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2003

Click here for Feedback Archives: 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

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.

"Christmas Wrap-up"
Hi Dan, your takeoff on "'Twas the night..." was pretty funny. My favorite line was "I'd have rather been draining a giant nightcap!" By the way, this is on a subject of over a month ago; you wrote about how you always have to find time for daily practice, in spite of your other jobs & responsibilities. Well, I guess most of us musicians are like that. I remember that ever since I was young, I've had to find time each day to practice and especially after I was married and had children and was a housewife too, I felt exactly as though I (A) had an albatross around my neck, and (B) have a Siamese twin (both of those are the need to practice). To make it harder, often I'm the only one in the whole world who CARES if I practice each day.
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
piano teacher, substitute organist
12/30/2003

"'Twas the Night..."
... and what a night it was! I'm reminded of the parody that my sister's cat (allegedly) wrote of the same poem (see http://www.members.aol.com/susywatt/nybble4.htm). I trust that was your own Bach interpretation. I enjoyed it, but would rather have heard the recital than the poem with all its vivid imagery.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
webmaster@wnc-ago.org
St. John's Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://www.wnc-ago.org
12/22/2003

"12 Voluntaries online"
Thanks for the blurb, Dan. But you make me sound like Santa Claus, just because the items become available now. That means people are going to be disappointed that there's no setting of In Dulci Jubilo, or "Winter Wonderland," for that matter!

The fact is, folks, it was my intention to have these numbers ready by the beginning of next year. I'm only ahead of schedule because I was homebound for two week-ends of inclement weather here in Gotham, when I should have been out Christmas shopping.

This puts all of my music of medium difficulty, suitable for use in a worship service, online at this site. The Gestalt will be my recital music, a Passacaglia and 6 Preludes and Fugues.

Thanks again for everything, Dan. I'm already starting to hear from people about music I was just getting to fit right on the page a week ago!

Time is shortened indeed. So enjoy your holidays, all, before they whiz by!
Victor Frost
VFrost@gis.net
12/20/2003

"Dear Diary..."
After reading your "Rampage" on your "pp-reludes" & "pp-ostludes" I must say that in my practice as an organist in a Roman Catholic church, where talking in the church-proper is forbiden, I have found that playing preludes & postludes softly causes the parishoners to talk quietly, even sometimes not talking at all (if you can believe it!).
H. R. Gaida
Assistant Organist/Choirmaster
Our Lady of Czestochowas R.C. Church
Turners Falls MA
12/13/2003

"Dear Diary..."
Dan, we solved the Prelude/Postlude enigma by using different titles so the congregation would know the two slots are indeed part of the worship service. Nothing glamorous, just plain english: Opening Worship Music/Closing Worship Music. People still talk during the postlude -- oops, Closing Worship Music, but I don't mind, because I'm still worshiping and the choir hangs around to listen.
Lois J Miller
ljmiller@netins.net
Organist
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Ames, IA
12/4/2003

"Digital Counterpoint"
Thank you for your offering of support for the organ. One of the reasons I am also a registered nurse is I never want to be dependant upon an electronic/digital organ for a living.
James Moore
jamesmoore52@hotmail.com
Director of Music
Memorial Congregational Church
Baldwinville, MA
11/13/2003

"Digital Counterpoint"
Dan, I pretty much agree with everything you said in this rampage, though I'm not the expert you are. I will still accept a job at a church playing a decent digital organ, though, (even though pipe organs are WAY superior) because I need a job to make some money, and I'm sort of near the bottom of the pecking order of professional organists.
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
substitute organist & piano teacher
DC metropolitan area
Bethesda, MD
11/13/2003

"Digital Counterpoint"
You force me into the dustbin of the feedback pages, but after such a brilliant lawyerly Rampage, I have no choice.

For you, my son, I challenge you to an update in musicology (keyboard history) and an extended listening tour in Europe. The pipe organ comes in many nationalities and periods, and a CD is not the same as time spent in buildings and at the console. I will never forget playing my first great European instrument in Europe in the Thomaskirche in Strasbourg - Schweitzer's instrument! Ya hadda be there. I took lessons on Walcha's instrument where the krummhorn sounded like a trapped weasel trying to bite its own leg off to escape. I played the tiny one manual instrument of the 18th century in our village in Hesse - a true masterpiece, buried by the citizenry during WWII to preserve it, complete with its awe-inspiring case with golden trumpeting angels. Ya hafta be there.

All builders change by periods. A Hook in a glorious acoustic is not a late period Hook and Hastings in a lesser space. Latter day Mollers, as they became overpriced also declined in materials and tonal refinement. Ears change too. After Germany, I returned to the Moller I'd grown up with and literally worshipped. I couldn't do anything WITH IT.

The search for the American organ is far from finished. It's doubtful that by sheer force of American history we will ever have a truly American instrument. Let's not forget that the digitals ARE American inventions, and as such, claim the fealty of many a xenophobic clientele. Americans, as now, are none too fond of European culture except in the very highest socio-economic brackets.

Euro-Americans always built the best. G. Donald Harrison studied with Willis in England, the Canadians are good at French, Moller himself was German, informed by German conventions.

Ruffatti, an exception, does not build an Italian organ, with its lyric "pastosa" tones which sound like spoken Italian. (Have you read Tagliavini?)

I fantasize that some day a Japanese builder will construct the closest we will come to an American pipe organ, as Oriental organists are becoming our finest players.

We get some good German instruments, or French or English ones, but seldom is an American instrument the starting place for an informed builder. Nor, it goes without saying, does nomenclature fool the ear. A flute a cheminee is still a chimney flute, and mere chiff doth not a rohrflote make.

Let's face it, Dan, ya wanna know pipe organs? Ya hafta be there.
Peter Stapleton
11/13/2003

"Nothing beats the real thing"
Dan,
I have read the rampage and the feedback and after doing that I feel obliged to mail this feedback and let you know that I fully support your opinion.
No-one in the world considers changing their Stradivarius for an electronic violin nor will Trumpet players use a keyboard to imitate the real trumpet sound and for pipe organs the same rules apply. The argument used by many that pipe organs are so expensive is invalid in my view. Yes it is a large upfront investment but even when we consider the maintenance cost, pipe organs have proven to be able to survive hundreds of years. Electronic gadgets seldomly survive more than 20 years if at all. But even when electronics would in the end be able to live for hundreds of years than still they remain a substitute only for the real thing. And last but not least art should not be degraded in view of cost savings only.

For practice at home my Judas (officially called Johannus) organ is no problem. In fact electronic instruments are great home trainers but nothing more.
Can anyone imagine that Armstrong would not join the Tour de France on his bike but just cycle 2000 miles on his home trainer??? I doubt it.

Someone wrote that the organ itself is also a substitute of other instruments and that seems to have some value but it doesn't hold since an organ is a new development and not a simple imitation of any particular instrument. Clearly most instruments are derived from older instruments and work either on air or with strings but always natural materials are being used.

In the design of electronic organs it is striking that the designers always try to imitate the real thing as good as they can. If they would design a NEW instrument that might have some value. So in a way a synthesizer has more right for existence than a pipe organ imitation.

Regards from Holland
Chris Faddegon
christian@faddegon.com
organist
German Church
The Hague, Netherlands
11/6/2003

"The Enemy Within"
Amen! Robin Dunn
10/31/2003

"The Enemy Within"
I gently suggest that you may want to become more knowledeable about your subjects. Your "rampages" are so uninformed that your credibility becomes seriously in question.

Pipe organs are supreme only if well built. To blanket the whole industry with approval or disapproval only reveals your lack of knowledge.

At least give some credit to one digital company (Rodgers) who has resored more pipe organs than I'll bet you ever did. Rampages are destructive and serve no purpose other than to divide the music world which is counterproductive to the legitimate cause of upholding the honorable pipe organ tradition. Terrorists use your tactics that have no place in the dignified exchange of ideas.

Clean up your act before you do even more destruction to the legitimate pipe organ tradition represented by excellent builders.

Hope you nerve to show both sides of this essential issue instead of a one sided version that lacks truth or common sense.

Glen Kersten
Independent Organ Consultant
State of Washington
Glen Kersten
glen.kersten@prodigy.net
Organ Consultant
Kersten Music Corp
Ferndale, WA
www.kerstenmusic.com under construction
10/31/2003

"The Enemy Within"
I think, before we are too quick to condemn electronic instruments, we should at least make a passing examination of the origin of pipe organs. Pipe organ lovers all, myself included, take a look at the stops on your instrument. Are most of them an approximation of the original wind and string instruments? Yet the Pipe organ evolved into it's own magnificent grandure as did its own child, the Theatre organ (still a pipe organ, but with its own unique qualities). Why shouldn't there be room for electronics to evolve and be accepted (for their unique qualities)?

I wonder if musicians at the time of Bach frowned on this cheap imitation called a Pipe Organ.? Norman Daniels
penn65000@earthlink.net
None.
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
While I agree that digital organs cannot produce the authority of sound of the most modest pipe organ, and while I agree that purchasing a $80 thousand electronic organ only to then have to purchase a speaker system to rival that cost so it can be heard above congregational singing, and while I have a very open prejudice against electronic organs as a concept, I can recognize that some churches already have electronic organs. I play one weekly at St. John's Church only because it's what they have, not because of my preference.

I have an electronic organ in my home as a practice instrument. When it was new (10 years ago) it was the best electronic organ I had ever heard. Today it isn't. Not only has it deteriorated in sound quality, but I've heard some that sound better than this one originally did. Still, if I had the kind of home and budget that could accommodate a pipe organ as a practice instrument, that would be my choice. As it is, I'm happy to practice on speakers, but would prefer to play real pipes in worship services.

I know an organist who decry the fact that "some churches can't afford a pipe organ." I find that to be a false statement. If the congregation knows the difference between the sound of the two instruments, they will choose pipes and be able to raise the money necessary for that acquisition.

