We left the Hotel Villa Argentina this morning and stopped at the Chiesa di San Martino in Valle di Cadore, 21 miles away. You can clearly see this church from the main highway but because our bus could not navigate the narrow roads around the church, we had to walk to it from about 1/4 mile away.
When we arrived at the church, I was surprised to see how tall the ceiling was inside and how big the church was. In fact, almost without exception the Italian churches have had very high ceilings in comparison to churches in the U.S. That helps with the acoustics enormously. The organs, likewise are very tall—I’m guessing 25 feet high or more.
The biggest challenge and daily battle we face on the Historic Organ Study Tour is having the right music to play when it’s your 5 minute turn on the organ. Due to short octaves or having only one manual or limited pedalboards severely restricts the type of music that will work. I’m finding that most of the music I brought does not work! (sigh!)
You have seen my pictures of the narrow stairways we have had to navigate, and in most cases I have brought only the music for the piece I’ve chosen to play on this organ, plus my purse and my phone (to take pictures). Too many times I have climbed the stairs then sat down on the bench only to discover I will “run out of notes” due to the short octave.
It happened again today at San Martino and I was foiled again when I chose Bach’s Praeludium in D minor. There was no low G# so I had to jump up and use the one an octave higher, which was not always successful in terms of voice leading. Ah, I just have to forget Bach already! It’s just not possible on these Italian organs without severe compromise.?
I also had difficulty in connecting to the internet in last night’s hotel so I wasn’t able to upload my last batch of pictures. I wanted to show you some of the winding roads and hairpin turns we had to navigate yesterday—after 60 switchbacks I stopped counting! We really had to give our kudos to Frank, our bus driver, for taking us up the mountain and safely bringing us back. In quite a few instance our bus would enter a switchback only to be blocked by oncoming cars. In most cases the cars backed up to give us more room to negotiate the turn. Otherwise we would still be sitting there.
We drove 44 miles to the town of Feltre where we visited the Cattedrale di San Pieter Apostolo and its 1767-68 Gaetano Callido organ, his largest (or second largest) instrument—there is some dispute about this. There are extra notes on the bottom octave meaning that middle C is off to the right about half an octave. The Great is again on the top as we have seen elsewhere in this area (this is contrary to the usage in Germany and the U.S.)
I decided to play it safe and play Frescobaldi’s Domenica Mass again. Better than running out of notes, although it means I’m sight reading.
Although we have one more day left in the tour, tonight was our farewell dinner, a time to thank our tour leader, Roberto, and directors Bruce Stevens and Bill Van Pelt, in addition to enjoying each other’s company. Next year’s tour will be in France and Switzerland!