Malcolm's comments on the OHS Convention
Triumphant Grand Opening!! OHS in Boston

Imagine this. A church packed to the rafters with mostly organists from
around the country. An organ in a stunning case fills the west gallery of the
church. The chairs that fill the nave have all been turned around so we can
sit and gaze up into the balcony. A priest steps forward to the railing and
says simply this: "Good evening. I'm Fr. Thomas Carroll, rector of this
church," this simple announcement followed by what can only be described as
tumultuous applause, shouting, and a standing ovation! Do this on a regular
basis, and seminaries will be overflowing with candidates for the priesthood,
but of course, there is a special tale to tell about this visceral reaction,
and Fr. Tom Carroll, organist and OHS member, is the deserving symbol of a
happy ending to a horror story. It was in 1986 that we learned, from not only
the organ journals but from the mainstream media, that from within, a
movement was afoot in this parish, actively trying in haste, before it could
be discovered, to destroy all that was beautiful in the place. There were
stories of sledgehammers taken to statuary, and of plans to build rentable
offices within the nave! The nave would be vastly forshortened, becoming a
small "worship center." The great space would nevermore be seen - the great
organ would never sound into its intended space again. The mobilization of
the OHS and many architectural conservation and preservation groups in the
city was complete and effective! Three ultimately removeable office
structures were indeed hastily built in the side aisles of the west end of
the nave, ugly and intrusive, but they could have been infinitely worse, and
the best news is that plans are afoot to remove them as soon as possible.
What is left is by no means shabby. It's a glorious place.
 

In part, the OHS exists to honor, protect, and present great instruments, so
perhaps it is at "The Immaculate" that we see this function at its best, and
therefore fitting that the convention begins and ends with concerts on E. &
G. G. Hook Opus 322(1863)/E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings Opus 1959 (1902), played
by two great musicians who have supported the work of the Society and been
heard in many conventions over the years. Peter Sykes began this week, which
will end with Thomas Murray.
 

When the pandemonium settled, Fr. Carroll was able to warmly welcome us,
after which Jonathan Ambrosino, president of the Society (and also editor of
this year's stunning Organ Handbook and Convention Program) officially opened
the convention, and introduced Scot Huntington, this year's convention
chairman. Scot ran a memorable convention in Central Connecticut some years
ago, a convention for which he persuaded a remarkable group of artists to
perform, setting a new performance standard for the Society to aspire to in
the ensuing years. No ground has been lost, as you will know from the
narratives of the week to come. Scot spoke of the tragedy and ultimate
triumph of this place, not without evidence of some emotion in his voice.
 

Peter Sykes requires no introduction at an OHS convention, but Scot
graciously introduced him all the same, and he assumed the bench, accompanied
by his quite solid state Australian combination action, Michael Murray on the
right (hereafter known as Dexter), and Stuart Forster on the left (Sinister).
 

A lovely feature of OHS convention recitals/organ demonstrations is the
inclusion of a hymn chosen by the performer in every program. It makes
perfect sense for us to hear instruments doing one of the jobs for which they
were designed. It is fun to see a look of amazed wonderment on the faces of
people attending for the first time, as they hear the fabulous sound of
several hundred intelligent musical beings filling a church with vocal glory!
And Peter's chosen tune was Helmsley to the Advent text "Lo, He comes with
clouds descending" - what a fabulous big, rich, unison sound we made in a
splendid acoustic!
 

The first work on the program: Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue in C Minor, Opus
37, No. 1. We most often hear the Sonatas of Opus 65, and not these earlier
fine works, but perhaps there is a resurgence under way. I am sufficiently
behind in these reports that as I write this, I have already heard a second
performance of this same Prelude and Fugue, played by Julian Wachner in his
recital of Thursday night, but that is telling tales out of synch. More about
that later. The combination of Peter Sykes, Felix Mendelssohn, the Great Hook
and Hook & Hastings, and the acoustic of the Immaculate, as they want to call
it, conspired for a most satisfying experience. I adore Mendelssohn anyway,
so this was sheer bliss.
 