I was part of a pipe-organ restoration project. The only reason the congregation agreed to it was that it didn't cost them much. They budgeted $5,000 to replace their aging vacuum-tube appliance, and actually paid only a small fraction of that for the project. When the 15-rank organ was completely restored, Their organist played the prelude on the electronic organ, and I (his assistant) played the same prelude on the pipe organ. Then he played a second prelude on the pipe organ and I followed with the same second prelude on the electronic organ. Even those members who wore two hearing aids to hear at all could tell the difference. "I felt the difference," one of them remarked.

I earn money playing an electronic, but I'd trade it in a heartbeat for a position playing a pipe organ. In fact, I may have the opportunity to leave my three-manual Baldwin in favor of a three-rank Moller. Nothing will keep me from accepting that trade. Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. John's Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
sky.prohosting.com/liammacg/
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
I agree, electronic organs should not be considered interchangeable with pipe organs. However, I see no reason why electronic instruments must be limited to imitating pipe organs. Let them develop as a separate species! The situation is similar to, but much more protracted than, the struggle between skiers and snowboarders. The ski community, while continuing to protect the integrity of its own tradition, encouraged and fostered the legitimacy of the snowboard community, to the point where now both are strong. What's more, they enjoy a relatively cordial relationship.

My point? When electronic instruments are seen and marketed only as imitation pipe organs, nobody wins. Let's recognize the creative possibilities inherent in electronic instruments - maybe even give them a new name - and let them develop into something really interesting. Then maybe the pipe organ can truly be appreciated for its own unique qualities. Susan LaGrande
susanel2@hotmail.com
Organist
St. John the Baptist RC Church
Poughkeepsie, NY
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
I think it is interesting to see this debate on "pipes" vs
"digital". All of us know that various organ compositions
were written in periods with certain pipe organ configuations
in mind. It is easy to tell when a composition is played on
the organ the composer had in mind for it. This is possibly
a purist view, but it is an accurate stance. There were no
digital choices in Bach's time; if there had been, wouldn't it
have been wonderful to see what the master would have done with
such a choice?
At the present time, First Congregational Church in Columbus.
Ohio is undergoing a significant and expensive restoration of a
Kimball(1931 vintage) organ with over 3700 pipes. Estimates
have been given that it would cost over $6,000,000 to duplicate
this organ; restoration is costing about $500,000, donated by
a deceased member of the church. Certain voices were raised that
this money might be better used for the poor. And, probably,
they are right. However, the money was not given for this
purpose and they are using it to restore this historic organ.
In instances like this, it would be a musical and historical
tragedy to let this organ sit idle and deteriorate. In addition,
this organ will join a Beckerath organ in the rear loft of the
church with its 3500+ pipes. Two significant organs which will
be available for worship and concerts in the same acoustic
space. This in itself is worth the money spent, not even to
mention the glorious sound of these two instruments.
What about digital? Well, many churches could not afford
the pipe organs of First Congregational Church in Columbus and
they can afford electronic replicas. This, to my mind, is
better than no organ at all or a rock band or guitars. The
proper use of a digital organ, not the lest expensive one,
can sound better than these other choices. Yes, pipes are
far better for many reasons that we all know; but, economics
and present day realities are also important. Nonetheless, it
is important that we keep the pipe organs working that are presently historical and important accomplishments in themselves as a gift to music and to our posterity. carl e miller
carl_e_miller@juno.com
member of First Congregational Church
First Congregational Church, Columbus, OH
Columbus, Ohio
none
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
Wait just a minute, are we drawing battle lines, prepared to rally around even sterner rules than APOBA specifications which allow MIDI under certain restrictions? How would AGO services survive without the digital advertisers? Resign from AGO, then, join OHS, subscribe on line to Pipe Dreams, start a new organization of Tracker Backers. (There's another controversy right there, or have you forgotten direct eletric action?)

How many have to earn a living playing a radio? Tell the truth, now. They support themselves and their families and will often take a substantial pay cut to play a real organ.

I am not Virgil Fox, and cannot achieve the popularity Dan needs to be granted an exemption. Even using the disabled excuse, I'd have to have succeeded in overwhelming a generation of trance and hip hop and metallica lovers to get on his short list. KUSC won't even carry Pipe Dreams because listeners call to complain when they play Pipe Organ CDs (which are, I hasten to add, digital renditions). Perhaps the historic associations with early church experiences cause this aversion, or the feeling of being overwhelmed by such power.

Again, it's a question of perspective, self-esteem and strategy. Hysterics usually don't improve any situation.

I don't intend to resign from Bachorgan.com, stop linking to it, or stop wearing its T-shirt unless asked to do so. But I've got to go cross a picket line to get my high blood presure medication now, so I'd better not get too wound up.

Instant coffee has indeed won, but some still keep beans in the refrigerator, grind them, drip boiling water over them and remark on how rare and special what we are being savor is. And some rich people think of a memorial organ as a wonderful cultural and community opportunity and a greater bargain than a building or wing of a hospital. Perhaps what pipe organ supporters need to do is positive - where are the organs in museums and concert halls and other public places (well, there's the Rosales being built in Walt Disney Concert Hall, but I'll bet it wasn't funded with $75 donations).
James Pressler
jocr@toast.net
Los Angeles
http://www.virtuallybaroque.com
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
Digital pianos are not used in concert venues because real pianos are nowhere near as expensive as real pipe organs.

If they were, I'm sure that many concert pianists would accept digitals as "good enough" substitutes, if the alternative is no concert. Bob
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
Dan,

Would you prefer to play on a really bad pipe organ or a really good electronic? I agree that digital organs do not meet up to the sound of a pipe organ. Unfortunately many churches can not afford a pipe organ so a digital is purchased. It is not that the congregation does not want a pipe organ.

I have a "Toaster" in my living room. It has a complete combination action while my church pipe organ has none. We must give electronics their due because they have given pipe organs many wonderful innovations. Electronic organs were the first instruments to have multiple memories and etc. How many of us would prefer the old setter boards to an electronic multiple memory. Which has fewer problems?

I think BACH would rejoice to know his music is enjoyed even when played on a lowly electronic. Bach loved gadgets so I think he might enjoy having a resource that makes organ music so accessable to the masses.

There are so many more important problems to ponder in church music than fighting about who has a pipe organ. Organists that have served congregations for years are being fired because of their sexuality. What is more important, people or the type of organ they play? Jeff Goodwin
jeff5361@aol.com
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
Hmmm...this "Pipe organ" vs. "Electronic organ" debate reminds me of another feud that is constantly going on among not only church musicians, but even among regular parishoners as well. Of course I'm talking about the famous "Traditional worship" vs. "Contemporary worship" debate. Are we going to let the pipe vs. electronic debate get as heated as the traditional vs. contemporary debate? I hope not because entire congregations get torn apart over this.

I will agree that electronic organs cannot measure up to pipe organs, but we need not alienate every organist who plays an electrnoic organ. There won't be many organists left! We need to be accepting of the person, no matter what they play. I'm sure that they (and their church) have good reasons for playing an electronic. I hope that you'll listen (and maybe even accept) those reasons instead of just being so closed-minded that "if it's not my way, I'm not interested."

Me being a freelance organist, I play on many different instruments, both pipe and electronic. Does this mean I am excluded as well? I hope not, because I still consider myself a fine musician, no matter what I play on. Some of my good friends who are organists play on electronics, but I'm still friends with them. I think that we need to do some examining of ourselves and see what's important here: are we going to exclude people just because we don't like what they play? Tim
Musician328@yahoo.com
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
The point made in the original posting could be said of ALL forms of art. Let us not scorn copies of originals when we cannot afford the original or when it is flat not available. Isn't a stage play like an original whereas a movie is a "copy" of the actors' performance - and cheaper. Magazine photos are half-tone "copies" of the original photosensitive print (not to mention of the negative, if you want the actual "first" form!)
I keep wanting a pipe organ in my house but a house large enough would cost almost as much as the organ! Churches and theatres may choose to purchase authentic pipe instruments - and should. Royalty may buy them; digital "copies" come close enough for most consumers. Which are you? Robert Starbuck
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
I am truly sorry there is no room in your world for me. I suppose we "digital" people should stop paying AGO dues and go away. Would you be happier? Would you be glad when the last pipe organ in town burns down and the church, faced with balancing their budget, institutes all guitar masses instead of at least replacing their pipe organ with a digital organ?

Please remove my story from your website, because I do not live up to your expectations. Beckie Henry
webhenry@pacbell.net
Organist
Novato United Methodist
Santa Rosa, CA
10/30/2003

"The Enemy Within"
Bob remarked about the expense of piano vs organ as being causitive in concert use of real pianos and presumably church use of digital organs. I think, if he stops to realize, the pianos played in probably the majority of concerts are either owned/leased by the venue in which the concert is played, or rented by the venue or artist for the occasion. I know of only two concerts played on rented (portative) organs, but there the organ wasn't the featured instrument, merely anciliary to the performance.

Most organ concerts are played at churches/auditoriums wherein there are pipe organs, with a few notable exceptions, like the dedication or memorial service played on a digital organ at whatever church it may be in service. Case in point, at Charleston's Piccolo Spoleto Organ Recital Series (l'Organo), the artists select which organ they wish to play, and none of them yet has chosen an electronic organ. Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
10/30/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
Another factor, and in my opinion the primary one, has to be borne in mind here, and that is the acoustics of the space itself. These can cover a multitude of sins, to which we protest in vain, Dan. I recall meeting with a tenor who wanted to learn one of my sacred songs. This was at a church with very reverberant acoustics. I had a tape of a very fine performance of my piece I wanted him to hear. I brought a Walkman with me (remember the days when that implied a tape player?), but remembered that there was a PA playback system I could use to possibly better effect. Better effect, indeed! Before he arrived, I set things up to cue up the tape and check levels. I listened to get the full effect and was bowled over. It sounded like the original performance. This same tape I had listened to at home a million times suddenly became the source of a resplendent acoustical experience, and I don't have to tell you that it was the church edifice itself that made this happen.

