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January 21, 2004
Vol. IV, No. 2


"If I Knew Then..."
From my file labeled "If I Knew Then What I Know Now":

--Once upon a time, I was being shown a prominent New York City organ by the organ builder's representative and accepted his invitation to play. Having planned ahead and brought along some music, I placed Buxtehude's Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C Major on the music rack and proceeded to set up a registration. When I pulled on the Great/Pedal coupler, the rep said, "Oh, you don't want to do that. This organ has an independent pedal division. Here, let me show you the right way."

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have said, "Oh, OK." I would have said, "Excuse me? Then why did you put a Great/Pedal coupler on the organ? When I play a four-voice fugue, I like the pedal voice to sound like it's in the same family as the soprano, alto and tenor voices, only with a 16' added. Thanks but no thanks. I'll use my own registration."

--Once upon a time, I was talking with my then-organ tuner because he had missed a tuning discrepancy on the church's organ. I told him that the principal chorus on the Great and the flute chorus on the Great had to be in tune with each other because I use them together. He said, "Oh, you don't want to do that. The principal and flute stops should never be used at the same time."

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have said, "Oh, OK." I would have said, "Excuse me? Although some organs do indeed have a self-sufficient principal chorus, there are those that do not. While my organ's principal chorus is actually quite substantial, I prefer a fuller sound."

--Once upon a time, I read in a prominent organist magazine that it was "verboten" to play Bach with a registration of 8' and 2'.

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have accepted the statemment at face value. I would have written a letter to the magazine that said, "Excuse me? I receive some of my highest compliments when I perform Bach's Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578) with exactly that registration. Should I not use a registration even if it sounds good? Conversely, should I continue using a "correct" registration even if it sounds bad because theoretically it should sound good?

These days we teach kids to stand up to their bossy friends by saying, "You're not the boss of me!" The other day, walking up Madison Avenue, I saw in a shop window an embroidered pillow that read, "I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas!" So I guess, like most things, it all depends on your perspective.

Bach obviously didn't care what people thought, thank goodness. It's interesting that he was considered old-fashioned when, in the larger scheme of things, he was doing something completely new. But whether you're pushing the envelope like Bach or perhaps deflating the envelope like me, at the end of the day it's important to be able to live with the decisions you make. I obviously know that now. Of course, if I had known that then, I wouldn't have had anything to write about today.
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Updated Pages
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Organ Links:
Added is Marceau & Associates Op. XXI at First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Diego, California, and the C. B. Fisk organ in Blanche Anderson Moore Hall at The University of Michigan School of Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
http://www.BACHorgan.com/Organs/Organs.asp

Teacher Tributes
Read about some of the extraordinary teachers who have made lasting impressions on members of the BACHorgan.com community. Better yet, post a tribute to your favorite teacher!
http://www.BACHorgan.com/Teachers/Teachers.asp

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WHAT I'M READING...I'm happily still reading "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" by Christoph Wolff and fortunately won't complete it anytime soon. This book is much more insightful than say The New Bach Reader. Wolff takes the available evidence and logically pieces together as much of Bach's life as anyone possibly could. Click the link below for more information on this book:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393322564/bachorgancom-20
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:
http://www.BACHorgan.com/DansBookClub.html
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Have a great week!

Dan Long
Editor, BACHorgan.com


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