Back to Bach, RESET!

My upcoming concert.

My upcoming concert.

Now that the Early Music Hawaii concert is over, I can get back to practicing Bach! Finally, I can go back to preparing for my concert on Sunday, October 30th at 7:00 pm, which will be Bach’s Clavierübung III, sometimes called the German Organ Mass.

The word Clavierübung means “keyboard practice,” and so you may be asking, “Why, III? Where’s I and II?” Well, thank you for asking! Bach’s Clavierübung I are six harpsichord suites, called “partitas” (1726-1730) and Clavierübung II consist of the Italian Concerto and French Overture (1735).

Clavierübung III is for the organ and was in part a response to musical requirements in church services. In addition to the Kyrie and Gloria, it contains the basic elements of the Lutheran Catechism: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Baptism, and Holy Communion, and is bookended by the massive Praeludium and fuga in E-flat. The chorale melodies of the Clavierübung were composed between 1524 and 1539, some by Martin Luther, and are thought to be the most important hymns of the Lutheran Church. How very appropriate to perform this work on Reformation Sunday!

The Clavier-Übung III is thought to be a summation of Bach’s technique in writing for the organ, and at the same time a personal religious statement. However, the technical difficulty of the compositions would have made the work too demanding for most Lutheran church organists, both then and now! [And why is it that I always have to choose the very most difficult works to play?! I’m a glutton for punishment!]

You may recall that a few months ago (“Sneak preview”), I was already able to more or less play through the program, but it wasn’t quite “ready for prime time.” Remember? I echoed many of the same phrases 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!

And then I had to stop working on Bach altogether because of my 40-day trip to Philadelphia and Europe. I resurrected the music again when I was home in the first few weeks of August, and then I went away for two more weeks to France with the Historic Organ Study Tours. When I came home on September 8, I still had to postpone my Bach practice because I had to worry about learning the music for the Early Music Hawaii concert last weekend.

I am "bach" to practicing!

I am “bach” to practicing Bach!

So yesterday was the first day in many weeks that I was able to play through the Bach concert music, beginning to end. Wow, was that ever rough! And I could hear myself saying, “Now you just have to go back to using the metronome and play every piece more slowly!” Today was my day with the metronome and slow practice, and everything was just fine!

Each time I am able to practice for a spell, and then stop because of my travels, and then resume all over again—has miraculously resulted in actually making the music better! I call my intervals of being away from the music my “marinating” phase, and then when I come back to it, at first it’s pretty rough, but then quickly snaps back into place. The parts which I had to spend hours in slow practice now just roll off my fingers and feet with ease.

You would think that now I’m home and can coast to victory to my concert? Wrong—I’ll be taking one more trip to California the week before the concert for a family reunion.

(I know, this is crazy!)

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Mixed emotions

Organist Samuel Lam

Organist Samuel Lam

Today I attended Samuel Lam‘s last service as organist of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. I’ve known Sam for years now ever since he moved back to Hawaii in 1985 after getting his doctorate at the University of Michigan and living in Ann Arbor, MI. Sam grew up in Honolulu and graduated from Hawaiian Mission Academy. I was also surprised to learn that he attended Indiana University in Bloomington for his master’s degree! Two years ago, he came out of retirement when he was asked to substitute, which extended to a couple of years. Now, he is retiring again, and this time for good.

Here’s what Father Paul Lillie (himself an organist!) wrote in the church’s newsletter:

Good church musicians are a rare breed these days, and so St. Mark’s was very fortunate a few years ago when Sam Lam came out of retirement to be our regular organist. Every Sunday we have enjoyed his great talent, and his improvisation skills have been a particular blessing for our liturgies at St. Mark’s. One of my favorite moments occurs each Sunday at the offertory of high mass when Sam begins to improvise as the altar and people are censed. He is so masterful in his support of the liturgy, and he has been a real blessing to the congregation and the choir through his music.