From Annees de Pelerinage of Liszt, we heard two Sykes transcriptions. Ave
Maria von Arcadelt was the first, based on a sweet little four part Arcadelt
work that was in the choral library at the first church for which I played.
There really is not a lot to it, but Liszt spent rather a long time with it,
and I thought it redeemed only by the opportunity it gave Peter to
demonstrate some of the lovely combinations available on this instrument. The
second piece is called Sposalizio (betrothal), based on a painting of
Raphael, and is a charming promenade sort of work, reminiscent of a work of
Alphonse Mailly I once heard David Liddle play - very lilting and gentle at
first.
 

We next heard not the Etudes or Sketches, but Six Fugues on B-A-C-H, by
Robert Schumann. These are marked "for pedal piano or organ," as are the
other works, but perhaps have more potential as organ works, particularly,
Peter notes, numbers 1, 3, 4 and 6. 1 is very sustained, 2 is rather a
short-long sort of gallop, with a later section with an extremely active
Pedal part, and then a manual Toccata over long, sustained Pedal notes. 3 is
quiet and sustained. 4 has the B-A-C-H theme reorganized. 5 has well
articulated flute figurations. 6 has very sustained and conjunct lines and a
great build up to the end. Peter comments in his notes that played together,
these works become something of a satisfying larger sonata.
 

After intermission, another work for Pedal Piano, a Grand Prelude (from a set
of eleven dedicated to Franck, by Charles-Valentin Alkan, who was, quoting
from Peter's program note, "a prodigious, albeit reclusive, performer on the
piano and especially the pedal piano, and his compositions continue to amaze
and puzzle musicians with their fierce difficulties, their obsessiveness, and
their peculiar brand of enticing melodic songfulness." In arranging this for
organ, some adjustments of spacing and texture were necessary, and although
this is not one of the more difficult works in the set, it was necessary to
employ "Dexter" to play a few melodic notes in one place, a task he handled
nobly.
 

Returning a favor, Cesar Franck dedicated his "Grand Piece Symphonique,"
which we heard next and last, to none other than Charles Alkan. Peter Sykes
plays this spacious and wonderful work with both the breadth and the fire of
the great Demessiux, whom I once heard at Woolsey Hall. Quoting again from
the notes, " . . . my own introduction to [Grand Piece Symphonique] was
through a recording made on this very organ almost thirty years ago by Thomas
Murray. I was transfixed by the piece, organ, and performer. I remain in his
debt." And Peter, we remain in your debt for keeping the tradition alive.
Thank you for tonight, and for many tonights!!

OHS Boston Thursday 8/17-A Marathon Day. . . .
. . . at the end of which many of us felt like we had indeed run the 26
miles.
 

The day began with a lecture which, regrettably, I had to miss. Some will
have attended a slightly different form of it in Seattle, and from all
accounts, I ought to have been there. "Time, Taste, and the Organ Case" was
tailored here by Matthew Bellocchio to include some of the famous Boston
organs heard at the convention.
 