The high school where I teach is across the street from Trinity Church's derriere, and we have our graduations there. Having survived being in the area on 9/11/01, I am particualrly sensitive to these developments. But I could have predicted this one easily. The articles mention a first interim organ/synthesizer before the present one. Dan, people liked it, thought its sounds were refreshing and contemporary. Do you own and play CD's? They're totally syntho, too, and that is what people have become used to. And you never have to tune them, and no cyphers. I would wager that the biggest protests from within the church's fold will be to the reitirement of the radio that the new radio is superseding. The new one tries to sound like a real instrument; the old one never did, anymore than the one Stevie Winwood or Stevie Wonder plays.

I think the thing that most has your Irish up is the brazen hucksterism of what is going on. The historic church with its splendid acoustic is the main sounding board of any instrument you put in there, whether it's a radio or the Guarneri a recitalist carries in the door for one of their noonday recitals. The deals made between the manufacturer and the church were not out of magnanimity. The eyes of the world are focussed on this area, but so are their ears. No single acoustical organ manufacturer could have delivered this much sound so quickly under these conditions. You mention that several grouped together might have done. True, but who would take credit for the result, assuming that such an amalgamation would be something anyone would want credit for? Who would be responsible for maintenenance and upkeep? Firm A says it can't fix so-and-so because it issued from Firm B's factory, and so on.

The question is essentially a moral one: should the tragic events of that day from hell accrue to the benefit of any commercial concern. In trying to reach out to the community in some meaningful way, Michael Bolton bought my school a new piano for my classroom, because of our proximity to Ground Zero. I wasn't about to refuse it. The people at Trinity probably felt the same way. They are stewards to a glorious edifice with a glorious tradition. What they lack is taste and refinement. What the new radio's perpetrators lack is a certain sensibility that would preclude profiting from tragedy.

Whether or not people can hear the difference is not the issue. They shouldn't have to.
Victor Frost
VFrost@gis.net
10/5/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
I recently had added a "Pipe Organs 101" page to the lawrencephelps.com web site I support. I had included this text about electronic organs which I thought was relevant to the Trinity Church discussion:

"With modern digital technology, electronic organs have improved greatly. However, just because something has a computer in it, it doesn't mean it's better. Digital sound samples from real pipes are used now to create the sounds, but one must still pay attention to the balance of sound within an individual rank, between ranks in one division, and between divisions. These issues apply to any organ design, pipe or electronic. Like the modern trend in software of "feature-itis", organ builders must be careful not to get caught in the trap of making organs that focus on unique stop sounds randomly collected and miss the balanced design of the overall instrument so masterfully done by the best builders in history."

The red flag for me was the comment in one of the articles linked to that samples had been obtained from pipes up and down the east coast. It doesn't sound like a roadmap to a cohesive musical instrument.

I also have to wonder after having all the computers and thousands of lines of code if it just isn't easier to make a simple pipe and be done with it. Also, will software maintenance charges exceed normal pipe organ maintenance costs!?
Steve Thomas
steve@lawrencephelps.com
http://lawrencephelps.com/
10/4/2003

"The Amish Organist"
The recent posts about those 'fake' organs have made a distinct impression on me. It is time for all these 'fake' organs to be abandoned. We must stand up for the real thing and not ever back down!

And electric blowers have to go with all the turbulence problems they create. Back to hand-pumped bellows that carry the gentle pulse of the pumper's own pulse, adding life to the sound of the pipes.

In my desire to adhere this policy, it sort of eliminates most churches from my playing calendar...for a moment I thoght of finding a very, very liberal Quaker church that might have an organ that might be suitable stashed in the corner, ready to be dusted off and pt back into service...but no, there is no choice.

I must do what I must do.

I am eschewing electricity, electric blowers, electric actions, everything modern. I have found the solution for an organistt here in the United States, a congregation that STILL SPEAKS GERMAN! THE MOTHER TONGUE OF BACH!

I have been welcomed, and the quiet glory of the church services are a wonder.

Unfortunately though, I have found the only musical instrument they permit is a harmonica played st singings on Sunday evenings.

I kind of miss buttons, too.

Herr Pressler, do you perchance have a computer that might run on methane? The elders say that since the cows (who are shunned fromn the barn during church) belch so much of the gas, possibly it could be harnessed to drive a computer that would PLAY BACH!

I am sure I could convince the Bishop to let me have a computer if it wasn't connected to the outside world and wasn't dependent on telephone of power line use.

Have I made a grave error?

Did I make a mistake playing electronic organs since they were the only way I could get my hands on a keyboard to learn?

I still miss buttons. Honestly, these Plain People think Velcro is a vain thing.
noel jones
noel jones@frogmusic.com
athens, tn
10/4/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
Hi Dan,
Once again, I find myself writing even though I do not play the organ but as a musician. I have heard and worked with many types of electronic "replacements" for real instruments. In my opinion none can get even close to the sound or the feeling of the actual instrument being played by a real musician. This goes tenfold for an instrument with the aural power of a pipe organ. Unless the church in question were going to set up a sound system similar to a Pink Floyd concert, there is no way to get near the wall shaking sound of pipes. Even that would probably fall short.

Keep up the good work.
Kevin M. Kortsch
w311969@execpc.com
Bassist and Keyboard Dabbler
K & M Studios
Milwaukee, WI.
10/3/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
Hi, Dan! Also I thought your article, "In the Holes," was really witty! You are as ingenious and witty almost as Ben Franklin!

Yes, I totally agreed about what you said on the digital organ they installed at Trinity. Maybe they were afraid the dust is still settling from 9-11; but that's no excuse to spend so much money on that thing and then flaunt it! Their superior tone in the article also got to me. All we organists know there are no substitutes for real pipe organs; all others are imitations.
Now I'm learning some Bach preludes and fugues - 1st the prelude in C Major (the 9/8 one); next the P and F called the Wedge, in e minor. Also learning Durufle, Prelude and Fugue sur le nom d'Alain. Also I've started going on job interviews to find an organist position, hope to have one by June 2004, since after that we will have 2 children in college!
And finally, remember when you told about the tone sounding in the Black hole? Well, it was 57 octaves below middle C. My husband Curt (a math wiz) figured out that it is heard only once every 10,000 years! Wonder if we'll get to hear it in our lifetime?
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
substitute organist
none
Bethesda, MD
10/3/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
No complaints I read about the electronic organ installed at Trinity Church gave the brand name. Brand names make a difference in electronic organs the same as with pipe organs.

If those involved had installed a custom digital-sampled Johannus Monarke built in the Netherlands, and those who complain about an electronic being installed had heard such an organ, I'm sure they wouldn't be saying nor agreeing the church made a deal with the Devil!

They might still prefer a pipe organ, but that's another matter.

In the first place there's a very big difference between a digital and a digital-sampled organ!

In the second place Johannus samples every note of every rank from real organs on-site and in use. And makes all stops independent. Then voices all this on-site to suit the room and the customer. Thus no two Johannus organs sound just alike.

Johannus organs can and do sound like pipe organs! I practice on one, a three-manual Sweelinck 30 AGO at my church. And have a forum devoted to such instruments.
Pauline Phillips
JohannusOrgansSchool-owner@yahoogroups.com
Owner-Moderator
Johannus Organs eSchool
Centralia, Missouri
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/JohannusOrgansSchool/
10/3/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
Is it the high profile of Trinity Church that is incurring such rhetoric and wrath? A fair and balanced comparison will always show live acoustic instruments superior to their imitators, and there are health benefits as well, the natural harmonics developed in a single pipe can't possibly be reduced to a digital equivalent, no matter how fine the resolution, nor reproduced by a speaker of any sort.

I speak as someone who made a deal with the Devil years ago to play organs using only MIDI, and continue to traffic with him, by adjusting these MIDI files to sound as well as possible with samples of historic European organs. But I cannot achieve the spontaneity of a single announcement of a fugue subject by a gifted organist, because once I've recorded a piece, tweak though I might, it is forever trapped in time. A hint of a possible insight into a work, heard through a membrane of vibrating plastic (or whatever they make speakers out of these days).

Has anyone thought of the manifold services an organist provides outside of playing the organ? The planning, the work with the choir, the sensitivity to the many challenges facing his congregation, to which s/he responds liturgically (in the generic sense: liturgy being the work of the people).

These are archives, folks, or worse yet, eclectic mixtures of sounds gathered, modified, and tuned to sound like they belong together. To decry them so shrilly is to debase the integrity of what we all know to be true. Is the lady protesting o'ermuch?

Work behind the scenes to try to influence new installations; there will still be inferior pipe organs, poorly thought out installations and ghastly monstrous imitations, all cautionary examples to use in future consultations.

I get daily joy from my work with sampled organs, and present a large repertoire that might be used for study by organists who like to listen to others' ideas. I have even created a complete system for assisting organists to play Bach organ pieces that might be beyond their reach. We have sold fewer than 10 of these, either because they are tied to an electronic organ or because "Bach By Immersion" is lumped in people's minds with karaoke and the Suzuki system, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I can plead my disability, having lost the use of a hand, but I think what I do has some value, both for other shutins and less-than-brilliant organists who want a little guidance or an interesting registration idea or two, or to hear a ghostly replica of an old Silbermann organ. But I do not plan to take over all the organists' jobs in this country with my little monsters, any more than a devoted recordist plans to be the replacement for the Berlin Philharmonic.

The Phantom Organist
James Pressler
jocr@toast.net
Los Angeles
http://www.virtuallybaroque.com
10/3/2003

"The Monster of Trinity Church"
The son of a good friend of mine once told his dad, "You've got to hear the organ at our church. It's electronic, but it's fantastic. My friend told his son, a trombonist, "Perhaps I'll get you a plastic trombone to replace that old metal one you keep playing."

There is a sales gimic of "demonstrating" the similarities between pipe organs and electronic substitutes by playing recordings of each. Most cannot tell the difference, they say, but if that's true it's because they're both playing through electronic media.