I know exactly what Sam is going through—mixed emotions. Happy that he will have his Sunday mornings back and won’t have to climb those stairs to the organ loft anymore! And sad—not to have this creative outlet in supporting people at worship and playing the organ. I asked Sam whether he has an organ or a piano to play at home, and he said, “no.”

img_4570I’m happy also that I had this opportunity to hear Sam play a service. So often church organists are “stuck” at their own parishes and aren’t able to get out and hear their colleagues play. Sam played the “Fantasy in G major,” by Bach for the prelude, and a “Plein Jeu” by DeGrigny for the postlude. He also did quite a bit of improvisation throughout the service, before and after the Gospel procession, at the elevation, and at the dismissal before the “Angelus Domini,” as well as the hymn introductions and harmonizations.

After the service, I took pictures of Sam descending down those steps for the last time.

Sam comes down the steps for the last time.

Sam comes down the steps for the last time. Big smile on his face!

After the service at the coffee hour, the choir honored Sam by singing “Aloha Oe” and presenting him with a number of gifts. The church also furnished ice cream and cupcakes, some of which I promptly spilled on my white pants!

Sam and the St. Mark's Choir.

Sam and the St. Mark’s Choir.

(L-R) Sam Lam, Steven Severin, and Karl Bachman (AGO Dean)

(L-R) Sam Lam, Steven Severin, and Karl Bachman (AGO Dean)

Here’s a picture of Sam with the choir at St. Mark’s. I’m pleased to say that my student, Steven Severin, who has studied with me less than a year, will be taking Sam’s place at St. Mark’s. Steven has made fantastic progress and will continue to take lessons after he starts next Sunday. He substituted for Sam during the month of July (part of that time, Sam and I attended the Organ Historical Society convention in Philadelphia.) Steven has already played some Wednesday Evensong services and is ready to go next Sunday.

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Standing ovation

Early Music Hawaii's performers garnered a standing ovation.

Early Music Hawaii’s performers garnered a standing ovation. Photo: Miguel Felipe

Taken during the pre-concert warmup.

Taken during the pre-concert warmup.

Bravo to Maestro Dana Marsh and the members of Early Music Hawai‘i on a fantastic (and Spanish!) open to their 2016–17 season!” This was the post on Miguel Felipe’s Facebook page following last night’s concert at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.

Any fears that there would be only a small audience (owing to slow advance ticket sales) were erased as the people kept coming and coming—the building was comfortably full without being overstuffed.

A full church (taken during intermission)

A view of the full church, taken just before the start of the second half.

I was really able to enjoy the first half of the concert because I only had one solo and one ensemble piece to play, and got to listen to the amazing results Dana Marsh accomplished with the Early Music Hawaii Choir. We truly were on a journey last week, as Dana arrived on Monday to a mostly motley crew of singers faced with very challenging music—which he transformed in four rehearsals to a very tight, transparent choral ensemble.

img_4554After the concert, Dana told me that some of the choral singers in this group were as good as any he has worked with—and that is a huge compliment, as Dana has been a part of many, many world-class ensembles on two continents.

A number of people came up to me to comment on the organ pieces I played. I have to admit, they were really “funky” and I deliberately tried to make the Beckerath organ sound as un-German as possible by playing on all the reeds coupled together. You see, the Spanish organs were known for their fiery reeds.

During intermission, Miguel commented that I had a “deer in the headlights” look, and I told him it was because of going cuckoo reading all that figured bass! (Figured bass is a shorthand for basso continuo players which means all I had was a bass line with numbers above it to indicate what the right hand plays.)

Fred Mariano's percussion instruments

Fred Mariano’s percussion instruments

Surely one of the best moments of the night was during Georgine Stark‘s amazing solo, “Oycan una xacarilla” by Rafael Castellanos, accompanied by Richard Savino and Hideki Yamaya on baroque guitars and Fred Mariano on percussion. I especially loved Fred’s playing of the castanets during this piece! Georgine absolutely brought the house down with her stunning singing, all the more amazing when asked whether she knew Spanish, and her answer was “no!”

I did have a terrible “oops” moment, when I gave the wrong starting pitch for the last piece, “Ay andar.” That was because I sat back and enjoyed the group perform the previous piece, “Dime amor,” when I should have been up there on the organ bench! (Oh, dear!) Luckily, I was quickly corrected—it’s a good thing Dana has perfect pitch!

