and my hands, and between my hands and my feet, making organ playing impossible. I relinquished my hold on the bench at Church of the Redeemer, but remained as Choir Director while wife Becky tackled the keyboards. (She's much better than I am, anyway.) I've since stopped that medication (the painful condition having been stabilized and, thereby, eliminated) - but have had surgery on my left hand (Carpo-Metacarpal Arthroplasty - look it up), which will take a few more months to heal sufficiently. Then, in another year, I'll have the same procedure on my right hand!

I practice, now (and regret it later, when the "discomfort" builds), and will continue to do so, just so I don't lose all of my abilities.


Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Choir Director
Church of the Redeemer
Woodfin, NC
http://church-of-the-redeemer-episcopal.org
7/3/2008

"The Neglectful Gardener"
Great to see your prose again! Hope your schedule allows you to keep it up.
Susan LaGrande
susanel2@hotmail.com
http://www.chvago.org
7/3/2008

"The Neglectful Gardener"
Hi Dan! It's nice to see you back again. Many happy returns! Please keep us posted with exciting news from the organ world.
Frank Mento
frank.mento@neuf.fr
Titular Organist
Saint-Jean de Montmartre Church
Paris, France
7/3/2008




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