I once served as assistant organist at a church that had used an analog electronic organ (toaster, is what we called it). We purchased and restored an historic pipe organ, and on the first use of the newly restored pipe organ, the organist and I played two preludes twice through. He played the first on the electronic, and then I echoed it on the pipes. Then he played the the second on pipes and I played it on the electrons. Nobody in the church was in any doubt as to which sound they preferred - the pipe organ won, hands down!
Bill Smith
mailhtims
organist
St. John's Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
10/3/2003

"Memorizing"
Dear CJC,
Hooray for you and great to hear from you! As a matter of fact, I have written a free workshop on memorizing. When you click on the link below, look for Workshop #11:
http://www.bachorgan.com/WorkshopsOnline.html
Good luck and have fun!
Dan
bachmaster@bachorgan.com
New York, NY
http://www.BACHorgan.com
9/20/2003

"One Day at a Time"
Hello, Dan.
I am currently learning Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 545. I love all of Bach's music! And I have enjoyed Baroque music more since I began playing the organ. Could you please tell me how you memorize? Is it more tactile for you? Or auditory? I know there must be volumes of books about memorization, but I'd like to hear about your own experience. :0)
CJC
claramae2@hotmail.com
9/18/2003

"Music: It's in the Holes"
I have it on reliable authority that animals are in the key of Db, which would make that Bb a sixth to their tonic, maybe a little jazzy harmony going on, there. As an organ builder, though, I'd have to insist it's an A#, not a Bb.

As to the question of material, and with an eye toward not depleating the rain forests to produce such a pipe, may I suggest extruded aluminum? What it suffers in sound quality won't be noticed by human ears. It may tax the resources a bit, so we should plan for a stopped pipe of only 600 quadrillion feet (96,076,792,050,571 miles). The questions remain, though, as to what scale to build it and where to place it once finished.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://sky.prohosting.com/liammacg
9/16/2003

"Mixed Monday"
Welcome back from your vacation, Dan.

Here, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, I feel as though I'm on permanent vacation. But let me tell you, these mountains are far from silent. Each night I listen to Symphony for Birds and Insects, by Ma Nature. Talk about complexity. It's like a Passacaglia and Fugue in living voices.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://sky.prohosting.com/liammacg
9/9/2003

"Turn It Around; Try Upside-Down!"
How about "Inside-out"?

I write now not as a performer, but as a composer who, to be sure, has never been asked where in various programs he would like his works to appear.

And yet, all over the world, in all different genres from solo to orchestral, my music is virtually always programmed as the opener of the second half of the program. It's gotten to the point where I don't even consider this remarkable anymore.

Something innocuous to bring them in from Intermission, I guess. I always program myself last when I do an organ recital though. Maybe Dan's right about breaking down this traditonal ordering, but I'm thinking in terms of the quick getaway.
Victor Frost
VFrost@gis.net
8/24/2003

"how bad off are we"
I am confused about the reply from NY about a shortage of organists. When I began studying organ in NY in the mid '60's, there was a shortage of organists. We recently left NY and were aware of many unfilled positions. We are in Kentucky now, and there are churches with no organs! AS far as contemporary music in the churches, I walked out of a conference when a scantily clad female gyrated to hymns that were being played by a band and the rhythms were unsingable. I mentioned to one of the organizers "You can keep your "New Beginnings" (Topic of Conference); I am taking my old money and going home!"
Ruth Blue
bluedot317@aol.com
Retired Substitute
Florence/ Kentucky
8/10/2003

"How Bad Off Are We Really?"
There certainly is merit in what you said about how the organ and traditional church music still have a niche in our culture. I agree with Cynthia Rogers-Greene's opinions, too (she posted a feedback). And now on another subject, 'HEY EVERYBODY IN BACHORGAN LAND - I PASSED THE CAGO EXAM!' I just found out July 17th. It's the 3rd time I've taken it since June 1999. I'm really happy that I finally passed. Any of you AGO members should consider taking one of the certification tests - I studied with 2 teachers who were FAGOs when I was preparing for the tests. I have learned so much and also improved my skills by striving towards the CAGO test.
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
substitute organist and piano teacher
none & any
Bethesda, MD
7/19/2003

"How Bad Off Are We Really?"
I agree with you. The pipe organ is not "dying." It is in its own realm and that is desirable! We can celebrate it and promote it. Christian contemporary music may be "thriving" now but the organ has had a niche for a much longer time. Our American culture needs to know that we are here, though. We cannot cart around elitist attitudes and expect that a hip hop or punk rock generation is going to listen or care. There have to be ways to promote the pipe organ and use it in a more inter-generational way. Someday, organists and pipe organs will become respected and acknowledged by more than just a small segment of the population. That would be a real coup!
Cynthia Roberts-Greene
LibraX22000@yahoo.com
Music Director/Organist
Siesta Key Chapel, Presbyterian
Sarasota, FL
7/17/2003

"How Bad Off Are We Really?"
There is no question that the organ is not dying. This myth is perpetuated by the same people who maintain that there is a shortage of organists. This is absolute BS. In fact, for those of us seeking employment, there are far too many organists.

It is difficult to pinpoint the reason why these ideas keep being bounced around. I'm leaning toward believing that it is university and conservatory teachers who want more students. I'd be interested to hear the views of others.
J. David Williams
Director of Music & Organist
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
New York, NY
7/17/2003

"How Bad Off Are We Really?"
As a former pipe organ builder, I am confident the reports of its demise are vastly premature. The firm for which I built had orders, when I left, that would see it through the next three years. I'm told that is a short wait for a custom-built pipe organ. It's astounding the number of priests and organists who perpetuate the myth of the pipe organs' death. As long as there are organists who can feel the majesty and dynamic power of the instrument, and who know how to play it correctly, attractively, convincingly, it will survive.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. John's Episcopal Church - Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://sky.prohosting.com/liammacg/
7/16/2003

"Giant Swirling Masses"
And in what cosmos did JSB create his his swirling massive fugues? Why in the universe of Buxtehude of course. Last Sunday I rocketed into Buxtehude's great g minor fugue. As I ran through it before the service one of my clever flock referred to me as the phantom referring obliqulely to the JSB d minor. How right he was. How fortunate I am to have him listening. After the service he asked me how to pronounce Buxtehude so he made the connection purely by instinct. The Buxtehude g minor is also the perfect package for an entire service : the lyric slightly melancholy adagio as prelude, the sprightly allegro as offertory, and the the towering Andante final section to wind up. An hour's worth of Buxtehude genius in one piece. JSB had to hoof it all the way from Arnstadt to Lubeck to experience Buxtehude. All we have to is open the music and enjoy the highest North german form of fugue. It's technically friendly too.
Peter Stapleton
pstops1@earthlink.net
First Church of Christ Scientist, Wellesley, MA
7/8/2003

"Bach scores free on internet"
Possible you are all familiar with this site:

http://www.bh2000.net/score/orgbach/

but here it is anyway. I have put this link in my wallet so when I unexpectedly get acces to an organ I simply look for a PC an download and print one or more pieces I want to use.
Virtually all Bach organ pieces can be found here. Even while printouts are approx 10% smaller than most printed versions they are perfectly useable.
Regards from Holland (The Hague) again.
Christian J. Faddegon
christian@faddegon.com
organist
German Church
The Hague, Netherlands
7/2/2003

"Time is of the Essence"
Memorizing as you learn is an excellent discipline. I used to memorize so easily, 20 years ago, but now I have to do it deliberately. Like you, I like to play things I've just learned, but find that after a few years, I enjoy them even more. There's a period of time between, though, during which I really get to dislike a lot of music from hearing it so many times while learning it. I played the 'cello in elementary and high school, and most of the other kids in my various quartet relationships hated Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusic. I tired of it too, but I've never tired of playing any piece I've ever learned of Bach.

I'll have to get back into that discipline and learn/memorize a new piece - maybe this year.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC USA
http://sky.prohosting.com/liammacg
6/16/2003

"Yes, Tim, There is a Santa Claus"
Hi Everybody,

Yes, it's me, the person who this rampage is all about. :-)

Thanks for all your ideas, suggestions, and encouragement about the issues I have with dumbing down church music. I was telling Dan a couple of weeks ago when he asked if he could use me in his rampage that the reason I'm so hyped up about good traditional church music (which of course is the way it should be) is because I just graduated from college last month and am a newly-formed professional musician with new and fresh ideas & a young and enthusiastic approach to good church music.

However, I did have troubles and tribulations of my own. When I was in school, I played for a Lutheran Church close to where I attended school, and the pastor there had no respect for the music. I would put my musical selections in the bulletin to try and get the congregation more involved in what I was playing. Normally I would have 2 preludes, or sometimes 3 if they were short enough. But, the pastor would come out of the sacristy, and just begin his pre-service announcements at the first pause in the music that he hears, whether I was finished with all my preludes or not.

Another thing that I didn't mention in my feedback that really irks me is when parishoners and pastors are so concerned about time. The same pastor that I talked about in the previous paragraph, if the service began to get lengthy, he would start cutting hymns, hymn stanzas, and parts of the liturgy - without telling me of course. It would be a spur of the moment thing, and he would just tell me and the congregation right then and there. Why do people put a time limit on worshipping their Lord? It especially bothered me one time when the closing hymn was "Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense" (Hymn 266 in Lutheran Worship). The hymn had 7 stanzas, and the last phrase of stanza 6 read, "for the very grave is stirred, when the trumpet's blast is heard." In my practice session, I worked out a poignant and powerful trumpet fanfare to take us from that phrase to the final stanza which was a stanza of Doxology. The organ I played on had a great set of herald trumpets on it that I was going to use, and was also going to employ the Zimbelstern on the last stanza. I worked on this trumpet fanfare in my practice session for almost a half and hour to get it absolutely perfect, and I was very excited about doing in on Sunday. However, because the service was running late, the pastor announced at the end "We join in singing Hymn 266, Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense. Because of time, we will only sing stanzas 1, 3 & 7." I was so mad!! I worked on this beautiful fanfare between verses 6 & 7 and now I couldn't use it.

