A lot of people think that etiquette is passé, but here on the Organ Historical Society tour, it is alive and well. We are requested to wear our name badges at all times when we are with the group, in an effort to get to know one another and to easily enter the organ gallery if there are non-tour visitors to the church. We begin each visit with a short performance by our tour leader, Christophe Mantoux, who by the way, is absolutely amazing in being able to sit down at any instrument and pull off a brilliant performance on sometimes strange or unusual instruments.
After Christophe’s performance, each of those who wish to try out the organ have been given a number, in alphabetical order, and given a maximum of five minutes to play a piece. We have been advised to “Leave things as we find them; when we leave a church, only the dust should have been disturbed.”
I particularly appreciated other words of advice from tour director, Bruce Stevens: Find individual stops to play, don’t play everything on full organ! From the tour program book, “There are many players waiting to play each organ, so please be considerate of the others and limit your total time on the bench. Often a small portion of a long piece is quite useful for experimentation/demonstration. NEVER stand on the pedals—doing so really could break the trackers! Remember that if the tracker action is of the suspended type, it is usually very sensitive; it responds well to a gentle touch, but it tends to rebel at a forceful touch. Be gentle, and love will bloom.”
Excuse me for ranting on this subject, because everywhere else I’ve traveled, I have seen a definite lack of etiquette in public places. On the airplane I saw people take their shoes off and put their bare feet on the seat back of the person in front of them. Even while I spent all those hours in the United Club at the San Francisco airport, I saw people watching videos on their phones with the sound turned way up and without using earphones; talking loudly on their cellphones or even taking their shoes off and curling up on the (public) furniture with bare feet!
We saw three different types of organs today, a Classic and a Spanish organ in Trionville and a Romantic organ in Hayange. I absolutely loved the organ at Église Saint Maximim, Trionville, where it seemed appropriate for me to play the first Kyrie from Clavierübung.
Certainly today’s most unusual instrument was the Spanish style organ by Alain Faye at Église Saint Urbain. It was only built in 2009 but was built in 18th c. Spanish style. Look at the unusual pedal pedalboard, as shown below, and particularly look at the reed caps with the smiley faces. If you look closely, there are two caps with sad faces. Apparently when those notes are played, they create the “wolf tone” of mean-tone temperament. According to Wikipedia, this is where the “diminished sixth is severely dissonant and seems to howl like a wolf, because of a phenomenon called beating. Since the diminished sixth is meant to be enharmonically equivalent to a perfect fifth, this anomalous interval has come to be called the wolf fifth.”
Lastly, we spent time at the Romantic French organ at Église Saint Martin in Hayange. What was remarkable that we had organ stop help from the church’s organist, Olivier Schmitt, on one side and Christophe Mantoux, on the other side. It was so much fun to play Franck’s Cantabile with these two capable gentlemen helping! Several people came up to compliment me on my Franck performance which is all the amazing, because it has been years since I’ve played this piece in public and have not touched it ever since!
P.S. Thank you to all the people who remembered that yesterday marked the two year anniversary of Carl Crosier’s last day on earth. I do miss him terribly, and just hope to “carry on.”