A religious experience … at Macy’s

The Wanamaker Organ at Macy's.

The Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s.

No doubt about it, tonight hearts and minds were moved and changed and 527 people from the Organ Historical Society underwent a profound religious experience — at Macy’s in Philadelphia, home of the famous Wanamaker organ.

We arrived at the store about 7:00 pm where we went into the Greek Hall to hear Andrew Van Varick play theater organ music on the 1929 Rudolph Wurlitzer organ. The atmosphere was festive while he played, with people milling about and chatting with friends, till finally Michael Barone got up and said, “This is not like church where people talk during the prelude — so let’s listen to Andrew and not talk!”

There is a live video feed of the console which can be viewed on the large screen.

There is a live video feed of the console which can be viewed on the large screen.

We started to move to the dining room, but were stopped in our tracks when we heard the sweet sounds of the Wanamaker organ, 464 ranks of sweetness and light, thunder and lightning, bells, whistles and gongs. Peter Richard Conte was playing his usual recital for the general store population, and what he was playing was “Finlandia,” in the most sweet, spiritual and expressive rendition ever. I started to video some of it, but was afraid I’d gobble up too much memory in my phone. I was explaining to my companions that “Finlandia” was a tune that I had played hundreds of times, it being the melody of Iolani School’s Alma Mater — but to hear it on the Wanamaker organ was an other-worldly experience!

Convention-goers were seated in the Crystal Tea Room.

Convention-goers were seated in the Crystal Tea Room.

Our dinner at Macy's.

Our dinner at Macy’s.

We moved then to the Crystal Tea Room where there was a roast beef buffet. I understand this restaurant is now closed because it lost money, but they opened it up especially for our big group and catered the food. I must say that the OHS people have gone over and above the call of duty in providing hearty and delicious meals for us at the convention!

They set up chairs on the main sales floor.

They set up chairs on the main sales floor.

By this time the store was closed to the general public and finally we were allowed to take our places on the main floor, where they had set up folding chairs in and among ladies’ handbags and cosmetics.

Peter Conte’s first piece: Marcel Dupré’s Cortège et litanie, in an arrangement transcribed from the orchestral version. This is one of the few pieces I can play from memory, but oh, this was completely orchestrated and sounded so vibrant and alive! It was interesting to see how Conte had altered this from the original organ version, both in terms of musical notes (addition of octaves in the pedals and manuals) and registration (pulling so many different stops for different colors).

My absolute favorite pieces in the program were Conte’s transcription of Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide (which he described as 5 minutes of terror!) and a four-hand arrangement of the Pines of Rome, with Andrew Ennis, who also played the flugelhorn solo in an arrangement of Merry Widow. 

Conte then played the warhorse, Julius Reubke’s Ninety-fourth Psalm and it was complete with warring factions and tumultuous conflict. Of course, people immediately gave him a standing ovation.

And then he sat down to play the encore, Virgil Fox’s arrangement of  “Come sweetest death,” nearly nine minutes of tears, sweat, agony, and blessed peace and relief. Many people were weeping at such a moving and spiritual experience.

Our lives were changed tonight.

Peter Richard Conte

Peter Richard Conte

Posted in Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is loud better? necessary?

Chapel of St. Joseph

Chapel of St. Joseph

It’s Wednesday of OHS week and today we heard some very LOUD organs. The morning started out with a drive to the Chapel of St. Joseph at St. Joseph University, a contemporary building with an historic 1868 E. & G.G. Hook organ. Eric Plutz of Princeton University was scheduled to play and yet his program was the only one not printed in our book, but was on an insert. To be fair, the host announced that Plutz was feeling “severely under the weather but agreed to play anyway,” but I frankly was embarrassed for him and for all the many wrong notes he played, especially in the pedal. He played several well-known works which I teach to my students and to which everyone knows the notes: Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G major, Franck’s Prelude, Fugue and Variation, and Mendelssohn’s Sonata No. 1 in F-minor. The best thing I got out of this recital was the hymn we sang: “When the morning stars together” sung to the tune WEISSE FLAGGEN. It was new to me, but oh so appropriate for a group of musicians.