I hope that wherever I get called to serve as Director of Music (I'm still in the process of looking), I get called somewhere that either appreciates good church music or I can help shape the congregation into appreciating church music. We'll just have to see.

Ah, the trials and tribulations of being a church musician!
Thanks everybody! :-)
Tim
Musician328@yahoo.com
Chicago, IL
6/11/2003

"Yes, Tim, There is a Santa Claus"
I read Tim's comments about "dumbing down church music." I agree there is lessing and laziness in church music. My wife goes to a Presbyterian Church and the music is terrible. The hymns are sung to a point where it becomes a drudge. They are not played to a tempo that encourages singing. The choir sings or attempts to sing choral pieces. Two part harmony is treated like difficult music.

In my church, Catholic Church, the musicians are treated like second hand citizens. In the middle of a prelude the lector begins to speak. We have a superb organist but she is limited on what she plays. During a time when there should be music, Lent, there is not special music or chorales, etc.

Enough venting. The point is Tim is right. As musicians we have an uphill drive to educate the church members in music and music appreciation.

Thanks,
Will Rogers
wrogers2@bellsouth.net
Retired
Riverdale, GA
www.willwrogers.actorsite.com
6/11/2003

"Yes, Tim, There is a Santa Claus"
To all of the Bachorgan.com commumity and Tim:
Yes, a dilemma! Don't feel alone! Only think about what you can do to educate the congregation about music, which is so important to you and the ambiance of the worship service. They just don't know yet how important music is, because you have some work (and fun) to do!

My campaign started several years ago when I asked the church secretary to insert little blurbs about my Sunday music choices into the worship bulletin -- some little thing about the era of the music, the tune name, the composer, or comments about the text. For example, the congregation doesn't mind reading an item that informs them a little about the poet who wrote the text and that omitting stanzas is actually an insult to that poet, because s/he is telling a story with the stanzas. However, if you were to try to verbally explain this to anyone, they would probably start arguing with you instead about how long they have to stand to sing all those verses!

Let your congregation know that your music each Sunday, and that of the choir, is a Music Ministry - its not just a job! After all, we are expressing our spiritual gifts through our music. Many people in the congregation never think of the musicians as ministering, but we certainly soothe and inspire many souls with our thoughtfully chosen voluntaries and hymn playing.

Individually ask people in the congregation if there is a special piece they would like to hear. Expect complaints! Rejoice (humbly) in compliments! However, getting personal is one of the best ways to introduce your sincere interest in ministering to your congregation.

Another idea might be to pick something musical that your church presently doesn't have, and spread interest in acquiring that instrument or item to the glory of God and enhancing the worship setting for the congregation. We went through the process of adopting and installing a beautiful, used, 25-note set of Deagan chimes, and then having a music ministry blessing worship service to consecrate the chimes.

From there, we progressed (over the last 3 years) to enlarging our present pipe organ and moving up to a 3-manual console, which will be ready for fall 'semester'. In the meantime, I have been teaching and coaching any children in the congregation on piano and organ and playing duets with them for the Offertory slot -- its amazing how much musical interest that generates among parents, grandparents and other well-wishers, and the little ones realize that they are contributing to worship in a meaningful way.

Educating the congregation is an ongoing cultivation process. Be creative! Pull people in by asking them to participate! Just jump in and see, hear and feel the results! Good Luck!
Lois J Miller
ljmiller@iastate.edu
Organist, First Christian Church
Ames, IA
6/11/2003

"Yes, Tim, There is a Santa Claus"
This is a question for Peter Stapleton:

Peter, you said this in your feedback to me:
An upwardly mobile musical church can be a rewarding place to be. You may have to cross denominations. Lutherans are not known to pay adequate salaries for the work they demand, and Anglican musical Supremacy is balanced by internal turmoil. TAO's notices of wrongful terminations are predominantly devoted to Episcopal churches. I agree with Dan that a move is in order. If you stay where you are, you support what is against your principles.

When you say that if I stay where I am, I am supporting what is against my principles, are you saying that I should leave the Lutheran church entirely, or just go to a different Lutheran church that is in that 30% that is on the way up?
Tim
Musician328@yahoo.com
Chicago, IL
6/11/2003

"Yes, Tim, There is a Santa Claus"
Dear Tim,
You find yourself in of those 60% of American churches which I describe as Liturgically Terminal in research I did for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. You are in Musical Calcutta and only a Mother Theresa could sustain life, much less improve anything. At the top 10% of the heap are glorious venues with magnificent offerings. In Boston, Trinity sells albums through Amazon at a great rate. The Church of the Advent with its superlative Skinner and exemplary acoustics let Byrd rock and Lassus roll in addition to its impeccable chant. Emmanuel Church does a complete Bach cantata with orchestra every week after the sermon. Then there are the remaining 30%, on the way down, staying where they are, or, note, on the way up. An upwardly mobile musical church can be a rewarding place to be. You may have to cross denominations. Lutherans are not known to pay adequate salaries for the work they demand, and Anglican musical Supremacy is balanced by internal turmoil. TAO's notices of wrongful terminations are predominantly devoted to Episcopal churches. I agree with Dan that a move is in order. If you stay where you are, you support what is against your principles.
Bon Voyage.
Peter Stapleton
6/11/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Hi,
I agree with Bill in his last feedback post about how traditional worship is a higher calling to praise our creator. We do this out of reverence and respect for our Savior. Worshipping him with contemporary music does not imply this reverence and respect that He deserves. It borrows from our secular world and culture - and most often this secular world and culture is not what God would favor as "good." What I mean by that is our secular world is full of sin, lust, greed, etc., and if we borrow from that culture and bring it into our worship services - what does that say to not only the worshippers, but to the Lord himself?

As far as the comments about bringing the unchurched back into the church, they can't be won back by pointless music and very shallow theology (as it was said in the TAO article under the "criticism" section). They need to be brought into church with the highest reverence and respect toward our creator, and need to experience the rich theology that we have in our traditional services. Winning them back with tasteless, contemporary music is not going to last forever. After all, what word is embedded in the word "contemporary"? - TEMPORARY! It will only last for a while, but traditional worship has not died down, it is forever alive and will continue to flourish. Bach's music has lasted over 250 years and it is still loved by musicians and parishoners alike. And yet, these contemporary Christian artists have one song that go up on the billboards and then lose popularity. What does that say?

If you can't tell - I'm a traditional worship buff! :-)
Tim
Musician328@yahoo.com
6/8/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Better late than never, I guess. I just returned from the Region IV AGO Convention. While there was discussion about the advent of digital "organs," nobody there was in despair over a band edging them out. Of course, we were a very dedicated portion of a very dedicated organization, and I would have expected no less.

As to the Ford analogy, I agree it's hogwash. I don't know how many times I've heard, in the last 50 years, that the church, as we know it, is dead. Yet I have played to capacity congregations in the last 10 years. If it was dead 50 years ago, what happened? Why wasn't it buried? Quite the contrary, the church is alive and well, and those congregations who insist the old ways were and are wrong need to reevaluate their motives.

I liken this discussion to one of "inclusive" language. I was raised under a system that declared language to be used one way, and that I wasn't allowed to use it any other way. Suddenly, those same parents and teachers scold me for not changing my language with the times. I accepted Jesus' salvation back when I could, should and did think of Him as having a Father, not a Virgin Mother and a Mother-God. Now I'm being told God isn't my Father. Is my salvation, then, null and void?

Traditional Music in our churches has survived, if for no other reason, because it is not the cultural norm. It is a higher calling of praise to God, as well it should be. It should be a more refined expression of reverence, a time to worship our Creator and Savior, (as you have said, Dan) not a love fest with our best friend.
Bill Smith (real name)
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC USA
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
6/7/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Hi Dan, and everybody in Bachorgan land! You'll be pleased to know I just took the CAGO exam of the AGO yesterday and will await the results. It's definitely a worthwhile enterprise. About "Have you driven a Ford . . ." Well, I agree. The author of that article seemed to have the opinion, "everybody in our USA culture is doing these things so we need to jump on the bandwagon." According to his reasoning, I suppose we should all wear a doo-rag (headwrap), get tatoos, and drive SUV's just because all of these things are popular in our youth-oriented culture today. I believe we have to fight the battle to educate people about our great traditions in church music and classical music, because so many people don't value it now (especially young people). My husband and I had the experience that we were attending a Presbyterian church for many years that has a wonderful music program (Chevy Chase Presbyterian in DC). In 1995 they got a new minister - he decided to bring in a contemporary service with rock instruments and casual dress to get more young members with families; he kept the traditional one at 11 a.m., but had the early one timed so that people would have to bring their children to the earlier contemporary one to make it more convenient. That meant those children would never be exposed to traditional church music (they have a 3 manual Rieger & Ken Lowenberg the music director is the greatest, also a composer). My family and I changed churches because of that. We joined an Episcopal church, St. Dunstan's, where Julie Evans is the music director and organist (2 manual Wicks), she is excellent and uses only traditional music (it's a smaller church). Well, the minister there is very supportive of church musicians and is a pianist himself, and a lady who's a guitarist finally got him to add a contemporary service after lobbying him for 6 years, but it's before the main service and only a few people attend and Jeff the minister plays the piano - it's not even in the sanctuary. The church has gotten so many new, younger members in the past 7 years they're overflowing, and all with traditional music! So much for the argument that "we need contemporary rock music to get more younger members." you don't need it.
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
piano teacher, substitute organist
Bethesda, MD
6/5/2003

"Thank you"
Thanks for your workshops--for example the very helpful one on the F major fugue.
Norman Chapman, AAGO
normanchapman2000@yahoo.com
6/3/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Bravo, Dan!
Could not have expressed the frustrations we face any better. Yes, traditional worship has survived and shall continue to survive, despite the liberals feeble attempts to turn formal worship into a 'party with Jesus' mentality. We must all hang tough and continue our heritage of excellence in music and worship!
Marti Hammel
marti807@earthlink.net
Organist-Choir Direction
Tacoma, WA
6/2/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Thank you for your "Ford" comments. (Our family has always been a "Chevrolet" family.) I do like your analogy. Organists must help maintain the quality of the worship experience and offer only the very best for God.
James Moore
jamesmoore52@hotmail.com
Worcester, MA
6/2/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Go Dan!
I thought the article "Have You Driven A Ford Lately?" was very offensive. The use of Christian Karoke, guitars, drums and etc. in a worship service is not my idea of a relgious experience.