As we were performing the last piece, the infectiously happy “Ay andar,” I looked around the room and saw many people tapping their toes and keeping the beat in time with the music. Just then, I had the realization that Carl Crosier had a hand in making all this happen—in establishing the Early Music Hawaii Choir in the first place. He would have conducted this concert himself except for now conducting heavenly choirs.

I think everyone went home happy! Thank you, Dana!

 

 

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Toe-tapping music

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Dana Marsh rehearses the Early Music Hawaii Choir.

Dana gives directions on style.

Dana gives directions on style.

Monday night was Dana Marsh‘s first rehearsal conducting the Early Music Hawaii choir for its upcoming concert, “Spain & The New World,” which will take place on Saturday, September 24th at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, at 7:30 pm. Poor Dana—he had been awake almost 24 hours in flying from New York to Hawaii, yet he still had the energy to conduct a fast-paced rehearsal with fast-paced music.

Luckily we will have THREE more rehearsals on this music before Saturday night’s concert! Some of this music goes by so fast, if you blink, you’ll miss something!

If you’ve never heard the toe-tapping baroque music from Latin America, here’s a little taste of what you can expect: Juan de Araujo’s “Ay Andar,” which will end Saturday night’s program.

The Early Music Hawaii Choir includes Naomi Castro, Rachel Lentz, Georgine Stark (soprano), Karyn Castro, Diane Koshi, Sarah Lambert Connelly (alto), Todd Beckham (countertenor), Karol Nowicki, Bowe Souza (tenor), Scott Fikse, Keane Ishii, and Jeremy Wong (bass).

Instrumentalists include Richard Savino and Hideki Yamaya, baroque guitar and vihuela, Anna Callner, gamba, Philip Gottling, dulcian and recorder, and Fred Marian0, percussion. Oh, and moi, on organ.

You can get a sneak preview of the program by clicking here. Tickets may be purchased at the door or online at www.earlymusichawaii.com.

 

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New York doings

Padraic Costello

Padraic Costello

I just now read Padraic Costello‘s post about the St. Thomas Choir in New York, where he is singing now. He writes: Saint Thomas Choir was featured in the New Yorker! We’ve been preparing for a concert (tonight!) with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and with Simon Rattle conducting, in memory of the previous director, John Scott. If you pause the video halfway through 2:57, you can see me all the way to the right for a quarter second of fame before the camera recoils in fright and pans away.

Musica Poetica 2015

Dana conducted the Musica Poetica singers, 2015

Remember that Padraic lived in Hawaii for several years and sang countertenor in a number of concerts I was also involved in—such as the B Minor Mass (which Carl Crosier conducted in 2011), and Early Music Hawaii concerts, like last year’s Musica Poetica concert. But guess what?!

Our guest director for this year’s Early Music Hawaii, Dana Marsh, is attending the very same concert at St. Thomas where Padraic is singing! And then tomorrow, Dana flies from New York to Hawaii to conduct the Early Music Hawaii concert (“Spain and the New World” which will take place next Saturday, September 24th at 7:30 pm at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu. Small world, right?!

St. Patricks Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

Speaking of New York, guess where former student Joey Fala was today? Yes, he played a recital at St. Patrick’s Cathedral this afternoon. He posted a picture of the interior, with the caption “Surreal to be practicing in here alone.” His program was;

Joey Fala

Joey Fala

Jeanne Demessieux (1921-1968)
Te Deum, Op. 11

Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
Rhapsody No. 1 in D-flat major, Op. 17

César Franck (1822-1890)
from Trois Chorals
1. Choral in E major (I played this piece for MY master’s recital in 1973!)