When the morning stars together their Creator’s glory sang, and the angel host all hooted till with joy the heavens rang, then your wisdom and your greatness their exultant music told, all the beauty and the splendor that your mighty works unfold.

When in synagogue and temple voices raised the psalmists’ songs, offering the adoration that alone to you belongs; when the singers and the cymbals with the trumpet made accord, glory filled the house of worship, and all knew your presence, Lord.

The Hook organ at the Chapel of St. Joseph

The Hook organ at the Chapel of St. Joseph

Voice and instrument in union through the ages spoke your praise, Plainsong, tuneful hymns, and anthems told your faithful, gracious ways. Choir and orchestra and organ, each a sacred offering brought, while, inspired by your own Spirit, poet and composer wrought.

Lord, we bring our gift of music; touch our lips and fire our hearts, teach our minds and train our senses, fit us for this sacred art. Then with skill and consecration we would serve you, Lord, and give all our powers to glorify you, and in serving fully live.

The Mander organ at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.

The Mander organ at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill.

Craig Cramer played the Mander organ.

Craig Cramer played the Mander organ.

We next drove to the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, home of a Mander organ (2000), played excellently by Craig Cramer, organist of the University of Notre Dame and a former classmate of mine at Westminster Choir College. This was a beautiful organ in a very resonant room, and the sound of the congregation singing the hymn KINGSFOLD in that building was almost magical. But was it really necessary to play Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue the whole way through, from start to finish, on full organ? It was loud, but not as LOUD as the final piece, Reger’s Zweite Sonate, op. 60. Even Craig apologized that we would have to listen to Reger just before lunch. If my husband had been here, he would have put his fingers in his ears! It was LOUD!! Uncomfortably so, I’m afraid. Just because all the stops are there doesn’t mean you have to pull them out all at once.

Yummy strawberry shortcake.

Yummy strawberry shortcake.

We drove to the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church where we were again treated to an excellent lunch. I just had to take a picture of the strawberry cake for dessert!

Our recitalist after lunch was Jeffrey Brillhart, who played French music by Louis Marchand, César Franck, and Olivier Messiaen on this French-style organ by Rieger Orgelbau (2005). I understand that the church had a previous organ, also by Rieger, but that when it came time to have that organ restored, Rieger took a look at it and said it was beyond repair. They then offered the church a brand-new organ at cost, and they chose to have one in the French style.

This was the first concert to make use of a live video feed.

This was the first concert to make use of a live video feed.

Brillhart was excellent (except that he registered the organ so LOUD that I felt no embarrassment to put my fingers in my ears!) But watching him play on the large video screen downstairs, and listening to some of those beautiful sounds made me want to play French music again. He played the Choral No. 1 in E minor by Franck which is a piece I played on my graduate recital and have not played since. I definitely want to look at this piece again when I get home!

We stood to sing LINLEY, a hymn tune by Alan Morrison.

We stood to sing LINLEY, a hymn tune by Alan Morrison.

One thing that caught my attention in the program was this statement: Rieger Tuning System (Bluetooth system that enables a single person to tune the organ) meaning that you don’t need an assistant to hold down the keys!

The interesting ceiling at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian.

The interesting ceiling at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian.

Tonight we will have dinner at the Crystal Tea Room at Macy’s, home of the famous Wanamaker organ! Then the OHS will have a private concert when the store is closed. I can’t wait!

Posted in Carl Crosier | 1 Comment

Toccata, Adagio and Fugue

Kurt Knecht

Kurt Knecht

If you are an organist, you know this is a famous work in C major by Johann Sebastian Bach. However it is also the title of the stunning work for organ and percussion which was premiered on Monday night by composer Kurt Knecht. This fabulous work was commissioned by the Organ Historical Society in celebration of its 60th anniversary, and was performed by Christopher Marks, organ and Dave Hall, percussion at Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

I am happy to report that the composer posted YouTube videos of this work which you can view below.