By the way, the article did not mention that Henry Ford was a Nazi sympathiser.
Jeff Goodwin
jeff5361@aol.com
Columbus, Ohio
6/2/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Bravo!! I agree wholeheartedly with your opinions. I do clergy supply work in Episcopal churches and yesterday was at one which uses a 6 member "Praise Band" of guitars, drums, and keyboard for all their music. It works well, for contemporary praise music, but was not very effective with the traditional hymns, which they also sing. They played well, and I mentioned that during the announcements. However, I also said that I have been a pipe organ student for several years, and how important that type of music is as well.
The Rev. Nancy O'Shea
castlemaine1911@msn.com
Chaplain
Saint Francis Hospital
Memphis, TN
6/2/2003

"Have You Driven a Ford Lately?"
Hi Dan,
I liked your rampage. The National Pastoral Musicians (Catholic stuff) Association just did a whole issue of their magazine on contemporary music in liturgy. I am in the process of writing an article back (which may turn into a book) on the subject. This need for us to feel worship instead of offering worship is a battle I have had to contend with for years. I did a good job of blending all styles here. We have had jazz to classical to contemporary to chant.

I actually had a priest say they were hoping for a certain sound" that made people tap their feet. I just about slapped him silly.

I am reading a book by Marva Dawn called "Reaching Out without Dumbing Down". It deals with the trap of designing worship to the needs of modern society and its idolatry (and need to be entertained) as opposed to making God the primary focus with our worship and praise.

People are selfish (especially clergy) and they want what they see on TV. Just a one hour (or less) bit of entertainment and cathartic emotion and off they go. Their criteria for participation is whether the music has caught them or moved them to worship. And of course, like the terrible example of 'Sister Act', people think using music they hear on the radio will attract large crowds into the pews.

We are called to be in the world but not of the world. How can we do that if we only hear contemporary fluff which has no strong theology or message?

Peace,
Joe
6/2/2003

"O Solo Mio"
Hi Dan,
This is my first time posting on your feedback page. I have been receiving via e-mail your weekly rampages for over a year now, but have never responded. This one, however, I needed to respond to, not only about your rampge, but about something that occurred with me not too long ago.

First, I have to pose the question: Do you think that we are dumbing down church music? It just seems that not many people want to put the time or effort into learning and performing good church music for services and concerts anymore. Everyone just wants to do a half-decent job and be done with it. I know that not everyone is like this, but a lot of organists I've heard lately seem to be like this.

The reason I bring this up is because we had a substitute organist play at my church this past Sunday. Usually I would play if the regular organist is unavailable, but for some reason this other lady was playing today. Hearing her play was almost an embarassment. Her playing was very inconsistent and mushy - meaning that notes ran together, chords ran together (which made for some very interesting harmonizations) and hymn stanzas ran together. She did not give us any breathing time between hymn stanzas. I shouldn't be the one to judge, maybe this is how she plays, maybe this is her style. But, she was just hard to follow and it was hard to sing.

Also, it's unfortunate that, in my church at least, we are dumbing down the liturgy too. The hymnal we use in our church is Lutheran Worship, and there is some settings of the Divine Services and the Daily Offices that are very musically rich. However, churches don't want to sing them anymore. My church for example hardly ever uses the full liturgy anymore and just uses "cut-and-paste liturgy." I have visions of organ, brass, choir, and congregation singing Richard Hillert's "Festival Canticle - Worthy is Christ." I would get tears in my eyes because it is so glorious! But now, people just don't want to sing the liturgy anymore. It irks me as an organist to be sitting at the console and not being able to use the instrument or my abilities to the fullest extent. Even the hymns we sing are usually cut because they cut hymn stanzas.

Does anyone feel the same way I do? I don't know, maybe I'm expecting too much, or times are changing, or people aren't very enthusiastic about music in worship anymore. But I feel like our worship is getting dumbed down by bad music - or the lack of music entirely.

Then, as you said in your rampage, you have Bach's music, which is absolutely glorious! I actually played Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E minor ("Cathedral") a few weeks ago for a postlude and only a handful of people stayed and listened. I am very grateful for those handful of people who stayed.

Maybe it's just me. Does anyone feel the same way I do? Anyway, thanks for letting me vent!
Tim
Musician328@yahoo.com
Chicago, IL
5/21/2003

"Memorial"
Dan, thanks for adding to my repertoire of (not technically challenging, but) poignant pieces for special occasions. I'm sure my congregation will appreciate your efforts.

I didn't start out as a trumpet player, but during my 20 years of military service, I learned the true meaning of Taps when I was asked to play the bugle at a funeral of a fallen shipmate. It isn't easy to blow an even note with a lump in your throat and tears just below the surface. I'm sure those items won't effect the sound of the organ, though they may add to the expression of the music.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
5/13/2003

"Workshop #12"
Surely any forum worth its salt provides a platform for differences of opinion. It makes all of us think more and better. But how odd to think that Workshop #12 has a point of departure exactly the opposite of my guest one, #4, with regard to the use of alto clef in organ literature.

Now that I have finally provided you with the PDF of the second book of my Preludes for your Exchange Page, I will be providing, at the request of many of your subscribers, alternative versions of the numbers where I used alto clef in the left hand. It is my hope that these be used just to get to know the notes, to see whether such-and-such Prelude is one you might have some use for, and that eventually the piece be performed from the original notes.

I cherish the same hope with respect to the Bach chorale prelude you have notated. The difference here is that the notes of my opus are now all down in edited form on Finale, where changing clef requires a few mouse clicks. I will have to do a little housecleaning with staff placement because of all the leger lines that this will generate, but I don't see the task taking me more than about a half hour.

But how long did it take you to inscribe the Bach chorale? You were thinking of your fold (and perhaps even took into consideration the reactions, shared with you, to my silly Preludes: like the music, but oh that alto clef) and have done a signal service. But, Dan, if you had spent the same amount of time playing through viola parts in Mozart and Beethoven quartets, you'd be a whiz at the clef by now!
Victor Frost
VFrost@gis.net
4/21/2003

"GUEST RAMPAGE: Maple Grove Can Save Us!"
Hi Dan, Thanks for providing the fine setting of Bach's "Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland" - I've got my readable Advent music all printed out on Maundy Thursday! Nothing like working ahead!
Blessed Eastertide & abounding joy to you & yours!
Jim Gladstone
jgladstone@clearcall.net
Cantor & Director of Music
Carmel Lutheran Church
Carmel, IN 46033
www.carmellutheran.org
4/17/2003

"Pipemares"
When I relocated to Asheville NC, I was shocked to learn that no Public Radio stations in Western NC broadcast PipeDreams. On the PRI Listeners Center I found there are four stations in NC that air the program - all on or near the east coast.

I listen to it via live streaming on the Internet, but I can't get the new programs until mid-week that way. No problem, though. I only hope the live streaming isn't taken away from us, too.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
4/10/2003

"Pipemares"
Pipedreams was dropped in Southern California in January of 2001, when KUSC was purging itself of anything nonclassical (the theatre organ section was the apparent excuse). I have written to Minnesota Public Radio suggesting they broadcast it on their affiliated station here, KPPC, but they responded that wouldn't be possible because it was a news and information station (News from Lake Woebegone?). One solution for the disenfranchised listener is to go to http://www.pri.org/PublicSite/listeners/index.html , choose Pipe Dreams and a state, and locate a streaming webcast.
Jame Pressler
jocr@toast.net
Los Angeles
http://www.virtuallybaroque.com
4/10/2003

"Funny Quotes and a Question"
Hi Dan. I don't know if this is appropriate for Feedback, but I was trying to remember some funny sayings New York City musicians said in the 1970's about the various colleges there or near NYC. My friend Tina's sister Peggy, who's a graduate of Manhattan School of Music and plays violin with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (I think), used to know these: "student from Manhattan School of Music: I can't play this, it's much too hard, I should have gone to Juilliard." "student from Juilliard: I mustn't miss (slip?), I dare not fear, or it's the end of my career." "student from Curtis Institute: If I should slip I need not fear, it's not the notes it's the idear." I may not have the words right, so maybe somebody in the "community" would know them.
Also here's a possible topic for discussion: Since I'm an organist/pianist, I still practice both instruments, although organ more right now. But do most organists rarely practice the piano, or do they practice it regularly to keep up a pianistic technique required for certain organ pieces such as Widor's Toccata? At a master class once, an organist told me he had heard Gillian Weir, the British organist, say "Never practice an organ piece on the piano." -- Happy Easter (in a while)
Susan Burkhalter
4/3/2003

"Significant Finding"
Dan --
All other hijinks today will be paled by your blue curtain! Yes, long live Bach's essence and inspiration!
Lois J Miller
Organist
Ames, IA
4/1/2003

"Lego Harpsichord"
You got me in the April Fool's spirit, so I checked out the Lego Harpsichord site you have listed: http://www.henrylim.org/Harpsichord.html
What a hoot! Even an MP3 sample of the Goldberg theme played on it. No fooling.
Stravinsky remarked that a harpsichord sounded like two skeletons fornicating on a tin roof. Well, on this instrument, it sounds like they're playing hopscotch.
Sherman Hesselgrave
Sherman@SpiritOne.com
4/1/2003

"The phantom tollbooth"
I remember my son and daughter each read that book when they were around 9 or 10 years old and I read it, too. It does take you to a fantasyland. On the subject of Dr. Seuss books, I tried a neat experiment: My son is now 17. One Sunday I was preparing a nice small ham for the family. I had recalled the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham, a few days before this. I decided to make those Jello Jiggler eggs of green jello and serve them with the ham. I didn't tell anybody in the family what I was planning. My son walked past the kitchen while I was removing the green eggs from their mold & was a bit alarmed that I'd break them. Then he got a big grin on his face. "Oh, I get it now!" he chortled. We had real "green eggs and ham" for dinner, and I even played the tape of the book while we ate it!
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
substitute organist, piano teacher
Bethesda, MD
3/30/2003

"Bulls-eye! Or not."
Zen or not, I have heard such a performance by Fr. Francis Kline o.s.c.o, third Abbot at Mepkin Abbey, in South Carolina. He explained to the congregation before his offertory that he would play a piece he had played hundreds of times, but he was going to play it for the first time, relying on the Holy Spirit to supply new life to it, and he couldn't wait to hear how it sounded. It was truly an inspired performance.