So many people ask me how Joey is doing—he is continuing his graduate studies in organ at Yale University and has just gotten a new job as Organ Scholar at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Norwalk, CT. Here’s what he wrote: Ever since I’ve found myself surrounded by great choral talent at Yale, I’ve been itching to get my feet wet in (the) world of choral music. This summer I was appointed organ scholar at St. Paul’s on the Green in Norwalk CT, under director of music, Jake Street, who leads their solid Anglican choral program. My responsibilities include choral accompanying, service playing, some conducting and working with the choristers—St. Paul’s has a thriving chorister program, 30 young voices strong, ages 7 through 17. While I technically began a few weeks ago taking the choristers to choir camp, today (Sept. 11) was my first official Sunday on the bench.

Today was the fall return of the choir and there was barely enough room in the chancel to hold the choristers, schola, and adult choir combined. No words to describe the feeling of accompanying a group with that kind of song power. Super excited to be a part of this amazing program and for what learning experiences lie ahead.

At the time of the choir camp, Joey texted “We have 28 kids from age 6-16 at a camp site on a lake. It’s crazy and fun.” He said that another choir, from St. John’s, was there at the campsite, and the director kept saying that he recognized Joey’s name. He finally realized it was because he had read all about Joey on this blog!

Here’s Joey’s concert schedule this year:

9/18 St. Patrick’s Cathedral
New York, NY

10/1 Albert Schweitzer Organ Competition: Trinity College Chapel
Hartford, CT

11/5 AGO Binghamton Chapter: United Presbyterian Church
Binghamton, NY

11/9 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Norwalk, CT

11/16 MM Recital: Christ Church
New Haven, CT

2/5 MM Recital: Woolsey Hall, Yale University
New Haven, CT

2/26 Washington National Cathedral
Washington, DC

3/19 AGO Hawaii Chapter: Central Union Church
Honolulu, HI

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Switching gears

The next Early Music Hawaii concert.

The next Early Music Hawaii concert.

Okay, I haven’t yet recovered from jet lag, but it’s now time to switch gears. From French music and organs, now I have to think “Spanish,” for the upcoming Early Music Hawaii concert, Saturday, September 24th. It’s a concert called Spain and the New World, and will feature the Early Music Hawaii choir and orchestra conducted by guest director, Dana Marsh, plus two visiting artists, Richard Savino and Hideki Yamaya on baroque guitar, vihuela and theorbo. The concert will be held at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu at 7:30 pm, and tickets may be purchased at the door or at www.earlymusichawaii.com.

Here’s a description of the concert from the postcard I designed: Experience the passion of sacred polyphony by Spain’s renaissance masters, Morales, Guerrero and Victoria, followed by the irresistible rhythmic joy of villancicos from its American colonies by Padilla, Salazar and Araujo.

As you may remember, Dana visited a year ago, and at that time, he was a “visiting professor” at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Now I’m happy to announce that he has obtained a permanent post, and his position is now “Associate Professor of Music (Early Music/Voice); Director, Historical Performance Institute.”

From a press release from Indiana University

Dana Marsh

Dana Marsh

“Over the course of these past two years, as Dana has served the area of Historical Performance in a visiting capacity, he has garnered the admiration and respect of the faculty and students,” said Jacobs Dean Gwyn Richards. “It is with great anticipation that the Jacobs School looks forward to his permanent appointment and the inevitable impact of his presence, his personality, his vision and his knowledge.”

Marsh has directed a broad range of major ensemble performances for the Historical Performance Institute, including NPR broadcasts with modern premieres of Latin American Baroque music as well as Italian and Spanish polyphony of the 15th and 16th centuries and music ranging from the “Eton Choirbook” to Purcell and Boyce, and from the Bach cantata repertoire to late Haydn, with the IU Classical Orchestra. He teaches early notation and performance practice and coaches early music voice as an outside area or minor for aspiring opera singers. He oversees the strategic planning and development of the Historical Performance Institute and serves as editor of the Historical Performance series published by IU Press.

So my task ever since I returned home was to find some Spanish organ music to play! An even bigger challenge will be to make the Beckerath organ sound Spanish! For some inspiration, I found this YouTube video which shows off the fiery Spanish reeds and will give you a “foretaste of the feast to come.” I won’t be playing this exact same piece, but a similar “battle” work, featuring the reeds.

