PipeChat Digest #1582 - Tuesday, August 29, 2000
OHS Boston, A Busy Tuesday, 8/22
  by <ManderUSA@aol.com>

(back) Subject: OHS Boston, A Busy Tuesday, 8/22 From: <ManderUSA@aol.com> Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2000 00:44:59 EDT   Tuesday, the 22nd, was a long day for us, although there were some escape opportunities provided for those who were running down. My first and usual =   escape was to miss the opening lecture, which sounded (and I am told, was) = of great interest. By Pamela Fox, it concerned the Hook & Hastings factory in =   Weston, which involves more of interest than might meet the eye. This was = an attempt at a complete "community of labor," with workers' cottages, a = company built recreation hall, and other facilities. The move to Weston took place = in 1880.   This was it - my first chance to hear the legendary instrument at Old West =   Church, and its legendary organist, Yuko Hayashi. Perhaps the experience = of the organ was a bit underwhelming (to me) because we have all heard so = many wonderful instruments in a similar style that have been built since this pioneer Fisk organ appeared in 1971. Many of these, I think, surpass Old = West in terms of color and clarity, an excellent example of which we heard at = our next stop. Anyway, Yuko greeted us graciously, and changed the first item = on the program, which was to have been the Buxtehude G Minor, possibly = because it had already been heard, and played instead, the Toccata in D Minor. = Very Grand. Then the gorgeous "Wenn wir in hoechsten Noethen sein." The Clerambault Suite on the Second Tone really gave us a romp through the instrument in the varied combinations always specified. The "Basse de Cromorne" was something else, given the monster Cromorne on this = instrument, full of color and character. During "Flutes," I found myself thinking how much of a cliche these sounds have all become, but also, how they really = were not so back in the late 60s and early 70s. Nor does that familiarity imply =   that they are not beautiful - they are. The "Recit de nasard" revealed another monster, the Nasard itself - quite big and colorful in = combination. Ms Hayashi did not disappoint. She was wonderful, and gets quite a few = extra good points because she donated her fee to the work of the OHS Archives in =   Princeton - a grand gesture. We did sing a hymn, Now thank we all our God, = in the strange unison version found at 396 in the 1982 Hymnal. Had anyone = turned one more page, they would have come to the version harmonized by Monk, following Mendelssohn's symphony version, and we could have had infinitely =   more fun.   We next headed for First Lutheran Church, where Richards, Fowkes & = Company, Opus 10, was in the final stages of installation, sufficiently far along = to allow Bill Porter to improvise his way absolutely brilliantly through many =   combinations of sounds. This organ, in its hideous Piero Belluschi = building, should be a fabulous addition to the Boston organ scene, already pretty fabulous as it is. I look forward to hearing it in complete form.   One of the great communication gaffes of the convention concerned the next =   program, but I think most of us actually got there, if hungry. Frederick Jodry V gave us a really interesting program on a 1938 Wicks instrument in = a fine acoustical environment, Most Holy Name Parish, West Roxbury, the instrument designed and voiced by Henry Vincent Willis. I had heard one of =   these Wicks by "Harry" Willis instruments before, small-ish and in a not wonderful acoustic, and it was not at all impressive. This Holy Name organ = is another story. Wow! Broad foundation tone forever! Reading through the = very detailed stoplist provided, some features stand out. The Great has no mixture, going only to the 2' Principal. There are, however, two Open Diapasons at 8'. The flues are on 95mm of wind, but the Great Trumpet is = on 145mm. The Choir (Enclosed-73 note chest) has a French Horn with its own Tremolo. It is on 140mm of wind, while the rest of the division is on = 95mm. The Swell has flues on 100mm, a Vox Humana which automatically engages its =   own Tremolo, on 105mm, with the four other reeds on 140mm. The Pedal has a =   16' Open Diapason and a 16' Bourdon. All else is either borrowed or = extended from somewhere. There is a small Sanctuary Organ, but it is not working, and was not made available for inspection.   Fred's program: James Woodman - Little Partita for Easter, four variations =   based on "Salzburg," a fine work. By George Whitefield Chadwick, a = Pastorale demonstrating a truly wonderful Harmonic Flute. By Lefebure-Wely, a March, =   given a wonderful performance I am not totally sure it deserved. We then attempted to sing The Strife is O'er at what to me was an incredibly fast clip, a quick Waltz. We were given harmony to sing, but in what would normally be the central harmony verses, there were some unexpected changes = in the harmony from the organ which killed our incentive. Not a happy hymn experience. However, in a lovely touch, the program finished with a really =   interesting and usable Postlude on a Theme of Palestrina (guess which), by =   Dudley Buck. My thanks to Fred Jodry for really clever programming and = fine, strong performances.   