While I've never aspired to the inspired performance, being more like the archery student who was merely trying to hit the target, I have at times achieved it as you suggested, when I least expected it.

One morning in Advent, I was playing a piece by Paul Manz that had a very rhythmic accompaniment to a pedal solo. The 1831 Erben tracker organ I was playing was clicking and clacking like a train rolling over a joint in the tracks, and there came a phrase or two that had the same rubato of a steam locomotive's whistle. I didn't mean to do it, and I couldn't recreate it when I tried, but it was the only time anyone from that congregation - French Protestant (Huguenot) Church in Charleston SC - ever complimented my playing.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
3/26/2003

"GUEST RAMPAGE: It Ain't Easy Bein' Green"
In like wise, I have the misfortune to be the operator of a three manual and pedal electronic organ-substitute. I do the best I can, but I make no apologies for the appliance I'm saddled with. I didn't buy it or give it to the church, and if it's all they can afford, then they don't have to apologize to me for it, either.

It is frustrating to try for more sound than the speaker system is capable of providing, which results in a rather harsh, crashing sound (speaker avalanch), for which the only cure is to stop playing, reduce the registration and/or expression settings, then start playing again, all the while hoping the congregation keeps singing the hymn. Add to that the random sudden volume level fluctuations that we've been experiencing, and I'm ready to tear my last three hairs out!

It is also frustrating when the only speakers for the appliance are in the front of the church, while the console is in the rear, 100 feet away. Time lag is not the only concern. Since I never learned to play accurately on a silent console, and since I can't always hear the organ, my playing isn't very accurate. The congregation seated near the console can't hear the organ either, so they still think I'm an organist. Those seated near the speakers know better by now.

I'm hoping for a trade from the 3M/P electronic with lots of stops to a three-rank pipe organ with questionable voicing. At least with the pipes, I know that each time I press a given key with a given combination, I will get a given sound.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
3/13/2003

"Every Beaver Has His Day"
I am reminded of my own concert (the only one, so far), but mine had a different twist to it. I have the unfortunate habit of listening to what I'm playing as I play. I notice every mistake and, equally unfortunately, usually brood over it as I make several others instead of getting on with the music. In that concert, though, my first indication of trouble was when my vision started blurring during the opening piece. I had decided to open with a hymn (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Rockingham), which I could play in my sleep. When my vision started blurring, though, I realized the all-too-familiar sensation of losing consciousness. Not wantint to trust my sleep-playing abilities, I took stock of my situation and found far too much tension in my neck. I relaxed, blood flow was reestablished to the brain, my vision cleared and I didn't miss a lick (Thank God!).

Every piece I played thereafter had one or more serious flaw, though. I heard them all. They were usually in the cantus firmus. "My God! They're going to think I never saw a pipe organ before!" I thought. Far from it, they liked it. I wondered why.

In reviewing the tape, afterward, I realized the mistakes were musical in themselves, and though I hadn't intended to stray from the melody, it was almost a logical diversion. I became convinced my fingers knew how to play music, even if my somewhat muddled mind didn't think so.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
3/6/2003

"European-American mutual appreciation"
Dan and other American Organ friends,
I visited last week the Cleveland area and played several organs (United Methodist Church of Painesville /Schantz organ) St Ann Roman Catholic Church in Cleveland Heights and St Paul Episcopal also in Cleveland Heights (Holtkamp, Hradetsky and Slajch). I was again pleasantly surprised by the tremendous hospitality of all organists and reverends I met and the freeedom given to me allowing me to play all organs I visited. Many European churches should learn to have the same hospitality to foreign organists.
While playing the organs (both electro-pneumatic as well as tracker organs) I once again came to the conclusion that the USA has a tremendous amount of beautiful organs. The only remark that came to mind is that possibly US church architekts should learn to design buildings with better acoustics. In some cases magnificant organs were not able to excel because of board ceilings which immediately kill the acoustics which makes organs sound even better.

Nevertheless I have noticed that many organist (worldwide) are looking at the famous French composers or European Composers in General. My experience in the US has convinced me that we should have more mutual exchange of composers and compositions. I find that many US composed organ pieces are of excellent quality and undervalued by other organ minded countries such as the Netherlands. For example Karel Paukert of St. Pauls Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights played "From the Armor of Lights"from Daniel Pinkham which I found impressive music and more Euopeans should get to know such music. I have no clue how to organize things but I would certainly like to see more exchange between Europe and the US of such great compositions. As a European myself I think that Europeans should learn to more appreciate and familiarize themselves with US organ culture and achievements.

Last but not least I visited Oberlin (Dan will be pleasantly surprised) and spoke to David Boe. Unfortunately many organ activities took place at the time which left no slots for me to play the college organs but I was invited to come back and play those great organs on my next trip to Ohio.

Thanks for a great time in the US and lets see how we can learn more from each other.
Christian J. Faddegon
2/21/2003

"Bach: My Guilty Pleasure"
That was very funny! It reminds me of the "Herbal Essences" TV ad about "indulge yourself" or something. Well, to paraphrase the quote on the "performing" philosophy of graduates of Curtis School of Music (I'm not one), ". . . I do not fear, it's not the notes it's the idear!" I believe Bach himself exulted in the crunchy harmonies, and he would probably enjoy your approach. I'll bet he was a very exuberant guy himself.
Susan Burkhalter
scastlekep@aol.com
substitute organist
Bethesda, Maryland
2/14/2003

"Bach: My Guilty Pleasure"
You're right. The D Dorian Prelude makes an excellent and versatile service piece. And you can consider yourself fortunate if you find yourself "speeding up" an offertory. I play for a church that NEVER takes less than 3.5 minutes to collect the tithes, REGARDLESS of how many people are in attendance. I have used the D Dorian Prelude countless times as an offertory because it is just about right for our church.

And as far as memorizing goes, God bless!! I haven't memorized anything since college, and that was over 20 years ago, and I hated every tortuous millisecond of Organ Performance Class when I was "on stage". Seems that part of my brain just never developed, so I have the utmost respect for people who can memorize.

And thanks for pointing out the misprint in the Peters Edition. I just always assumed it was a d natural!...Not only can't I memorize, I can't even play what's written either.
Bill Kistler
wakistler01@yahoo.com
Asst. Organist
First Pres.
Metuchen, NJ
2/12/2003

"Free Workshop #10:"
Your mentioning an experiment of memorizing the Fugue as you learn it reminded me that I always used to memorize as I learned. It was part of learning, so said my 'cello teacher in the 1950s, and for me it became so. When I first started playing the organ, I couldn't turn pages without an ominous pause in the music, so memorization afforded me a seamless flow from beginning to end. I still don't turn pages worth a hoot, which is why I transcribe nearly everything I play with the help of my computer. If there must be a page turn, and if I haven't memorized (learned) the piece, I can usually put the page turn where I can get a hand free. Otherwise, I reduce the type size and get it all onto two opposing pages (where possible).
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
2/12/2003

"Bach: My Guilty Pleasure"
Can anyone really enjoy Bach TOO MUCH? I think not. I remember hearing Andrťs Segovia playing Bach on the guitar (not an easy task, I learned). He said, in a speech I heard, "I tried to separate myself into two people." One of his persona would play the music and the other would listen and revel in its sonorities. He said Bach is like a tree: It takes two people to look at it; one looks until he is tired, and the other takes over from there. (That makes it even handier to be two persona.)

I listen to myself play all the time - about as successfully as what you describe. I suppose I have never learned to play without hearing it and listening to it.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
2/11/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
Our installation of a 5 manual tracker organ in Lausanne Switzerland has commenced and I've posted pics available from our site: www.cbfisk.com . The pics are rather large, so it will be slow loading with a dial-up modem.
Mark Nelson
marknelson@cbfisk.com
Senior Designer
C. B. Fisk, Inc.
Gloucester MA
http://www.cbfisk.com
1/20/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
Hi Dan,
I admire your creative solution to a very frustrating situation - the noisy-yakking postlude backdrop. The organ is usually a faint glimmer in the off-camera-never-land. Making the second postlude up-front and audible is a great idea. Good for you.
Gayle
1/14/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
Hey-
Great idea and thanks.
Steve Cooper
Director of Music/Organist
Groce UMC
Asheville, NC
1/14/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
I enjoyed your postlude solution -- but it wouldn't work at my church because the Praise Choir is downstairs impatiently waiting to rehearse for the "contemporary" service as soon as I finish my (short)postlude.

So on appropriate Sundays Bach Preludes & Fugues, Franck Chorales, et. al., are pre-service music (which, alas, is also fellowship time).
Emily Porter
emrsporter@aol.com
1/14/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
"The Organist, who's chief among
Musicians by misprisions stung,
Must find himself compelled to play
To audiences that walk away!"
-Charles Peaker
Peter Stapleton
1/14/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
When I was the church organist in WN. I opened up all the stops as they went out. They couldn't talk till they got outside, but I sure watched them bouncing to the tunes going out. I also kept the volume up for the follow up pieces till everyone was outside enjoying their fellowship! DO IT, JUST DO IT! Chow, Mr. Fingers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pierre
1/14/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
You raise an interesting point, Dan. I had always operated under the supposition that the churches I served were just filled with musically uneducated people (which may be the case in the church I now serve - St. John's). I may try your "two birds with two stones" approach and see what happens. It may get their attention, or it may just make their conversation easier. Either way, I've lost nothing by trying.