From his website, here is Kurt’s bio:

Kurt Knecht is a composer, organist, and conductor currently living in Lincoln, Nebraska. His compositions have been described as “funky” and “joyous” in the Washington Post, and the American Record Guide has called him a “fresh voice.” His compositions have become a staple of the modern choral festival literature and have been performed at festivals and concerts in over 37 states. Performances of his compositions include international performances at festivals and concerts in Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Cuba, New Zealand, and a performance at the Kennedy Center by the Grammy Award winning Washington Chorale. Upcoming performances of his compositions include the World Choir Symposium in Seoul, Korea, the International Clarinet Society Conference, and the National Conference of the Organ Historical Society. 

He is regularly commissioned and publishes with Walton, Pavane, and Colla Voce. He has received the ASCAP Plus award (2008-2013) from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. His composition Missa Prolationem was awarded the Folsom Prize for the most outstanding dissertation of the University of Nebraska in 2009. As an eclectic performer, Kurt has been a featured soloist with groups ranging from Smokey Robinson to The Florida Orchestra. Kurt regularly appears as a concert organist and collaborative pianist. He also performs in the improvisation duo Mondegreen with violist Jonah Sirota of the Chiara Quartet. He is the music director at St. Mark’s on the Campus in Lincoln, NE. He received the Bachelor of Music from the University of Tampa with concentrations in Piano Performance and Theory, the Master of Music in Composition from Southern Methodist University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition with a minor in Organ Performance from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. 

Well done, Kurt!

Posted in Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You never know who you’ll run into …

St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia

This morning, I got a text message out of the blue while I was walking into St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia: “Did I see you this morning from a distance? Will look for you at Girard tonight. Bruce”

Surprise, surprise! It was from organist friend Bruce Bengtson who is visiting the Organ Historical Society convention here for the day. You might remember that he turned up out of the blue last summer where I saw him in Leipzig, Germany!

Annie Laver relied upon two assistants to pull the stops.

Annie Laver relied upon two assistants to pull the stops.

We heard five fantastic organ recitals today, the first being at the Highway Tabernacle Church with organist Annie Laver. She presented a program of music which may have been heard during the 1893 World Expo, and performed music by Jacques Lemmens, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn, Dudley Buck, and Carl Attrup. Indeed in a building which was originally built in 1861, I was taken back in history to a simpler, less sophisticated time. Because the organ had no combination action, she relied upon two assistants to pull the stops. She did an excellent job, and one lady on the bus next to me said that she thought that was the best program so far.

The organ at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia

The organ at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Philadelphia

At beautiful St. Luke’s I was reminded of a feeding frenzy as the OHS people filed into the building — all trying to take pictures of the organ console, the altar and all the beautiful appointments. We heard another outstanding organist, Amanda Mole, who played with great command of the instrument by C. C. Michell, Cole & Woodberry (1894), despite several bad out-of-tune notes.

Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel

Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel

The afternoon took us to the huge complex at the Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel where we had a delicious lunch, the annual OHS meeting, and another outstanding recital by Andrew Senn, who had just played an organ recital in Strasbourg over the weekend. He apologized for his jet lag, but his incredibly fast tempos belied any physical deficiency.

Bryn Athyn Cathedral

Bryn Athyn Cathedral

We next went to an absolutely fantastic recital by Monica Czausz at Bryn Athyn Cathedral of the New Jerusalem denomination (the Swedenborgians). You may remember that I heard Monica at last year’s OHS convention and she is a friend of Joey Fala. In fact, last year when he played for the OHS convention, he stayed overnight at Monica’s parents’ home.

The building looked like a typical Gothic cathedral with super high ceilings and I immediately noticed that they had published their own hardcover hymnal with a liturgy similar to the Anglican order with Anglican chant psalm tunes. Again OHS benefactor Fred Haas introduced the organ as being dedicated to the memory of his mother, having been installed by Kegg in 2014, and being a combination of two Skinner organs. The sound was just incredible, and Monica looked like she was having so much fun! She played nearly the whole program from memory and people leaped to their feet in a spontaneous standing ovation at the conclusion of the program.