The stellar Early Music Hawaii Choir will feature the voices of Naomi Castro, Rachel Lentz, Georgine Stark (soprano), Karyn Castro, Diane Koshi, Sarah Lambert (alto), Todd Beckham (countertenor), Karol Nowicki, Bowe Souza (tenor), Scott Fikse, Keane Ishii, and Jeremy Wong (bass).

What a group!

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Sights and sounds of Lorraine and environs

The 2016 participants of the Historic Organ Study Tours in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges

The 2016 participants of the Historic Organ Study Tours in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges

I have returned home now, and no matter what my connections, that trip back to Hawaii is l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-g! (over 24 hours). The only thing I regret is that I left my jacket at Charles de Gaulle Paris airport security, and didn’t realize it until I started getting cold on the plane. By the time I got to San Francisco, my nose was frozen solid and I ended up buying a sweater in the SFO airport.

So far I have only shared a few of my hundreds of photos from this trip, and as I was looking through my camera roll, I realized that there were still some that I would like to post on this blog. For example, one cannot go to France without savoring every bite of French food, and of course, I took photos of many of my meals. I already shared pictures of what we ate at the group dinner, but here are some photos from other meals. (Yes, I did eat quiche lorraine at several meals—after all, we were in the Lorraine region!)

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We encountered a number of graveyards adjacent to churches, and I was most interested to find marble memorial plaques sitting loose on top of the graves, labeled “À notre tante” (To our aunt), “Notre frère” (Our brother), “Souvenir” (Memory), etc. At the Église Saint Georges in Taintrux, we saw many graves supposedly abandoned and in very bad shape, even the ones made of stone and marble! Apparently, it is the responsibility of the families to maintain the graves, and if the family line dies out or moves away, there is no one left to care for these memorials. One of them even was a “Leaning Tower of Pisa!’ because it was practically falling over.

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The flowers we saw planted by the roadside were simply amazing. Bear in mind that these were just flowers planted in public places—I wonder who takes care of them?

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I had trouble in France posting some of my very short videos, many of them under a minute each, of some of the organs we heard and other scenes (you Facebook users saw a few of these already).

In just about every single church we went to, in order to get to the organ in the gallery required that you give up your claustrophia and fear of heights, and climb up the steep spiral stairway. Here’s an example of a short climb (most of the organs had twice or three times the number of steps).

The reception we got from the local townspeople was simply amazing, which included visits from the local town mayors and newspaper photographers. I had mentioned in a previous post that the local schoolchildren were so excited at the sight of our tour bus, seemingly a rarity in those small towns. At Domgermain, they even rang the church bells at our arrival, which were not part of the church service which was long over.

Here’s a short clip from Talange Église Jésus-Ouvrier where you can hear the Italian-style organ and its wild tuning. It’s part of Christophe Mantoux’s demonstration of the organ for us.

Here you can see the beautiful countryside as seen from the church in Deneuvre.

Christophe is demonstrating the Église Saint Maximin in Thionville in two short videos here.

And here I’m playing Couperin at the Collégial Saint Rémi in Fénétrange.

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HOST insights and miscellany

Dom Bedos diagram of how an organ works. Notice the organist wearing a sword?

Dom Bedos (1709-1779) diagram of how an organ works. Notice the organist wearing a sword? We saw this posted in Deneuvre at the Église Saint-Rémy.

IMG_3558Someone on the Historic Organ Study Tour (HOST) asked me, “Did you think that this was a study tour or a playing tour?” and I replied that the reason I signed up for this tour was for the experience of playing all these historic organs. Out of the thirty organs we played on the tour, only one was new; the 2008 Pascal Quorin instrument at the Cathedral Saint-Dié. The rest of them dated from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and for me, it was truly a revelation!

Here you can hear God directly; thanks for not using your mobile telephone!

Here you can hear God directly; thanks for not using your mobile telephone!

Not all French classical music is playable on French classic organs. I learned this in a hurry when I wanted to play a piece like a “Tierce en taille” and discovered that either there was NO tierce available, or it was only in the upper part of the keyboard (dessus). So often I ended up playing a piece for one manual, rather than solo and accompaniment.