One of the happy-making experiences of this convention has been seeing = quite a few ornate, very old, Roman Catholic churches that have been newly = loved and spruced up with great care and taste. Saint Patrick Church in Roxbury = is not one of these, possibly lacking the enormous amount of money required = for a major fix-up. It does have rather nice stations, set in small = tabernacles, perhaps two or three feet high, and lighted indirectly from above. I am = not sure I have seen that before, or just failed to notice. The room is, to my =   taste, disfigured by ugly loud speakers stuck all over the place, and I = don't want to speculate what it is that comes out of them. The organ is an E. & = G. G. Hook & Hastings from 1880, rebuilt by Hutchings in 1893, adding a = Barker lever to the Great and its couplers. The pipework and chests are original Hook & Hastings, but the Choir organ is new by Hutchings. It is visually reminiscent of the Covington Holtkamp that has been discussed on PipOrg-L, =   with exposed pipework in a pleasing pattern - rather remarkable for its = time.   In this church, we had from Kristin Farmer one of those "Program will be announced" events, again of necessity, given the precarious condition of = the organ. Kristin, with her organbuilder husband, John Farmer, have given (as = in donated) countless hours to getting this organ up and playing for the convention. After the organ received an OHS Plaque, we heard the following =   program: Langlais - Hommage, three Dupre Antiphons, Meditation from Thais, =   and a Gigue by John Bull. The Langlais really worked on the instrument, = which is quite beautiful doing mystic bits, and also capable of some richness as =   the volume rises. There is a strong and independent 16' Open on the Great. = In the Dupre "I am black but comely," I am not sure which of the possible = Flutes was used, but it was a wonderful open sound. The John Bull Gigue was = played rather full out, and the upperwork is irritatingly out of tune, sounding = for all the world like a supercoupler forcing into play pipes that have not = been noticed (or tuned) in years - but there is no supercoupler. This piece has =   little to say, and took a long time saying it, I thought. At the end, we = sang "Glory, love, and praise," to the pleasant tune "Benifold," by Francis Westbrook (1903-1975), found in the 1982 at number 300. I think we did = well. We had a middle harmony verse, which makes us happy. Kristin is running = the North Carolina Convention next summer (June 21-28), which guarantees that = it will be a well run and exciting week, possibly also beating the intense = heat of later in the summer.   It was getting on for tea time, but we nonetheless betook ourselves to = First Parish (Unitarian) in Roxbury where we, the second group of our two-way = split were to enjoy what was billed in the book as a "reception." This meant not =   high tea, but various cool drinks poured out under the trees in back of = the church. There was evidence that the first group, following the recital we were about to hear, had enjoyed cookies as well. We found only crumbs on empty paper plates. We were thus only partly fortified for 1 hour and ten minutes (surely the longest daytime event of the convention) of a rather anemic instrument in a totally dead acoustic in a quite large building. = (The building is quite beautiful, if greatly run down, but a grant has = apparently been secured and further funds are being sought for its restoration.) = Robert Barney gave us another performance of the Brahms Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, which worked o.k. in the space, followed by another good choice, = the Hindemith Second Sonata. But nothing could overcome the effect of the = hour, the hopelessly dull acoustic and the instrument. There was a certain = amount of suppressed (and not so suppressed) merriment when we realized the hymn = to come was "Sleepers Wake! A voice astounds us." I guess there are lots of people around who approve of those historically correct (at least for = German speech rhythms) bumpy unison settings of the great chorales. Obviously, to = a lesser extent than the Green Menace of the ELCA, the 1982 Episocpal Hymnal =   has also callously celebrated the death of the great Bach, but at least, = in the 1982, from which the Hymn Supplement says it got today's unison = version, just turning back one page would show forth Bach's glorious harmony for = this wonder chorale, and we could have made beautiful music together with that, =   even only half of our group and in a dead room. Clearly, wiser heads than mine are at work on the destruction of what used to be one of the delights = of these conventions, our great hymn singing. Obstacles appeared at every = corner this year.   