Jean-Claude Quint, the organist at the palace of Versailles

Jean-Claude Quint, the organist at the palace of Versailles

A man sat next to me on the bus and I quickly found out that he was Jean-Claude Quint, the organist at the Versailles Palace in France! He was most impressed with Monica’s playing. I tried out some of my high school French and he was able to understand me! (but he also spoke English). I asked him for some pointers on what churches to visit while I’m in Paris. Unfortunately he will be visiting New York during the time that I’m in France.

Nathan Laube at Girard College Chapel.

Nathan Laube at Girard College Chapel.

I found Bruce Bengtson!

I found Bruce Bengtson!

We had a delicious hot chicken dinner then boarded the bus to Girard College Chapel where I quickly found Bruce Bengtson. I was so impressed with the E.M. Skinner organ which is located in the ceiling of the very reverberant and huge chapel, and of course, Nathan Laube‘s playing was masterful. I think his playing has really taken on a smooth and mature sophistication since we heard him play in Honolulu. He made the organ as soft as a whisper grow into a huge crescendo with the seats vibrating underneath us! Surprisingly, he used the music throughout the concert — when I’ve heard him play before (twice), he has always played from memory.

Michael Barone (right) celebrated his birthday at the OHS annual meeting.

Michael Barone (right) celebrated his birthday at the OHS annual meeting.

I was also hugely impressed with Nathan’s ability to improvise, which I had not heard before. From the congregational hymn, DE TAR by Calvin Hampton, he ended with a grand improvisation leading to a surprise rendition of “Happy Birthday,” which we sang to Minnesota Public Radio host, Michael Barone, whose birthday is today and who is an attendee at this convention. Michael will be one of the co-chairs of next year’s OHS convention in Minnesota.

Today was one of those days in which we boarded the buses early in the morning and didn’t get back to the hotel tonight until nearly 11:00 pm. It’s almost midnight as I write this, and I’m going to bed.

 

 

Posted in Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dobson at the Kimmel

The stunning architecture and organ of the Kimmel Center.

The stunning architecture and organ of the Kimmel Center.

Tonight was billed as “A Grand Celebration” commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Organ Historical Society and the 10th anniversary of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. It took place at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which is the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

We learned that Fred Haas, whose family foundation has been extremely generous to the Organ Historical Society in its gift of Stoneleigh, the 40-acre property and 36-room house, was also responsible for the Dobson organ in Kimmel. Fred J. Cooper was his maternal grandfather.

The organ and percussion work by Kurt Knecht.

The organ and percussion work by Kurt Knecht.

Tonight’s program began with the premiere of a piece for organ and percussion: timpani, toms, snare drum, bongos and marimba by composer Kurt Knecht and I absolutely loved all the delicious and exhilarating dissonances and driving rhythms. The composer himself was present for the premiere and got huge applause when he was called up to the stage afterwards. The work was stunningly performed by Christopher Marks, organ and Dave Hall, percussion.

The lobby area of the Kimmel Center.

The lobby area of the Kimmel Center.

The rest of the program was called “The Organ as Crystal Ball,” combining scenes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, acting and recitation, dance, and organ music ranging from Bach, Georg Böhm, César Franck, Felix Mendelssohn, Arvo Pärt, Torsten Nilsson, Olivier Messiaen and György Ligeti, combined with a light show on the organ pipes. Performers included Henryk Jandorf, actor; Hans Davidsson, organ; Stacye Camparo, Gabriel Davidsson and Jonathan Davidsson, dancers; John Duncan, Jr., lighting design; Thomas Mika, costumes and Ulrika Davidsson, music and dance coordinator.

If the point to be made was that this organ could handle all types of repertoire, they certainly succeeded. I wondered, though, whether adding the dance to the organ music was truly necessary, although the program stated “When rhythm and musical gesture in organ music of any style is enhanced with movement, recitation, acting and lighting, the musical repertoire ceases to be abstract for the performer as well as for the audience.”

