PipeChat Digest #4457 - Tuesday, April 27, 2004
 
Messiaen marathon -- Paul Jacobs at S. Mary the Virgin
  by "Emmons, Paul" <PEMMONS@wcupa.edu>
Christ Church acoustics
  by "Glenda" <gksjd85@direcway.com>
Re: Genuine sacrifice of praise
  by "Randolph Runyon" <runyonr@muohio.edu>
Re: A few organs in the Ozark foothills and Delta plains
  by "Travis L. Evans" <tlevans95@charter.net>
Fred Teardo's Half Hour of Power
  by "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net>
Re: Genuine sacrifice of praise
  by "Noel Stoutenburg" <mjolnir@ticnet.com>
 

(back) Subject: Messiaen marathon -- Paul Jacobs at S. Mary the Virgin From: "Emmons, Paul" <PEMMONS@wcupa.edu> Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 19:13:40 -0400   Too much of a retiring homebody for my own good, I don't get out and = attend performances as often as I should. But as last Saturday = approached, the calendar beckoned with an embarrassment of such organic = riches as I had moved here for years ago, high real estate prices, taxes = and all; so to reach out for the experience of some of them were only = getting one's money's worth. Although sometimes I must cajole myself = with such arguments, I never regret having done so later, because the = occasion invariably rewards the effort. This time, being neither saint = nor sinner remarkable enough for the trick of bilocation, I had to = choose one event: would it be Carlo Curley at Wanamaker's, or (by dint = of five more hours of driving) Paul Jacobs at Smoky Mary's? A faculty = colleague to whom I mentioned this dilemma quickly replied that he would = choose New York, because the music was wonderful and the organ well = suited to it. If any help were needed, his advice made my decision = final.   In planning the program, Paul Jacobs seems wisely to have borne in mind = that, simply as a matter or physiology or psychology, concerts are most = successful in the evening because the senses are more alert than in the = morning. From the fact that they usually end about 10:30 p.m., perhaps he counted backwards to = settle on 1:30 p.m. as the appropriate starting time. This is an inviting and comfortable hour, suggesting a leisurely lunch first for = the locals, or enough daytime for pilgrims to drive a considerable = distance without getting up in darkness. The half-a-dozen or so major = sittings would be interspersed with 10-15 intermissions except at 5:00, = when evening prayer would occur and allow for a break more like = half-an-hour, during which one might =20 comfortably grab a bite in a nearby deli. =20   Thanks to traffic jams, I was nevertheless a little late and missed most = of the opening work, "L'Ascension". But this left me fresh for the next = major work, "Messe de la Pentecote", which is one of my favorites. I = was struck immediately by the vivid sounds conjured up by such a happy = coincidence of imagination in the composer, the organ builders, and the = performer. Oh, and let's not forget the architects, for without proper = acoustics all would still have been lost. The experience was like = walking in an enchanted heavenly garden, with colors and sounds more = vivid than we usually encounter, or at least stop to notice, in everyday = life. =20   This organ seems almost perfectly suited to realize Messiaen's every = visionary registration with ravishing beauty. During the second = movement, for instance, "Offertoire (Les Choses Visibles et Invisibles)" = a section calls for: left hand voix celeste. In the pedal, a melody on = flute 4', with the same melody staccato in the right hand: flute 4', = tierce, and piccolo 1'. He requests "staccato goutte d'eau" (water = drops). Precisely this image was evoked, unmistakeably. One really = could not tell whether a gentle percussion stop, such as a celesta, had = been added as well. On balance, I doubt it, but hardly anywhere would = one find that drawing this registration would so convincingly produce = the effect that the composer clearly wanted. Over the 8-9 hours, we = would be treated to innumerable other examples of this.. transparency, = not just in registration but in every way. It was as though the music = were coming down straight from heaven into our laps. Our performing = artist was, or appeared to be, just staying out of the way, bringing us = pure Messiaen. Let us not fail to notice, however, what an = accomplishment this is, especially for such demanding repertoire over = such a long period of time. Even the page-turners would take turns, but = Paul Jacobs kept going steadily and made it all sound easy. I never = expect to find a finer example of art as the concealment of art.   I suppose, in order to appear observant and and unbiased, one needs to = give some point of criticism. So: if, when Messiaen called for a 16' = basson on the Positif, that is what we were hearing on the organ of S. = Mary's, it must be the world's largest example. It definitely came = across like a bombarde. This happened consistently. I have to think = that Messiaen had intended a gentler sound for such contexts. There. = That's about the only thing I could find in 8 1/2 hours that wasn't = perfect. And I'd brought all my scores with me and was following them.   