PipeChat Digest #341 - Thursday, April 23, 1998
Carlo Curley at St. John the Divine
  by "OrganNYC" <OrganNYC@aol.com>
  by "Jon C. Habermaas" <opus1100@ameritech.net>

(back) Subject: Carlo Curley at St. John the Divine From: OrganNYC <OrganNYC@aol.com> Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 00:51:28 EDT   Dear esteemed colleagues:   I have been reading the various comments and reviews of Carlo Curley's concert (Virgil Fox Memorial Recital) at St. John the Divine this past Sunday. I, too, was one of those present for this marvelous event, but have waited a bit before commenting. I would never presume to offer a critique in a public forum of another organist's playing, but this is an exception. I'll probably babble a bit, but I was that impressed. Please read on!   This was an INCREDIBLE concert! I arrived in time to hear the last part of Choral Vespers and at once switched gears from being tense and tired to that of being relaxed and appreciative of such a peaceful setting. The immense cathedral was dark except for lighting in the Great Choir and four candelabrae. I had been up since 6am in order to "wake up" for regular Sunday morning warmup and rehearsal, then I played the service; after a brief lunch with my boss (Mollie Nichols) and fellow List Member, DudelK, who'd attended the service, had to perk up again and prepare for Evensong at 5pm. When Evensong was over (it went well), I was ready for a few drinks or a nap. Or both. But...I taxied across the park to V&T's for a quick bite (the famous Italian place with cheap and good food across from the cathedral) to St. John the Divine and am not sorry that I did.   Carlo's program has already been printed here, so I won't repeat it. Since I had never heard him perform live, I was anxious to hear what he was all about. The programming was superb: a mixture of crowd pleasers, impeccably registered and performed, and several large works from the "standard" repertoire. I've lived in NYC for about 18 years now, and have never had the chance (if there was one, come to think of it) to hear the great organ at SJD played in a full concert. (Yes, I've been to many events and services at the cathedral, plus many Organ Meditations on Sunday nights, but this was not in that league.)   I marvelled at the cunning programming. How refreshing NOT to hear the usual cookie cutter organ recital -- but something for every organ enthusiast was there -- and it was all played superbly! Yes, there were some Foxisms there -- not at all a bad or tasteless thing to do -- yet they were not by Fox but in Carlo's enviable style and technique. We heard this infamous organ really purr when lush was called for; we heard it sparkle when clarity was in order; and we heard it REALLY knock us over (in the Reger) when it was appropriate. In that huge space -- and I sat in the crossing most of the time -- I was amazed to hear the cathedral organ just get softer and then even SOFTER in spots. The effects were both lovely and awesome. All in all, Carlo is a genius in this genre. This was one of the most enjoyable concerts I've heard in years, due to artist, organ and acoustic.   As Ken Sybesma mentioned, some of us were fading (not from his playing, but from all we had done that day), so I got up to get some air and wander around before the Reger "Wie schoen leuchtet" began. The Massenet "Thais" was just gorgeous as I walked around the nave. This jaded New Yorker walked toward the entrance and was once again awed by the size of the cathedral -- how far away and mysterious the altar seemed from the West End. The sound of the organ eveloped me. I moved around the nave to hear how the organ came across from various places. I looked at the memorials, the chapels and the soaring columns. I thought of Mulet and his Esquisses Byzantines. Amazing. The sound of the organ was increasing and rumbling down that huge nave and I knew the big crash in the Reger was coming, and sure enough, the tuba chorus, the 32 reed(s)? and big trumpet came on at just the right time. I wondered if the old 32 reed had been hooked up (it's still up there). I actually got goosebumps and thought, YES! This is what the organ is supposed to do! How many recitals do that to us these days?   I must offer praise to Dorothy Papadokus (sp? it's too late to look it up) for arranging this concert. It's not the normal thing at the cathedral these days. She's a gem of a person and has a special way of handling the big organ for the variety of services she is called to play for. Let's face it: The Alec Wyton days are long gone, as is that style of "conservative, traditional high church" at the cathedral; yet they still pull it off in some fashion. However, Dorothy manages to not only provide suitable music for Sundays, but for the myriad of funerals, memorials and special services which happen daily in that great place. AND, she's the major force behind getting the organ back in 100% working order. Please support her efforts with a BIG CHECK!!!   And MAJOR Kudos to Doug Hunt for making the organ work so well for this performance. Of course, it's tricky (not to say risky) to make the organ work and sound well when there is a major effort to solicit funds for its restoral, but we all know that bandaids don't fix the major problems of a very old organ. It's a huge organ in a big, drafty room, complete with water leaks, old leather, rotten electrical wiring, etc.; I was appalled to see major water damage throughout the chapels and nave. It's amazing that the organ works at all since its last AS rebuilt in the 50s. Of course, if one pulls on handfulls of stops, you'll get something, but Doug ensured that Carlo could actually use the Choir Clarinet without worry. The organ still needs our funding (PLEASE WRITE A BIG CHECK, ORGAN LOVERS!!!!) to get it back to 100% again. If you've never heard it, trust me -- this is an incredible sound in a wonderful acoustic in a glorious room. We can't let this organ rot away.   Cheers!   Steve Lawson - NYC  
(back) Subject: Re:retraction From: "Jon C. Habermaas" <opus1100@ameritech.net> Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 00:44:29 -0500   I want to commend Steve Margison for what had to be a very difficult letter to send. I have corresponded with Steve previously and found him to be very passionate on the subject of theatre organs. It is a tragedy that the petty politics of a few individuals have taken their toll, and are driving good people away. The survival of the theatre organ depends on attracting good people, not discouraging them.   I have to disagree with Steve on the state of the organ community in Chicago. With the exception of a few discordant individuals the majority of the theatre organ people in Chicago are sincere in their desire to support and promote the theatre organ. There is no ongoing "cat Fight" in Chicago.   I wish Steve the best of luck and hope sometime in the future we will see him return to the theatre organ scene.   sincerely,   Jon C. Habermaas