IMG_1149I think the point at which I wanted to scream was during the Ligeti work where the organ was extraordinarily loud and sustained, with nearly the whole organist’s body covering the keys and all the stops drawn! I’m sure people in the audience were saying to themselves, “Is this really necessary?!” I wish I had taken a video of the organist at that l-o-o-o-o-n-g moment when he was absolutely writhing, jumping and dancing with his body on the keys, not just using his fingers and feet! Luckily, the organ was seemingly not harmed and there were no ciphers as a result! The audience could see the organ score from a distance which was a series of black blotches on the page!

Unfortunately I thought the program was just too long, and I felt my hearing was definitely assaulted. My ears were ringing long after the concert was over.

I would have been happy to just hear the organ in a regular recital! It sounds like a wonderful instrument.

Kimmel exterior

Kimmel exterior

 

Posted in Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful historic churches in Philadelphia

This morning we visited five historic churches in Philadelphia, some dating as early as 1761. The first three took place in Roman Catholic parishes, although in the first church, services are only held a few times a year.

The painting on the reredos at Holy Trinity, Philadelphia.

The painting on the reredos at Holy Trinity, Philadelphia.

Organist Matthew Glandorf did an outstanding job on the 1892 Hook & Hastings organ at Holy Trinity Church, where the building dates from 1789.

The best part of his playing was his improvisation on “Ein feste Burg” which was the hymn we sang just before. He included many fugal elements and it sounded as though the piece was written out (except it wasn’t!) In the biography section, I read that he was a student of McNeil Robinson — no wonder his improvisations were so good!

Organist Matthew Glandorf

Organist Matthew Glandorf

May I remind you that it was McNeil Robinson who wowed Honolulu audiences with his improvisation in 1975 when the Beckerath organ was dedicated, and two years later Neil came back to play two recitals plus our wedding.

The Carmelite Monastery of Philadelphia

The Carmelite Monastery of Philadelphia

We heard Isaac Drewes at the gorgeous Carmelite Monastery of Philadelphia next, and I liked his performance of Samuel Barber’s “Wondrous Love,” which was the hymn we sang. The Philadelphia Carmel was the birthplace of devotion to St. Therese, the “Little Flower,” in the United States.

The large reredos at St. Paul's R.C. Church, Philadelphia

The large reredos at St. Paul’s R.C. Church, Philadelphia

The concert just before lunch was at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church and was performed by organist Alan Morrison. I thought his interpretation of the Mozart “F-Minor Fantasy” was brilliantly creative — he had so many echo effects, individual solos, and registration changes, that I don’t know how he managed it all so well.

Eric Wicks and his son

Eric Wicks and his son

As I was exiting the church, a man tapped me on the shoulder, “You probably don’t remember me, but … ” It turned out to be Eric Wicks, a former student of John McCreary and one of our Hawaii American Guild of Organists scholarship recipients! He is now the organist of the First Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO and his 10-year-old son was with him, and also studies the organ! I can’t express how thrilled and proud I was that he let me know how one of our scholarship students turned out! He said he gave an organ recital this past spring and dedicated it to the memory of John McCreary. I have the vague recollection that he was in the 8th grade when he received the Hawaii AGO scholarship.

The afternoon recitals were in unairconditioned churches and I started feeling awfully sleepy because of the huge lunch we were served. The two recitals were at adjacent churches, Old Pine Street Presbyterian and St. Paul’s Episcopal, with organists Wesley Parrott and Caroline Robinson. I’m sure they played well, but I was thinking that my jet lag is catching up with me.

Eugene Ormandy is buried in this cemetery of Old Pine Street Presbyterian.

Eugene Ormandy is buried in this cemetery of Old Pine Street Presbyterian.

Tonight we’ll be at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts celebrating 60 years of the Organ Historical Society and 10 years of the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ.

Posted in Carl Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 61st for the 60th

The new home of the Organ Historical Society and its archives.

Stoneleigh: The new home of the Organ Historical Society and its archives.

Today was the first official day of the Organ Historical Society convention, its 61st convention in this its 60th year since the founding in 1956. Its purpose is thus: The Organ Historical Society celebrates, preserves, and studies the pipe organ in America in all its historic styles, through research, education, advocacy, and music. 