The program layout was typical of Mr. Jacobs' sensitivity and = thoughtfulness. We heard the earliest major work first and the latest = major work last, but the program wasn't essentially chronological. One = got the impression, instead, of an arch form, with the "most extreme" = work, the Livre-D'orgue, in the middle, balanced with earlier and later = compositions on both sides, beginning with a prayer for glory and = sending us forth at least with an "thanksgiving-alleluia" of triumphant = intensity.   So subtly did he interpret the music, that I wonder what he would advise = a student re Messiaen's explanation that his note values should be = observed scrupulously, especially in that the composer did not always = follow his own advice in recordings. It would be difficult to find any = spot where Paul did not do so (especially in the afternoon as contrasted = with the evening), yet the result was always thoroughly musical, not at = all mechanical. =20   Once in awhile, he would subtly vary a solo registration, perhaps = introducing an antiphonal element, from phrase to phrase beyond what = Messiaen had called for. Once, during "Les Bergers" of La Nativite, he = must have done this off the cuff, due to a dead note in an hautbois. = Sometimes one can't win. When the section returned, we heard a similar = reed: the earlier offending note was speaking, but now another pipe was = slow enough to be disruptive. Oh well-- on an instrument that has = otherwise been so perfectly eloquent, some reminder is not out of order = that maintenance expenses are a constant concern. The "hat" at the back = of the church for the purpose contained rather an ungrateful = preponderance of $1 bills rather than $10s and $20s. =20   Anyone who, not having visited this Times Square church for years, = recalls grime, dinginess, and paint peeling off the ceiling, would be = delighted to see how how exquisitely the building has been renovated. = The ceiling is now deep blue with stars, and the stone walls fairly glow = in a rich, clean cream color. The organ has been restored and largely = completed, so that it now corresponds to G. Donald Harrison's = long-unrealized vision. Even in the 1960s, some people called this the = most versatile and eloquent parish church organ in the whole United = States, a claim that I could easily believe. It is even better now.   Lest I feel too proud of myself for having driven from Philadelphia for = this feast never-to-be-forgotten, I met a young student in the audience = who must take the prize in this regard. After he studied and liked an = easy movement, "Desseins eternels" at age 13 , his teacher played for = him "Dieu parmi nous," immediately igniting in his pupil such an = abiding love for all of Messiaen's organ music that, even though he = would eventually choose to major in piano rather than organ, he flew all = the way to New York to attend this event-- from Magdalen College, = Oxford. He was aglow as he left, feeling that it was well worth the = effort.=20   In his article "The Church and the City" (_First Things_, Feb. 2000) = http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft0002/articles/mannion.html Francis Mannion writes:   "What is human work but a participation in divine creation? What is = leisure but an anticipation of the unlabored life of heaven? What does = the artist do but restore creation to its divine origin and end? Beauty = in all its material and practical expressions exists to draw humanity = into the redeeming beauty of God. This is surely what Dostoevsky had in = mind when one of his characters in The Idiot declares that 'beauty will = save the world.' "This doxological and aesthetic vision provides the protocol for the = Church's ministry of and to the arts. Churches do not hold organ = recitals, arts festivals, and concerts simply because these are nice, = inspiring pursuits. Commitment to the beautiful is intrinsic to the = Church's life for the reason that the Church's vision is the eternally = beautiful city. This commitment, it may be argued, is especially = incumbent upon large and well-endowed urban churches.=20 "The Church today can play a role in bringing the arts back from = alienation from the transcendent-an alienation that has led the arts = themselves into severe disorientation and crisis. Church art programs = can elevate and ennoble what beauty exists in the human city and among = its artists and poets. As the Oxford student above reports, Messiaen is coming to be regarded = as even more important a composer than in his own lifetime, perhaps = because his music shows the way as restorative from the crisis that = Mannion described. It is certainly fitting and especially gratifying = when the church leads the way in this nurturing. One feels, moreover, = that the time spent is time sanctified. This is a marvelous initiative = of Paul Jacobs and S. Mary's, and we probably know better than most what = a breathtaking feat of concentration and endurance it embodied. If you = have an opportunity to attend another such performance, please don't = miss it!           =20          