My dilemma in going to each organ was, “Well, what kind of music will work here?”

Pedalboards vary widely from organ and organ. All of us North American organists who are used to a standard pedalboard such as the AGO (American Guild of Organists) discovered right away how difficult it is to find the notes when there is no uniformity in size, width, or distance between pedals. One pedalboard even had an extra five notes in the bass, not to even mention “short octaves,” in which the bottom octave is incomplete in order to save space. Organists pride themselves on being able to play the pedals without looking—I couldn’t do it! especially when the keys are not where you think they should be! I was especially blown away by the “pedaliers à la Française” — the French pedalboards.

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IMG_3683A lot of people brought François Couperin’s organ masses or Louis-Nicolas Clérambault’s “Suite,” to play. However, these works were considered concert works, and not typical. These works were much longer pieces than the average Sunday morning French organist would play in alternation with the chant. Christophe Mantoux said very short pieces, four to eight bars in length, would be more typical fare at the average French parish.

IMG_3751The acoustics in all of these churches were fantastic. That is due to the all-stone construction, the extremely high ceilings, and the lack of acoustic-absorbing materials such as carpeting or padded pews. I became acutely aware of how uncomfortable the pews were, especially since the width of almost all of them was extremely narrow—not more than 9″ in depth. Even though I am a small person, this was too narrow to be seated comfortably on basically a thin slat.

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IMG_3709In order to get to the organ, one must climb steep, spiral stairways. You can’t have claustrophobia or a fear of heights! Most definitely, the highest and most memorable climb was to the swallow’s nest organ at Metz Cathedral, where it was 60 steps up, and then a squeeze between narrow catwalk walls about 14″-16″ apart the whole length of the cathedral. And it seemed almost endless, going round and round, to climb the 70 spiral steps up to the organ at the Nancy Cathedral. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it up! Also, in many of the churches, the steps were far from even, and in fact, quite warped with a big dip in the middle of each one. As someone said, “This would never be allowed in the U.S.! OSHA would shut them down!”

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Last night we had a group dinner with a typical French menu. The room was noisy with conversation, laughter, fine food and drink.

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In short, I loved it all— the churches, the organs, the stained glass windows, the architecture, the many picturesque waterways, the food and the flowers. I have had a fantastic time and would recommend this tour to any organist. You will be in hog heaven!

 

 

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To go up, you go OUT!

The way to the organ loft is outside!

The way to the organ loft is outside!

Today we visited Mirecourt, a town which is known for its musical instrument making, primarily stringed instruments. The Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité is where we went to play the organ and what is remarkable, is that you have to enter the organ loft by an outside stairway, something I’d never think I’d see in Europe! (There is an outside stairway to the organ loft at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Honolulu, but then we don’t have to deal with icy sidewalks that they may have in France!)

1826 Jean-Baptiste Gavot organ

1826 Jean-Baptiste Gavot organ, restored in 1987 by Gaston Kern

Pedalboard with short sharps and flats.

Pedalboard with short sharps and flats.

This organ was built in 1826 by Jean-Baptiste Gavot with only 22 stops and a pull-down pedal. Over the years it was transformed by an added pedal division and pneumatic action, but it was restored by Gaston Kern in 1987 and integrated the best of all the changes.

IMG_4367Even though the pedalboard had really small sharps and flats, I got up the nerve to play Couperin’s “Chromhorne en taille” from the Messe pour les Paroisses, and loved the sound!

The church also had a unique set of Stations of the Cross, as well as an antique monstrance, cope with golden thread and an ivory crucifix which I photographed below.

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We saw a wonderful cartoon posted on the doorway to the organ:

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Basically, a little boy says that his father will buy him a musical instrument, and his father suggests maybe a flute, xylophone, harmonica or trumpet.

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The father faints when the little boy says he wants to play the organ!

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They made violins made out of chocolate!