On the bus at about 10:15 to thread our way through NY style traffic to Most
Holy Redeemer Church, East Boston. Well worth it! Occasionally at OHS
conventions, the program book says "Program to be announced." This is never
the result of indecision, disorganization, or laziness. It's a signal that at
any given moment, up to and including the first notes of the recital, there
is doubt about what will and what will not play on the organ! In pretty bad
shape, this instrument is, nonetheless, worth the pilgrimage. Not only is it
the largest remaining instrument by William Simmons (1823-1876), but it is
also the "oldest extant two-manual organ with a detached, reversed console,"
quoting from the Organ Handbook. Dr. Kevin Birch teaches at the University of
Maine School of Performing Arts in Orono, and is Director of Music at St.
John Roman Catholic Church in Bangor, where he has developed an important
musical program, including the preservation of the church's 1860 E. & G.G.
Hook organ. For us, carefully and late in the day, he developed a completely
satisfying program which demonstrated the capabilities of the instrument in
its present condition. The instrument is so dusty and dirty that it has not
been possible to tune it completely for a long time, so avoidance of
upperwork was the order of the day. We heard lots of foundation tone, and
excellent stuff it was, too. He began with a fine performance of the Bach
Pastorale, the perfect piece for the circumstances, showing a few small but
distinguished combinations of sounds. All the combinations were announced
before he began the work. Next, a pleasant surprise, at least to me - three
beautiful organ pieces of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, all from 1898, and
possibly the only works for organ by this gifted and short lived violinist
and composition student of C.V.Stanford. Kevin found the perfect solution to
the problems of the organ's state of health, by calling on a 'Cellist friend,
Jonathan Cortolano (which I hope I am spelling correctly from hearing it
announced), to play the melody lines, requiring that the meager functioning
voices of the organ only play accompaniment for the most part. With a really
voluptuously beautiful 'Cello tone, this enterprise was a great success. The
pieces were entitled Arietta, Elegy, and Melody. Kevin promised to
demonstrate some of the notes of the Oboe that were working, and did so
charmingly with a bit of Jesu Bambino of Pietro Yon. After this, we were
happily presented with another fine hymn opportunity, a lovely early 18th
century tune (Sweet Sacrament) found in Worship III to the text "Jesus, my
Lord, my God, my All." We had a great sing, and took full advantage of a very
nice harmonization. This is the organ upon which, in 1975, Thomas Murray
recorded the Mendelssohn sonatas, recently reissued on CD. It is only through
many volunteer hours by Richard Lahaise that we were able to hear any of this
marvellous but sadly neglected instrument.
 

Next, on to Most Precious Blood Roman Catholic Church in Hyde Park, to hear
Stephen Roberts on the 1892 Carlton Michell instrument, much of which was
probably built by Hunter in London, and which was originally in St. Stephen's
Church in the South End of Boston. Tubular Pneumatic at birth, when moved to
Precious Blood in 1956, Richard Lahaise electrified the instrument and fitted
it with a new console. Stephen needed his own version of Dexter and Sinister,
but *inside* the organ following marked scores and manipulating the Swell
shutters, rather than at the console turning and registering. The expression
pedals were temporarily disconnected.
 

For PipOrg-L readers, I am almost afraid to mention it (!), but Stephen's
first piece was by Franz Schmidt, a fine Toccata for Organ of 1924. This was
not a high speed toccata, but rather, a genial perpetual motion sort of
thing, very interesting harmonically, and perhaps a bit reminiscent of Reger.
Harmonies shift and resolve in often unexpected ways.
 

I often talk, nay, brag about the hymn singing at OHS conventions - our
glorious unisons and glorious harmonies. I don't recall us singing plainsong
before, but Stephen gave us Ave Verum Corpus in a 14th century plainsong
tune. We did not have time to work for any sort of nuance, but, large body
that we are, we managed some very gentle yet full and rich (accompanied)
singing. It was quite beautiful, and followed immediately by Everett
Titcomb's "Communion Meditation on 'Ave Verum Corpus.' " It was helpful to
have sung the entire long plainsong melody before hearing Titcomb's work
based upon it.
 

The program ended with the brilliant and brilliantly-played Allegro Vivace
from the Widor 5th Symphony, a great way to cap an altogether solid and
splendid recital. Thank you Stephen.
 