The grand staircase

The grand staircase

And because OHS is now a “mature” organization in terms of structure and membership, it now enters a new stage in that it now has a new home in an old home. If this is confusing, let me explain that the OHS is the recipient of an extraordinary gift which we visited today: a 36-room estate called Stoneleigh, located on an expansive 40-acre property near the Villanova University campus. Today was just a quick visit to the beautiful grounds and the introduction of how the family of OHS member Fred Haas came to donate the property. It was amazing to learn that he moved to this grand home when he was three years old, it being the home of his grandparents. It reminded me of the grand castles in Europe, except that it was built in the 1920s. It will be cared for by the National Lands Trust.

When the archives of OHS move here in a couple of years after some renovations to make it ADA-compliant, it will be the most comprehensive library of books, magazines, and other publications all devoted to the pipe organ. At its inception, there was only one filing cabinet of materials, which has grown to over 15,000 items. A large pipe organ will also be moved here, which will match the age of the house.

IMG_1082

Some of the surrounding grounds of Stoneleigh.

Guess who was in the audience? Organist Nathan Laube!

Guess who was in the audience? Organist Nathan Laube!

Tonight was the opening concert of the convention, a virtuosic display by Stephen Tharp on the Austin organ at the Irvine Auditorium of the University of Pennsylvania, just four blocks from our hotel. Can you imagine, he opened with the “Toccata” from Suite, op. 5 of Duruflé! He also played “Poème héroïque” by Marcel Dupré and two wonderful transcriptions: “Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis” (Vaughan Williams) and “La Valse” by Ravel. My favorite piece of the program was a world premiere composition titled “Danse diabolique”by George Baker (himself a superstar organist) which he described as “4 minutes of Hell” — a fiendishly difficult, virtuosic work containing music built upon three themes: the hymn tune “How firm a foundation,” the Dies irae chant, and oddly enough, a very dissonant and wicked-sounded “Tea for Two” (which has the same first four notes as Dies irae!)

Stephen's young son had fun on stage!

Stephen’s young son had fun on stage!

As Stephen Tharp is a young father, before the concert began, we were entertained by his young toddler son who delighted in sliding across the stage on his stomach!

Stephen Tharp and his son.

Stephen Tharp and his son.

After the concert, the young boy ran up on stage to join his father and took bows alongside him! [UPDATE: I added the video of father and son below] It reminded me of when my son Stephen came up on stage to present me with a bouquet of roses when he was just two years old.

One unique aspect of OHS conventions is that every concert artist plays a hymn at some point in the program, and the whole assembly stands and sings. I must say that hearing that huge bunch of organists raise the roof with their hearty singing gave me absolute goosebumps! And especially with Stephen improvising a very grand accompaniment to the hymn “Rouen.”

You surely don’t hear that kind of singing in church every Sunday, and for that reason, it’s one of my favorite part of OHS programs.

Tomorrow the marathon begins.

Posted in Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

11,022 steps in Philadelphia

Sam and I posed with a colonial.

Sam and I posed with a colonial.

Sam and I had Chinese food for dinner.

Sam and I had Chinese food for dinner.

It’s the day before the start of the Organ Historical Society in Philadelphia and I decided to play tourist before the onslaught of organ recitals. It only took me 11,022 steps to do a one-day tour! High up on my list to things to see was the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Sam Lam (an organist in Honolulu) is the only other person from Hawaii at this convention so we started off the day together, riding the bus to the visitor center at Independence National Historical Park. By the way, we found out that our Medicare cards were the ticket for a free ride on the city bus!

IMG_1004From the museum you walk through on the way to the Liberty Bell, I learned that the bell is considered a symbol of freedom and is associated with the abolition of slavery. The original Liberty Bell was cast in 1751 by the Whitechapel Foundry of London (which I know as a handbell builder) and developed a crack on its first ring. It was melted down and a new bell cast locally in Philadelphia by John Pass and John Stow. It was used for almost 90 years before it developed its telltale crack and was attempted to be repaired. A second crack developed, though, and it was never rung again. Digital computer modeling attempted to approximate the sound of the bell which you can hear by clicking here.

