PipeChat Digest #3818 - Thursday, July 17, 2003
A Visit to the Simons - AGO Region 1 Convention
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>

(back) Subject: A Visit to the Simons - AGO Region 1 Convention From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 00:35:36 -0400   A Visit to the Simons - AGO Region 1 Convention   The alarm went off at 3:15, and at 4:30 a.m., I got in the car and headed east! Who IS it easy for - not many. I can tell you this is not easy for me. But, I did it, being really eager to be present for this event. It's July 2nd, 2003. I wish I could have attended much more of this convention, particularly the winning Regional Competition recital by friend Juan Mesa. I had also hoped to attend some of Region 2, but unexpected circumstances at home made that impossible.   I first met Stephen Simon in the castle-like exhibit hall for the AGO Boston National Convention. There, through the kindness of Donald Sutherland and the Peabody Institute, we at Manders were able to borrow and exhibit their Mander Continuo Organ. http://www.manderorgans.com/html/peabody_institute.html   Please absolve me from giving what might seem like a commercial. Over the years, I have praised to the skies exquisite instruments by many builders - honest equal opportunity and all that - and this is a special little creation of our company. Stephen Simon appeared in the exhibit hall one convention day, and was intrigued by the instrument, enough to ask us to consider building something for him. The continuo was being demonstrated by Simon Gutteridge, who had come from London to help us man the exhibit booth, and to play, and he and I at convention's end, found ourselves on a bus out to Woods Hole, where we would view the balcony of the room where a new Organ would go, in the partially completed house. All was plaster dust and sawdust, but we were able to take measurements and some pictures, and eventually, the drawing office in London produced some plans as John Mander worked out the details of the instrument, and in a warm part of 1992, containers arrived along with a crew from London to begin the installation. I mention the warm bit because this was a popular installation with some of the crew, who managed to have break time in the ocean, about 100 yards down the path. They stayed in a guest house across the street from the main house. Just a short walk, and they were at work.   So, here we are, on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2003, and as I arrived at about 8:45 that morning, the Simons, Bonnie and Stephen, were about to have almost 300 people in their living room for a concert, handled in the usual convention way, split into three groups. The buses seemed to be grumbling up and around the narrow roads endlessly, only occasionally expelling air, as buses do, at unseemly moments. Here is what the Simons did for the AGO this day. They rented 100 chairs, they had catered exquisite pastries and other nice food and drink so that as each group arrived, this bounty was available to all under the balcony of the main floor, they hired a large and fine orchestra, and, the <piece de resistance,> they even had trucked onto their driveway a large and quite elegant version of the Porta-Potties we see at construction sites. This was a class act, with music to match.   The orchestra was situated under the large balcony, the Organ loft, if you like, of the living room. This is one floor below the pastries! As no listeners were under that balcony, but rather, out in the large, very tall, living room, all heard the proceedings very well. The Swell and Pedal of the Organ are up in the balcony. The Great is on the railing, a "ruck-Great" if you like. It even has a little "Regal en chamade." Really, the audience was hearing everything quite directly. BUT, before any of the program began, I must tell you that as I, and everyone else, made their way up the road from where the buses had let the each group off, the most wonderful Brass ensemble was playing lively stuff from a little tower at the front of the house, rather like the widows' walks on old seaside houses. It is remarkable how wonderfully it carried, and what a great way to whet everyone's appetite for what was to come.   The program was fun indeed. Bonnie Simon welcomed everyone, and spoke a bit about the whole process of having a reasonably sized Organ built it one's living room. John Mander, who had flown over from London with his wife and two of the children, spoke about the experience from a builder's point of view. Stephen also had comments to make at various points in the program. It began with Stephen Simon at the Organ (console in the balcony - this IS a tracker Organ), with Haskell Thomson conducting. Haskell was a student at Oberlin when I was there. They began with the Handel Concerto in D Minor, Opus 7, No. 4, and between the Allegros, where Handel would probably have improvised something, the Adagio from Concerto in F, Opus 4, No. 4 (you know the one!) was interpolated.   Conductor and Organist switched places, Haskell heading up to the console, and Stephen descending to the podium, and we next heard two of the Mozart "Epistle" Sonatas, both in C.   Who would have thunk it, out here in the middle of nowhere? The program closed with the Poulenc Concerto in G Minor, for Organ, Timpani, and Strings. After great applause, the first group went out, as directed, through one set of stairs, and other group appeared at another set of stairs. Timing was impeccable, and all, whichever way they were going, were treated to the wonderful Brass in the tower. Some leaving even managed to steal a bit from the great food tables, now reset and refreshed for the next group. The whole affair ran like clockwork, and when it was over, the Manders, the Simons, and others trotted off down to the ocean for a restorative swim. I headed for the car, and began the long trek west!   What happy crowds there were at 9, 10, and 11. It was clear that they were greatly enjoying the convention, and I am sure this wonderful event did its bit to contribute to that. It was great to be back with this Organ once again, to see the Simons, to hear and see classmate Haskell Thomson again, and to visit with the Manders again, whom I would see later in the month in New York. The Music was wonderful, and I got to hear it all three times. I did rather fly the Mass Pike, and the Interstate on true wings of song. It was well worth the alarm at 3:15 a.m.!   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com