Next, on to Christ Church Unity (Sears Chapel) in Brookline for a fine
recital by Andrew Scanlon, winner of the 1999 Boston Chapter AGO Competition
for Young Organists, and a student of John Walker at Duquesne. He is also
Organist and Choir Director at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Export,
Pennsylvania. (Is there an Import?) Andrew was one of the six young
organists chosen to play at the New York National in 1996. Anyway, this Sears
Chapel has a rather handsome exterior and a somewhat disappointing interior
(rather the opposite of this writer!). The organ is chambered in the west
gallery, with an attractive facade with stenciled pipes, but is a smallish
gem (nineteen stops) being asked to speak down a rather long carpeted nave
filled with thickly cushioned pews. It is all a bit distant, sadly, but the
instrument, E. & G. G. Hook from 1862, is intact and well cared for, and was
presented on this occasion with the handsome plaque that the Society presents
to churches that care for their instruments of exceptional merit and
historical significance. Andrew opened with a fine, if slightly rigid,
performance of the Bach C Major (545), a wonderful Organo Pleno work (Bach
wrote this on the manuscript) not, I think, often played in recital, being
passed over for some of its more famous siblings. Keller quotes Straube as
saying in reference to this work: "Let the organist seek to reproduce in his
registration the magnificence and splendor of the Meistersinger orchestra."
Wow! Not in this space, unfortunately (or fortunately), but the ears adjust
and I enjoyed hearing this piece with which I struggled as a student so very
solidly played.
 

Next, the first two movements of the Mendelssohn Second Sonata, Grave and
Adagio, the somewhat thin Oboe perhaps wanting a bit of help from the Stopped
Diapason. I love that Adagio movement, and it was clear that Andrew does as
well - nicely felt. Then, the jaunty Trumpet Dialogue from the Couperin
Convents Mass, followed by a rather sweet setting of Allein Gott by Dudley
Buck (join the world in spoonerizing that), which consisted of a harmonically
interesting chorale, with variation. Last on the program, two fine pieces by
someone of whom I know nothing - who can help? I have not been able to catch
Andrew to ask. A Rondeau and Deo Gracias by Joseph Wilcox Jenkins (b. 1928).
This is lovely, modal, spirited stuff, perhaps somewhat in the Hindemith
mode. Andrew Scanlon is a fine young player, who also knows how to put
together not-your-usual recital program - a very enjoyable and rewarding
event in our busy day!
 

The afternoon ended with two rather amazing events!! At the "United Parish"
in Brookline, we were all kind of blown away by Peter Krasinski and
Aeolian-Skinner opus 885 (1932-33 - and not at all unlike the Meistersinger
Orchestra!!) and much more. First, we were welcomed in a recording by Ernest
Skinner himself, apparently from a welcoming speech he made to an AGO
gathering at some point very late in his life. It was loud and clear, and you
cannot imagine the shock quotient of it all. It was a stunning opening, with
no warning whatsoever! Bravo to whoever managed this coup. (Unconfirmed
rumors abound that Mabel Skinner may make an appearance on the morrow!) But
there was more. After singing "O God our help" from the hymnal in the pews in
our usual sensational manner, with Peter's magnificent accompaniment, we
heard a program of two works, once again, not your usual organ recital. We
first heard Peter and the Wolf, transcribed by Peter Krasinski, narrated by a
woman from the church's Board of Deacons who had earlier graciously received
an OHS Plaque for the organ. This was clearly a new translation from the
Russian, beginning more-or-less thusly: "Peter lifted the heavy rolltop, and
threw the switch, activating the great Spencer blower." And then we had Peter
being hustled inside, to escape the evil Clarinet. And then, with Peter, we
cowered in the face of "Evil hunters, seeking unaltered Skinner organs!" It
was all so perfectly done - the narration was really dramatically delivered,
and Peter Krasinski - what to say? The transcription, the performance, the
organ - it was nothing less than fabulous - requiring a chapter of its own in
any history ever written about OHS Conventions We Have Known - unexpurgated
edition! For a bit more icing on an already rich cake, Peter Krasinski's own
transcription of von Suppe's Poet and Peasant Overture.
 