I was shocked to see that the Liberty Bell is so small!

I was shocked to see that the Liberty Bell is so small!

When I saw the Liberty Bell, I told Sam I was so shocked to see that it was so small! It reminded me of when I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre — it too was a lot smaller than I had imagined.

IMG_1020We also took a tour of Independence Hall where we visited the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed and where Thomas Jefferson sat with the state of Virginia representatives. We were told about the “Committee of Five” who worked on the draft of the Declaration of Independence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman. I told Sam, I didn’t know that Roger Sherman had a namesake! (Roger Sherman was a long-time friend and colleague of composer and our business partner Peter Hallock, and CEO of Loft organ and choral recordings—obviously not the same one who drafted the Declaration!)

Lunch followed at the Red Owl Tavern and I was determined to taste a real Philly cheesesteak — yum!

A Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

A Philly cheesesteak sandwich.

Sam ended up going back to the hotel to rest, and I continued my tour to the Dolley Todd House and the Bishop White House. Dolley was the young widow of John Todd, a lawyer, who died of yellow fever, leaving her with two sons, one of whom died also. She remarried James Madison, who became the fourth U.S. President. I really enjoyed visiting this house, and the one next door belonging to Bishop White, who helped to found the American Episcopal Church. Bishop White’s house had a real luxury — an “indoor” outhouse!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I walked up several blocks to the U. S. Mint and went on a self-guided tour where coins are manufactured; then took a 2-hour bus ride on the Philadelphia Phlash which is one of those hop-on, hop-off vehicles. Again my Medicare card gave me the ticket to ride for free. Here, enjoy some of the pictures I took:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Katherine Crosier, Peter Hallock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sneak preview

I already designed the postcard.

I already designed the postcard for Claverierübung III.

Today, more than four months before my concert date of October 30, 2016, I played through my program before an audience of two: Scott Fikse, who will conduct a small chamber choir to sing the four-part chorales, and Todd Beckham, organist.

Amazingly enough, I heard myself say many of the things my students tell me:

But I just played the music note-perfect yesterday!
I’ve never made a mistake there before!
I don’t know what happened — I got lost in the music!

It wasn’t my best — but I did get through it without major disasters or breakdowns — and this is four months before concert date. I dare say that no other organist in this town would be so crazy to play this program — some of the pieces are absolutely the most difficult and challenging Bach I’ve ever played! Even Wikipedia calls it “Bach’s most significant and extensive work for organ, containing some of his musically most complex and technically most demanding compositions for that instrument.” You can say that again!

It is true that thirty-seven years ago on March 10 and 11, 1979, Carl Crosier and I presented this monumental work — Carl took half the pieces and I took the other half, but even then we did not present the complete collection. You see, there are large and small settings of what is known as “The German Organ Mass,” (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, etc.) and what Carl and I did was a mixture of large and small settings. To play the entire collection would be too much for one evening, nearly two hours of organ music, so I’ve selected all the large settings (naturally, the hardest!)

Here’s what I wrote in a previous post: “Listening to my 28-year-old self

Now that Carl is in the heavenly choir,  though, I have decided to play all the large settings, meaning that I have to learn some of the pieces that he played in 1979. Wow! I am finding that he took on some of the most fiendishly difficult and impossible settings. In fact, I remember him saying to me back then that it was a good thing he was playing Jesus Christus unser Heiland because it was too pianistic for me and my hands were too small! If you don’t know it, the piece is full of wide intervals, and there are leaps of tenths in almost every measure. You’re right, Carl, I’m finding it quite a nightmare!

In today’s performance, it’s ironic that of all the pieces I played, I thought that Jesus Christus unser Heiland was probably my best. Todd asked me when I learned it, and I told him that it was actually while I was at Yale in February earlier this year. While Joey Fala was in class, he let me into the practice rooms and I learned Jesus Christus unser Heiland and Vater unser im Himmelreich at that time, both of which are the most difficult Bach works I’ve played.  [Oh, I guess I’ve told you that already!]