There were only two times anyone commented about a prelude. The first time it was for a piece of fluff I pulled from the Organist's Companion, and the second time was an arrangement that my wife had recently completed of St. Columba (filled with harp-ish flittering and glissandi, strident triplet counter rhythms and even strains from Puer nobis nascitur thrown in for good measure, since it is a setting for Unto Us a Boy is Born). Two people commented quite favorably about the latter, since it was something completely different. It's so different, in fact, that I can't play it on the organ (yet, though I'm getting an idea that will allow me to do so - two solo parts and an accompaniment!). I made a MIDI recording of it, and played it using our Performance Recorder/Player. That's something I've only done three times (one anthem that I wanted to sing along with, one postlude and one prelude), and always with the Rector's blessing aforehand.

I have a MIDI file I'd like to play, just once, on the organ - a bunch of gongs being rung seemingly at random. Maybe it would sound sufficiently hideous on the chimes.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
1/14/2003

"News Flash: Two Postludes Better Than One!"
Hi Dan,
I have a different solution for the inevitable talking before and after services. I play a prelude that is listed as "Gathering Music." In my mind it is the "Sit down and shut up" music. Sometimes it loud and sometimes meditative. They we have a Bell Thing called the "Angelus." THEN I play the prelude. I used to save my big pieces for the postlude, but have used them for the prelude now for some time. That way people listen and get to hear what I slaved away on. For the postlude I play something loud, but not a piece that I have knocked myself out on. The minute the service is over at my church the place erupts into what they call "The Holy Hub-bub." But since I already did my "big thing" for the day, I am less annoyed. One time last year, I had hired a trumpet player for some special music during Lent. We were doing a gorgeous piece for the postlude and I asked the minister to ask the congregation to sit and listen.... She did and they did and they REALLY liked what we had to offer. But one cannot expect that to happen too often.
Cathy
1/14/2003

"Your report, Recital Day"
Hi, Dan!
I enjoyed your report on your recital day. I guess we performers have things in common. I have recital day blankness, too, and an urge to escape. Often I find that Iím 2 people: the daily woman whoís doing chores, cooking, driving somewhere and the Performer about to play the piano/organ. One or both of them can be a bit of an automaton on recital day. I definitely experience a split! It can be funny. If the Performer (or Clown) plays real well with no noticeable mistakes, Iím amazed and say, "How did she do that!" I donít even believe it was Myself. I also feel the inevitability. Itís coming in X hours and thereís no getting away! Iíll think, (suppose the recital is at 5:30), "Whew! Iíll be glad when itís 7:00 and I can eat a snack!" Then oddly enough, 1 or 2 hours after itís over, I feel a longing to do it again.

Your internal dialogue sounded really useful. Sometimes Iím too nervous to allow the dialogue, afraid Iíll lose my confidence and Iíll bet that not allowing the voices might make me play less expressively than I could. "Right here, right now!" is something they have on the morning TV show "Live with Regis and Kelly."

Oh, I agree with you about registrations. Itís better to choose what sounds good to you on the bench than what they might like in the hall. Besides, registrations are a matter of taste (I guess as long as theyíre "correct"). Iíve had compliments on my registrations sometimes and I donít even know how I arrive at all of them. Also judging your recital when itís done, think about how relatively few people in the world are extremely accomplished organists and excellent musicians the way you are (Iím sure, though I havenít heard you). Many listeners will always be gratified and uplifted hearing you play. Also a few people have marveled to me, "What a complicated instrument the organ is!" they say. People who are performers (I think youíre born this way) have a need to play for others, just as tigers must hunt and horses eat grass.

Finally, just a suggestion - when I go to play or practice in a church, I always bring a water bottle along -- an empty plastic soda bottle filled with water or a sports bottle.

Excuse the length of this, but one more thing. I finally started to sight read the fugue in F Major from the famous toccata and fugue like you suggested in August. Also Iím preparing for the CAGO exam in June, and one of the repertoire pieces is "Scherzetto" from 24 Pieces in Free Style by Louis Vierne. Itís not technically difficult for me, but itís chromatic and very confusing to play up to tempo because it has 4 identical sections that modulate by a half step. I had to memorize it and make up a printed key. Then to make myself phrase the way youíre supposed to going from bass E to D# eighth notes, page 6, Masters Music Publications, I had to make up words, here they are: "Take the train to the end, then you meet with your friend, have a chocolate ice cream cone, you lick it. Take it back to Paree, on a shopping spree, youíre the last of the big spenders, dollars and cents; Broke, wander empty, meander! (at B flat C D B flat series, right hand, over held pedal low C), Fish ladders!" (over second pattern of 16ths in right hand that goes for 2 measures).

Sincerely,
Susan Burkhalter
1/11/2003

"Fight or Flight"
Dan,
Thanks so much for articulating what goes on in everyone's mind before and during a performance. I plan to read this to my students in my next organ class. I will probably also use it in my upcoming workshops. I haven't heard you play, but you're a wonderful writer!
Christina Harmon
1/8/2003

"Tempi and Concert programs"
Dan,
Another Message from Holland. I am reading your weekly mail with a lot of interest and indeed we are all basically the same as I recognized many of your feelings when preparing for a concert.
I remember that when I gave my first-ever concert (many years ago) my hands were shaking and I hardly could start playing. These days I am a bit more relaxed when giving a concert and I have adapted a attitude of: "I'll do the best I can but in the land of the blind, one-eye is King" as I have experienced that so far I have always been my own worst critic as a player does realize all his mistakes while the audience simply hears the results and often overhears a mistake. Compare a music peace with a painting: even when a stroke of the painter may have been less than perfect the observer sees the complete painting and ignores (or oversees) a small error or flaw.

As for the discussion about Tempi: wasn't it the great Widor himself who once said to Albert Schweitzer:"Speed ruins everything". On the other hand some impressionistic music pieces only "work well" when played rather fast. When played too slow they become rather dull. Bach pieces somehow sound good at virtually all speeds be it fast or slow. Either choice can be great to listen to. ( There must be a reason that Bach remains the nr 1 organ composer of all times!)

For my last topic from this side of the pont:
In 3 weeks (Januari 25) almost on the exact date (1 day off) I have been organist of the German Church in The Hague for 25 years and as such am giving a concert that evening. On most concerts I try to make a program with a lot of variation. Sometimes I build a program from medieval to modern times or in other cases I compose a program of various pieces from a certain period and then usually I combine say composers of many countries to let the audience hear the differences between the various country styles etc . etc.
For this 25 year concert many non-congregational people are invited so I was planning to keep things rather popular and only try to vary between loud and soft music and have chosen mostly popular organ music (easy listening). I am curious to any comments from US players (or from who ever reads this anywhere in the world) on my planned programming which is:

Toccata and Fuga in D-minor (BWV 565) Bach
Minuetto - Eugene Gigout
Adagio (from 2nd Symphonie) Ch. M. Widor
Toccata in G - Th. Dubois
Benedictus (opus 59) Max Reger
3rd Choral Cesar Franck
Pastorale (from 1st Symphonie)- Louis Vierne
Sortie- Lefebure-Wely

All easy listening as you can see, but possibly too popular in choice?
Christian J. Faddegon
christian@faddegon.com
Organist
German Church (German Evangelical)
The Hague, Netherlands
1/6/2003

"Fight or Flight"
Dear Dan (for you seem so familiar through these musings):
I was unable to attend your recital at St. Thomas, but can identify with every single line of your description of the ordeal. Congratulations!
I wish I had seen it before I finished my book on organists, organbuilders, and organs in 20th-century America -- "All The Stops," coming out this April. I hope you and other organists will find things of interest in it.
With best wishes for 2003
Craig Whitney
1/6/2003

"Fight or Flight"
Dan,
It is that one little thing that can work two ways--like a ding in a brand new car. Now you can drive it without worrying about it getting scratched. Then, on the opposite side, that little incident can set the attitude or fears for the rest of the program. As you know, every musician, actor, singer and public speaker goes through the same thing. It sounds like you had a good performance notwithstanding.

Happy New Year,
Will
1/6/2003

"Fight or Flight"
Dan:
I really have enjoyed reading all of your articles regarding the recital experience at St. Thomas. It was very interesting to see that you get nervous and concerned too when you have a big performance. I'm glad it went well!
Dwight
1/6/2003

"Fight or Flight"
I have played one (1) concert before the public and my peers in the American Guild of Organists. Much like you, I worked feverishly on the music for months before the event, and when it came time to play it, I was confident and composed. Composed, that is, right up to the time I mistakenly entered a conversation with the church Secretary. "Aren't you nervous?" she asked, innocently. "I would be a bundle of nervs!" she added, for affect. And it had the logical effect. I started getting nervous. For an hour before the concert, I sat in the dark, calmed myself into a meditative state and repeated a mantra, "I am a child of the King! He appreciates my playing." It nearly worked.

When it came time to play, I took my perfunctory bows, mounted the bench and opened with a hymn - audience participation. The introduction went well, but halfway through the first verse, I recognized that I couldn't read the words of the hymn - my vision was blurred. I also recognized that my shoulders and neck were more tense than usual, so I relaxed them as completely as I was able and still play the organ. It worked! blood returned to the head, vision cleared, and the rest of the recital went off without difficulty.

We all have our moments of performance anxiety, and that moment was, by far, the most easily cured of any such moment I've ever had. I'm usually a basket case for church on Sundays, so I don't understand the simplicity of that event, unless the mantra actually had worked better than I had imagined.
Bill Smith
mailhtims@charter.net
Organist
St. Johns Episcopal Church, Marion NC
Asheville NC
http://fromthehill.freewebsites.com
1/6/2003




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