(back) Subject: Christ Church acoustics From: "Glenda" <gksjd85@direcway.com> Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 19:31:45 -0500   I=92m surprised you asked my amateur opinion, David, but am = flattered.=A0 There was a potential of too much ORGAN there, but I had two distinct advantages.=A0 One, the builder told us the very best place to sit to hear, and two, Ken Cowan seemed to take great care to impart exactly what he wanted, manipulating the instrument and acoustics to get the results he wanted.=A0 His was a romantic program, and seemed carefully tailored to take into account the warmth of the room=92s sound. =A0 I can also say that I did not cause the altar guild ladies to run screaming out of the room when I played, and no one fell down with blood gushing from the ears.=A0 David is the only one who peeled me off the instrument, although I=92m sure with the applause of the entire community.=A0 Neither did the sound from any of the ranks come back and slap me off the bench, as has happened once or twice elsewhere.=A0 It seemed to me as if the instrument was particularly voiced with the acoustics in mind, which is what I would expect from a competent organbuilder.=A0 I wanted to ask if the walls had been treated or = sealed, but forgot.=A0 I was impressed.=A0 If I had to guess, Pulaski Heights = was more problematic in planning acoustically. =A0 If I had more time at the console, I would have liked to have the opportunity to play some Bach, but most of these organs, including this one, screamed for romantic repertoire. I also think it=92s great when = one can worship at the church and hear the incumbent at the instrument.=A0=20 =A0 I pulled out my Durufle scores and drooled on them a little today, but can=92t see playing =91Veni Creator Spiritus=92 on a baroque tracker = with no pistons and huge heavy drawknobs at Pentecost.=A0 Still, if one can do = the =91Ad nos=92 at Alice Tully Hall, who knows?=A0 Wish I had brought home = one of those organs with me. =A0 One thing =96 I noticed that the pew cushions were removable, and were taken out for the recital and replaced the next day.=A0 I wondered what the difference in sound really was in the back of the room.=A0 And how does a voicer plan for roomfuls of absorbent bodies vs. nearly empty spaces (which in many spaces seem to make more difference than pew cushions)?=A0 Oh, well, I do ramble on, but these are interesting questions. =A0 That=92s more than you wanted to know, but thanks for asking. =A0 Glenda Sutton gksjd85@direcway.com =A0 -----Original Message----- From: pipechat@pipechat.org [mailto:pipechat@pipechat.org] On Behalf Of David Baker =A0 I am delighted to read Glenda's submissions regarding Cowan and her adventures in my hometown. I know the Christ Church organ somewhat, and the Pulaski Heights organ well having played it several times (an aunt is a member of the church), as well as the Schantz preceeding it. I am curious to know Glenda's opinion of the acoustics at Christ Church; I felt like there was almost too much acoustics. What do you think, Glenda?        
(back) Subject: Re: Genuine sacrifice of praise From: "Randolph Runyon" <runyonr@muohio.edu> Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 20:44:37 -0400   on 4/26/04 4:06 PM, Alan Freed at acfreed0904@earthlink.net wrote:     I think the only thing we can sacrifice is something that is ours in the first place (or at least something of which we have stewardship).       This is it! It's brilliant. It's the ultimate theological argument to inform our quarrel with Christian karoake singers and all those who would play CD's in worship and "tracs" as accompaniment for choirs. Worship = must be "an acceptable sacrifice" (is that in the Bible or just in Bunyan?--dunno). And as Alan says you can't sacrifice what isn't yours. = Of course, it is the American way to try to do precisely that. To sacrifice others and call it worship or patriotism. That's what's so fiendish about easy Christianity: Jesus died for your sins--ain't it great? And you = don't have to do a damn thing. You don't have to be contrite. You don't have = to examine your own conscience. You don't have to make amends for your sins because Jesus paid it all. What total crap! What heresy! The American = Way is to purchase worship and get salvation on the cheap. To play a CD is to purchase the sacrifice, the hard work of the artists who made the = recording. Because obviously you bought the CD. Alan's point explains so much that = is wrong with American religion today. (Not that he necessarily meant to)     Randy Runyon Music Director Zion Lutheran Church Hamilton, Ohio runyonr@muohio.edu        
(back) Subject: Re: A few organs in the Ozark foothills and Delta plains From: "Travis L. Evans" <tlevans95@charter.net> Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 21:04:53 -0500   If you think Christ Church is too much don't come to the Cathedral in = St. Louis. ----- Original Message -----=20 From: David Baker=20 To: pipechat@pipechat.org=20 Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 7:38 AM Subject: A few organs in the Ozark foothills and Delta plains     I am delighted to read Glenda's submissions regarding Cowan and her = adventures in my hometown. I know the Christ Church organ somewhat, and = the Pulaski Heights organ well having played it several times (an aunt = is a member of the church), as well as the Schantz preceeding it. I am = curious to know Glenda's opinion of the acoustics at Christ Church; I = felt like there was almost too much acoustics. What do you think, = Glenda?   David Baker  