As to some of the other pieces, I’ve played them for years and years — I learned the opening and closing Prelude and Fugue in E-flat during my Westminster Choir College days with Joan Lippincott. And Aus tiefer Not, for double pedal was a piece I learned shortly after moving to Hawaii in 1973. So some of these pieces are old friends.

Sorry, Bach, it will be 5-1/2 weeks without you!

Sorry, Bach, it will be 5-1/2 weeks without you!

As to similarities/differences with my Bach Great 18 Chorales concert of three years ago, though, the choir will sing the chorales after I play the organ piece, which will serve as each introduction. That way I won’t have to worry about giving the choir the pitch. Also it’s probably more “authentic performance practice” in that I understand during Bach’s time, the organ piece was played first, followed by the congregation’s a cappella singing of the tune.

This concert I’m also giving the congregation (audience) the opportunity to sing two of the chorales: “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” (the Gloria) and “Wir glauben all an einen Gott (the Creed) — in German, of course! They are two pieces with which the Lutheran Church of Honolulu congregation should be familiar, as they are sung several times a year.

Now I’ll let the music “percolate,” umm…  “marinate” in my mind while I am away in Philadelphia and in Europe. For most of the trip, I’ll be away from a keyboard; however, I will be taking a miniature score of the music in my purse for me to peruse from time to time.

Bach, I promise I’ll be back to you in August when I return!

I’ve been listening to Joan’s performance on YouTube of “Jesus Christus, unser Heiland” (my former teacher).

 

Posted in Carl Crosier, J. S. Bach, Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I thought I was packed …

Today was the day I had set aside to start packing for my upcoming 40-day trip. Of course, I had to do the laundry first—otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pack anything!

On previous European trips, it has been very difficult and even adventurous to find any sort of coin laundry. So I have packed more than enough underwear and socks for my entire trip — do you think 50 pairs of socks and panties should do it? Unfortunately except for the overnight flights to Philadelphia and to London, I’ll be spending every single night in a hotel — no homestays this time to do laundry. And heavens, I wouldn’t dream of using a hotel service to do my wash. I’m also not the type of person who washes underwear in a hotel sink every night, so forget that.

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go!

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go!

I had bought a new large, super lightweight suitcase (weighing only 2 pounds!) and a rolling backpack for a carryon. I packed lots of summer clothes: shorts, capris, cotton T-shirts, etc., knowing it might be pretty warm in those Philadelphia churches (some of them unairconditioned, I’m sure), where I’ll spend the first week at the Organ Historical Society convention. And I’m sure it will be hot in Spain. Of course, I packed my concert music, organ shoes and concert clothes for the Hawaii Vocal Arts Ensemble tour to Ireland. Naturally, I’m taking lots of omiyage (white chocolate macadamia nut candy and honey-roasted macadamia nuts) to give away to new friends and tour directors. And taking my electronics (laptop, tablet and phone) with their chargers and voltage adapters (both for Europe and England) are a must, in addition to several battery packs. I even packed all my vitamins and medications in 6 weekly pill dispenser packs. And I remembered my travel neck pillow and my headphones.

I thought I was all done packing. Everything just fit beautifully.

And then I checked the weather report for Iceland and found this blog about packing for a summer visit:

This is what I read on the blog: Unless you’re extremely lucky, everyday in Iceland is a battle against the elements. At night it got below 0°C, while the daytime fluctuated between 15°C and 5°C. Hey, Americans, that’s a big temperature swing. 

And for someone who lives in Hawaii, I think going to Iceland in the summer will be like going to the North Pole!

I had to take everything out of the suitcase and gave up half of the summer clothes. Luckily last Christmas my sister-in-law (Carl’s sister) gave me a packable lightweight (but extremely warm) coat which rolls up into a small bag. I retrieved my long underwear, gloves, hat, and scarf from my trip to Yale last February. I also found the sleeping mask but will forego taking my winter boots, and will have to make do with my walking shoes.

All this means is that I won’t have as many clothes to choose from, but I should be set for any type of weather, summer or winter.

However, I did not give up any of the 50 pairs of socks or underwear!

 

Posted in Katherine Crosier | Tagged , , | 1 Comment