But wait, there was yet more to come!! The Reger Fantasy on Wachet Auf = really did not belong in this building on this organ, and for that trivial = matter, at this time of day. Two people were sound asleep in my pew! I was close, = and a friend way across on the other side of this large room kept holding up = his cellphone and pointing to me. I was too numb to get the message, but = learned later that I was to put on my cellphone, which very loudly plays a variety = of strange tunes. I would not have dared!! I felt really sorry for Robert, = who was clearly uncomfortable. He announced to us later that he had allowed himself to be persuaded to play the piece, against his own better = judgement, and he acquiesced. We ran, not walked, to the waiting buses.   Dinner was on our own that night, and the same friend who tried to get me = to turn on my cellphone in the Reger redeemed himself by knowing a splendid small restaurant just a pleasant walk from the hotel, and almost in the shadow of our evening venue, Holy Cross Cathedral. Eight of us enjoyed a spirited dinner, and the dessert was the splendid sight of Holy Cross, = which I had never seen. What a place - what a case!!   Anyone, in New England at least, who receives mail at all, has probably = had a mailing from Leo Abbott concerning his ongoing effort to restore this most =   wonderful instrument in a glorious space. He deserves some sort of hero status. The instrument, Hook & Hastings from 1875, is simply enormous, = with all mod cons of the period, including Barker Lever to the Great and its couplers, pneumatic stop action, eight mixtures, and imported French reeds =   from Zimmerman, some with Cavaille-Coll shallots. It was electrified = around 1929 by Laws. Henri Lahaise and Sons have been working steadily to keep it =   going, while doing restoration work as time and funds permit. Along with = lots of AGO members and other members of the Boston musical community, in = addition to lots of parishioners, we were a huge audience to hear four well known organists in a program that became even more remarkable than we were led = to expect. George Bozeman led off with some charming Pepping Chorale = Preludes, ones from the Kleines Orgelbuch. I love these things, and found very = helpful and interesting the complete registrations given for each piece.   Julian Wachner, who had given us a full evening recital earlier in the week, was next expected to play the complete Widor 6th Symphony, which I would = have happily heard on this organ. However, he, for mechanical reasons to do = with the organ, had changed his mind, and first offered us the Bach Dorian = Prelude and Fugue. The Prelude was a bit thick for the registration and building, = and was a bit lost on me, but the Fugue was magical, with a hardly noticeable = but very real build up that left one breathless at the final cadence. Next = came Julian's announcement that he would like to play his transcription of El Salon Mexico of Copland - talk about something completely different! Well, = it was quite something else, indeed. I guess there are gunshots in the score, =   and Leo Abbott was ready in the balcony with an enormous bass drum, which = he struck with immense authority. At the first blow, the whole audience rose quite visibly just a bit off its seats. Most turned around to see what had =   happened, and there was Leo with a "who me?" look on his face. I thought = it was a great bit of fun, partly because of the venue and the audience, but taken on its merits, it was also a genuine musical experience, and I did = not feel that the transcription diminished the original at all. Intermission followed, and I must report that I was given a number of man-on-the-street =   type interviews, unbidden, from a few people who were really offended by = the exercise. I guess it had to do with this highly secular work in a very = sacred place. I can also report that most people were still smiling broadly about = it at the end of intermission.   Peter Sykes began the second half with a stunning performance of the Reger =   Fantasy and Fugue on BACH. This was our first chance to hear the organ = full out in a major piece of organ literature. It was totally tremendous, and = the audience response was enormous. It was a great moment to be a lover of = organ music.   Leo Abbot assumed his familiar bench at his familiar reversed horseshoe theater organ console (long story, but the thing works!), and led us in = "The Royal Banners Forward Go," to the Agincourt Hymn, with lots of wonderful fanfares and interludes. It was really great fun singing with him, and I = hope the cathedral congregation appreciates it. He then gave us a magnificent improvisation on Salve Regina, which, among other things, was a great tour =   through the instrument, including gorgeous flutes and a Vox to die for. = After the last chord had died away, there were whoops and cheers, and an = audience completely on its feet. What a night!   Back to the hotel for a well-earned rest.   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com