It was just about ten days ago that I found out that I was one of four organists who were asked to play the prelude for John McCreary’s funeral service. To say that I was flattered and honored is an understatement! John Renke, the Cathedral organist, asked what each of us wanted to play, and I chose Max Reger’s Benedictus and J. S. Bach’s Vor deinem Thron. I selected the Reger because I thought it would sound well on the Cathedral’s Aeolian-Skinner organ and the Bach — well, I’ve played this piece countless times for funerals, it being the last piece Bach wrote. Legend has it that Bach dictated it to his son-in-law on his deathbed. I even recall a time when I heard John McCreary himself play it on the Cathedral organ.
John Renke, gave out a list of possible practice times, and I took the opportunity to go today. Since St. Andrew’s Cathedral is only two blocks away from our condo, I decided to travel light and only take my music, shoes, and of course, my keys. Alas, I had forgotten both the case for my contact lenses, as well as my reading glasses so when I got to the Cathedral, I discovered I could see the music, but not the names of the stop knobs! So when I was in the stage of picking what stops to use, I had to rely upon my ears and not my eyes to choose what stops to use! That’s why I called this post “Guessing . . . and groping!”
Organists know, though, that on large organ consoles, the stop knobs are arranged in a certain order, with the lower-pitched stops on the bottom of the columns, graduating to higher-pitched stops and mixtures; the reed stops are located on the top. Although it was a little of a guessing game, I was confident that my registrations will be OK. Still, I’d like to return before next Saturday’s service to double-check my selections which I saved on memory level 33, as I was assigned.
I suppose that I could have saved myself a lot of grief by just going back to retrieve my reading glasses! Turning on the lights in the chancel could have also helped!