Many of us ate lunch in a very nice patisserie with a choice of sandwich, drink and dessert for only 5.70 euros, then we drove to the town of Darney where we played a restored 1853 Jean-Nicolas Jeanpierre organ. This was going to be the last instrument I play on the tour since I am leaving one day early to catch the train and spend the night in a Paris airport hotel since my flight departs on Thursday morning. There’s no way I could leave any later since it’s a 3-hour train ride back to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

The organ at Église Sainte-Madeleine

The organ at Église Sainte-Madeleine

The way up to the organ loft

The way up to the organ loft

So because this would be my last historic French organ, I decided to play on organo pleno (full organ) the third large Kyrie from Bach’s Clavierübung. People applauded after my performance!

Dr. James Litton taught me all about Classical French organ literature—43 years ago!

Dr. James Litton

Dr. James Litton was very kind to come up to me afterwards and said it was his favorite piece. As you may remember from a previous post, I took Dr. Litton’s Classical French organ literature class at Westminster Choir College—43 years ago! I told him he taught me everything I know about Classical French organ literature!

Even though this really wasn’t a German baroque organ, I think the Bach sounded just fine.

As you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to that long plane ride, but it’s time to get back to reality.

In my next post I will give you some parting thoughts on this whole France experience and what I’ve learned.

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The old made new again

Cathedral Saint-Dié

Cathedral Saint-Dié

The ruins of Cathedral Saint Dié

The ruins of Cathedral Saint Dié

Today’s visit to the Cathedral Saint Dié was pure joy, not only for us Historic Organ Study Tour visitors, but for the town of  Saint Dié-des-Vosges where they would install a new Bishop a couple hours after our visit. You see, the building was left in ruins following a devastating bomb attack on November 9, 1944. I found this photo of the ruins on the internet, and what a contrast to the building we entered this afternoon.

A 21st c. organ stairway!

A 21st c. organ stairway!

And look at this gorgeous organ built in 2008 by Pascal Quorin to replace the one lost in 1944! That means, though, that the building was without an organ for sixty years. Out of all the organs we have played on this trip, this was the most modern, with the most up-to-date, and in my opinion, the easiest to play pedalboard. I could have spent hours playing and exploring this organ. What was most unusual, though, were the colors used on the printing of the stop knob names: Red ink was used for the Récit; blue was used for the Great; black was used for the Positif, and green was used for the Pedal stop knobs! I’ve never ever seen this system before, and it would take some getting used to.

Pascal Quorin organ (2008)

Pascal Quorin organ (2008)

At the console

At the console

By the way, this is the fifth organ in this location—the first organ, 1488-1554 was lost to a fire; the second organ lasted from 1571-1686; the third from 1686-1796; and the fourth, 1803-1944 was destroyed by wartime bombs.

I played the “Christe alter Welt trost” from Bach’s Clavierübung and the touch felt really comfortable on the manuals and pedals, although I found the width of the pedalboard wider than usual. The low C was farther away than I thought!

We then walked to the city hall for a special reception with the town’s officials. It was in this town that they first discovered America in the seventeenth century and drew the first maps of what they perceived as North and South America. I can’t believe how much attention our presence is causing in this region! Everywhere we go, local news media want to take our picture, and people are generously giving us food and refreshments.

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Organ was restored by Jean-Christien Gerrier in 2003-2006

Organ was restored by Jean-Christien Gerrier in 2003-2006

This morning we visited a classic French organ by Claude Legros (1704) in the town of Deneuvre at the Église Saint Rémy. What stood out in my mind were three large Baccarat chandeliers in the nave—after all, the town of Baccarat, home of crystal, is nearby. We were told that 500 people work for the Baccarat factory.

You will see in the slideshow below that there is a French pedalboard (pedalier à la Française) with very small pedals.

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In the late afternoon we visited an 1848 Jean-Nicolas Jeanpierre organ in Tantreux and for the umpteenth time, we were asked to pose for a photograph for the local newspaper. It’s obvious that we are curiosities to the locals as they must never have out-of-town visitors! In fact, we have not yet seen another tour bus in this entire region!

Yesterday afternoon several neighborhood children watched our bus pull up and you wouldn’t believe how excited they were— It must be because they don’t often see buses in this area!

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