(back) Subject: Fred Teardo's Half Hour of Power From: "Malcolm Wechsler" <manderusa@earthlink.net> Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 22:32:30 -0400   Fred Teardo's Half Hour of Power   The Yale Organ Student is someone living in the very lap of Organic = luxury. Right on campus, one has access to three magnificent Pipe Organs. = Certainly the most famous of these is the great Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall. Everything you could possibly want to know about this instrument is found at the following address:   http://www.yale.edu/ism/organ_atyale/Newberry.html   Here, you will also find photographs, and a choice of works to which you = can listen! With some judicious clicking, you can also find comprehensive information about both the Beckerath instrument in Dwight Chapel and, in = my opinion, a fine example of the work of Walter Holtkamp, Sr. in Battell Chapel. These Organs are all lovingly cared for by Curators Joseph Dzeda = and Nicholas Thompson-Allen.   A few months ago, Fred told me he would be playing one of the occasional = 30 minute student recitals in Woolsey Hall on Wednesday, April 21st at 12:30 (last Wednesday). I was immediately sure I wanted to go, but he made = doubly sure by telling me he would be playing the Reubke Sonata. The combination = of Fred Teardo, the short-lived Julius Reubke (1834-1858), and Ernest Skinner Opus 722, was irresistible. This Organ of 197 grandly scaled ranks of = pipes, capable of reaching the farthest corners of a vast and lively space, is really a perfect medium in a perfect environment for Reubke's great = Romantic conception. With the printed program came the road map of the nine verses = of Psalm 94, in all its great drama, that Reubke took for his inspiration. In the act of taking completely into himself, through memorization, this enormous work, Fred has freed himself to fully realize without distraction the wide-ranging emotional scope of this long work. That, I think, is an intellectual achievement and commitment worthy of the greatest praise. = None of us present for this event will soon forget it. It was Organ performance at the highest level! I mustn't fail to mention that this concert was of = the complete works of Reubke. It began with a performance of his early Trio, a lovely brief work so often forgotten in the shadow of the well-known = Sonata.   Fred carries the honor of the appointment as Yale Chapel Organist, playing each Sunday in Battell Chapel. He is an Organ student of Thomas Murray. = His undergraduate study was at the Eastman School of Music, as a student of David Higgs. I first heard him when he was a high school student, already winning prizes as an Organ student of listmember Stephen Roberts at = Western Connecticut State University. Watch for him, and hear him if you can.   Malcolm Wechsler www.mander-organs.com              
(back) Subject: Re: Genuine sacrifice of praise From: "Noel Stoutenburg" <mjolnir@ticnet.com> Date: Tue, 27 Apr 2004 03:55:16 -0500   Alan Freed wrote:   > I think the only thing we can sacrifice is something that is ours in > the first place (or at least something of which we have stewardship).   This is a subject in which I've invested much thought, and about which I've written at some length on another list. To me, there are two essential requirements for an offering to be valid: voluntary participation, and intentionality. Suppose that there is a basset horn player who chooses to use his instrument as an integral part of his offering. He cannot offer a sacrifice on my behalf if I am unwilling to have it offered, and unless he is agreeable, I cannot borrow his sacrifice as my own. However, just as I can make a particularly well crafted collect, prayed extemporaneously by a clergyperson part of my own offering by adding the liturgical "me, too" that we invoke we say "Amen", if the basset horn player is agreeable, I can borrow his offering as part of my own by in a similar manner. Intentionality comes into play in my opinion, in that I think if the basset horn player is not making an offeriing at the time, I cannot use it as part of mine.   I have come to hold the position that the biggest impediment with the use of recordings in worship stems most often that the recordings are not made with the intention of an offering. Because of the fact that when the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral (London, UK) made their marvelous set of recordings of nearly the entire Psalter, they were doing so with the intention of making the recording, not with the intention of making the offering, there is no offering there in which a listener can participate. This impediment does not exist with certain recordings--those made of live services as a means of permitting pariticpation in the service by those physically prevented from doing so.   While the first impediment does not exist for "trax", recorded accompaniments intended for use by choirs in worship, I see these as subject to a second impediment: no offering should inhibit, or prevent someone else from making an offering Thus, while I might wish they might try harder to find a person to provide music, a person or group who wishes to make an offering, but cannot find anyone to accompany it has a valid offering if they use a recorded accompaniment. If a trak displaces one or more live musicians, though, then I tend to question, perhaps not the validity, but certainly the quality and suitability of that offering.   ns