Tonight was former student Joey Fala’s final graduate recital at Woolsey Hall, Yale University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Music degree. Being here has been the greatest thrill of my life, as it must have been Joey’s greatest thrill of playing on this magnificent organ.
First, about the organ: The Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall was built in 1903 by the Hutchins-Votey Organ Company, improved mechanically and almost doubled in size in 1915 by the J. W. Steere & Son Organ Company, and rebuilt and enlarged in 1928 by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston. University Organist Harry Benjamin Jepson (1871-1952) was responsible for the design of the instrument, executed by Ernest M. Skinner and G. Donald Harrison of the Skinner firm. Consisting of 12,641 pipes arranged in 197 ranks and 167 speaking stops, it is one of the largest and most outstanding instruments of its period. Most importantly, it has been kept tonally and technologically intact since its 1928-29 reconstruction. In other words, it is the Rolls-Royce of organs and it absolutely envelopes the listener in a wash of tonal color and sound.
Here’s the program:
Edward Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance, March No. 4 in G Major, op. 39
Maurice Duruflé, Prelude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain, op. 7
César Franck, Fantaise en La majeure
Thierry Escaich, Cinq verses sur le “Victimae paschali”
Herbert Howells, Psalm Prelude, Op. 32, no. 3
Marcel Dupré, Prelude and Fugue in B major. Op. 7, no. 1
What can I say about Joey’s performance? It was in my opinion, Joey’s greatest performance and the best I have EVER heard him play. Masterful in every respect—seemingly flawless in note accuracy, sense of style, brilliant use and nuances of tonal color, and absolute control of the rhythm and breathing. I told someone last night that from day one as a fifth-grader, Joey already had a musical sensitivity which I did not have to teach him. He could make the music sing! And that he did, and played as though his very life depended on it.
I don’t know how Joey played so brilliantly on so little sleep! The day before, the hall was booked from morning to night with Chinese New Year celebrations, and Joey had to start his practicing at midnight! Apparently the power to the organ shuts off every night, but luckily Joey has an override key to keep the organ playing. Then, his ride to St. Paul’s with another singer failed to materialize and he ended up taking the train to Norwalk at 6 am.
I was very happy to see my long-time friend, Barbara Adler, and she drove four hours from Ithaca, NY to attend the concert. She was formerly the Dean of the Hawaii Chapter of the American Guild of Organists when I moved to Hawaii in 1973. She has since lived in ten states, and is now the national treasurer of the AGO.
I was also glad to make the acquaintance of Don Conover’s brother, who sat directly behind me! It was through the generosity of the Don Conover scholarship that Joey was able to take lessons because of scholarships from the Hawaii AGO chapter.
Seven years ago, when Joey graduated from high school, I wrote in his graduation card, Today I am no longer your teacher. Today you are no longer my student. We are now colleagues.
Today I would have to correct this to say, Joey, tonight we are no longer colleagues. You are our master.