Let me see … I left home at 7:30 pm Friday night for a five-hour flight to San Francisco. Then I had a 9 (NINE!) hour layover before taking an 11 hour flight to Paris. Then I waited two hours at Charles de Gaulle airport for the train to Lorraine, and then a bus to Metz, which took another two hours; then luckily I found four other people on my tour so we could share a couple of taxis to the hotel. In all, it took 30 (THIRTY!) hours from door to door. And of course, I didn’t sleep a wink the whole way, not to mention the fact that I got up at 2:30 am the day before! To say that I feel like “The Walking Dead” is a vast understatement!
Tomorrow starts my 10-day tour with the Organ Historical Society and the first question you’re going to ask me is, how did you recognize the other people on the tour so you could share a taxi? Simple — I can spot an organist a mile away! and in fact I saw a group of them at the airport waiting for the train. As it turns out, one of the gentlemen was Dr. James Litton, whom I had for French Classical Organ Literature class at Westminster Choir College! However I don’t think he remembered me—after all it’s been 43 years ago! And the one woman in the group, Charlotte Woods, said she used to teach music at Punahou School in the 60s (before my time, though).
After getting settled in at the hotel, I went looking around the neighborhood to find something to eat, and was delighted to see a sign pointing to the Cathedral just a few blocks away. I was blown away at the massive size of the building, the many stained glass windows, and of course, found the pipe organ.
Tomorrow we meet the rest of the tour, led by Christophe Mantoux, the titular organist of the Church of Saint-Severin in Paris and professor of organ at several schools. The directors of the tour are Bruce Stevens and William Van Pelt, leaders of OHS tours for many years; one of which Carl Crosier and I took in 1996 to Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
Here’s a description of the tour: Our home bases will be along the famous Moselle River in the great cathedral cities of Metz (Gothic cathedral with fine stained glass) and Nancy (Place Stanislas, one of the finest city squares in France and a UNESCO World Heritage site,) and the charming garden-city of Epinal. From these we will explore many beautiful towns and villages throughout the region. Despite centuries of contentious wars in the area, the people of Lorraine managed to protect their historic architectural heritage and preserve their natural environment, while developing a warm sense of hospitality that is cherished by visitors.
The culinary delights of the region extend well beyond the namesake Quiche known the world over, while the region’s wines— Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Auxerrois and Gamy— are universally treasured for their quality.
We will discover some 18th century organ gems in French Classic style and several extraordinary new instruments by leading French builders, but many of our visits will be to well-restored Romantic organs with their rich tonal palettes. We will encounter organs by famed builders such as Cavaillé-Coll, Mutin, Merklin, and Callinet, as well as beautiful instruments of regional master builders such as Dupont, Wegmann, Verschneider, Jeanpierre Jaquot and Dalstein-Haerpfer. Our organ visits will provide a cornucopia of musical experiences.
Now you know what I’m doing the next ten days!