At the end of the afternoon, the astonishing, amazing - whatever - computer
driven Boston University Symphonic Organ, hosted by its creator, Nelson
Barden. The whole thing had its genesis in a small Skinner (opus 764)
instrument in a Rockefeller mansion in Greenwich, CT. The architects of the
house had managed to run three pipes under the ceiling of the organ chamber,
water, steam, and sewer, allowing for the possibility of disaster, should any
one of these burst. As Nelson put it, when disaster did strike, it was not
water, not steam, but . . . The organ was a mess, and was disposed of, to
take its place, well scrubbed, we presume, in what was to become one of the
organic wonders of the world. Further donations of house and other organs
kept the thing growing to its present size, and it now lives in its permanent
home at last, on a great balcony overlooking a large kind of banqueting hall.
On screen before us, we saw what the computer operator sees on his monitor up
in the balcony. We see the four keyboards plus a short one for the
Pedalboard, laid out, surrounded by lists of all the stops available, and
watch as colored lights indicate which keys and which stops are playing. We
heard a performance, electronically recorded, of listmember Carlo playing
Fiddle Faddle, Edwin Lemare playing the Bach "Jig" Fugue, and lots of other
goodies. An exciting aspect of this is the ability to reproduce here the many
performances committed to paper rolls in Germany in the 20s and 30s, at a
time when sound recording was not yet totally viable on location, and, of
course, the immense resources of this instrument make possible just about any
registrational requirement. After the great show, most of our large party
took advantage of being able to walk right through this marvel, to see, under
glass, the whole thing operating. What a day this has been, but it is not
over yet.
 

After dinner, off to The Mission Church to hear Julian Wachner on Hutchings
Opus 410 of 1897 sounding out of its great west gallery case into a superb
acoustical space. The program began with the Bach Piece d'Orgue, and when the
great contrapuntal section, perhaps the greatest of all such musical moments,
began, we were presented with a great wall of sound reminiscent only,
perhaps, of Woolsey Hall. The opening arpeggiated bit wanted, for me, a
somewhat lighter touch, it all seeming a bit heavily legato to me, but no
matter. We then heard our second performance of the convention of the
Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue in C Minor. No harm done - the piece bears
rehearing, and was very different here anyway, given the rather different
instruments and settings. The buildup of the Fugue was really masterful, and
filled with excitement. Then, the Cantabile from the Widor 6th, with a
gorgeous Oboe. A wonderful wash of foundational tone filled the Durufle ALAIN
P & F, a superb performance of one of everybody's favorites pieces in all the
organ repertoire. It was a fine ending to a rich first half of the program.
 

After intermission, we were driven hastily back to our seats by a fabulous
improvised fanfare, using the splendid, if un-Englishy, Tuba. We next heard
the Boston premiere of "Les Tres Riches Heures," (An Organ Book of Hours) by
Marjorie Merryman. At the wonderful Worcester Regional Convention last year,
we heard the world premiere of this work played by Katherine Pardee, and I
was delighted tonight to have a second hearing, and I know I will be forgiven
for inserting in here what I wrote about that earlier performance.
 

"This was followed by what has to be seen as a great event, the unveiling of a
wonderful new work commissioned by the Worcester Chapter, with help from a
Boston Chapter AGO Special Projects Advisory Committee. Les Tres Riches
Heures by Marjorie Merryman (b.1951) is inspired by the Book of Hours (the
liturgical monastic "offices") of Jean, Duc de Berry, with miniature
paintings by master Flemish/German artists of the 15th century. The six
movements are entitled:1. Procession, 2. Dialogues, 3. Cycle of the Year, 4.
Rebellion, 5. De Profundis, and 6.
Celebrations. I don't want to take bandwidth here, but if people are
interested, I will gladly copy the very fine notes about this work that
describe both the paintings and the nature of the music inspired by each one.
Marjorie Merryman was present at the performance, and was acknowledged by
Katharine, and roundly cheered by the audience."
 

That was written last summer, but the offer of the notes still stands, if
anyone would like to read them. Thank you Julian Wachner for bringing this
great music to life one more time. We ended the evening singing Holy Holy
Holy to, of course, Nicaea. We were given instructions in the program to sing
verses 1 and 4 in unison, with women singing verse 2 and men verse 3. As I
always do, I object gently to the fact that we were denied the opportunity of
singing at least one verse in the glorious harmony of which we are so
capable!! After we finished singing, Julian, without pause, went on into a
pretty wild improvisation on Nicaea which I quite enjoyed, a final shot at
hearing this really quite fabulous instrument.
 

So, it was the end of the first (very) full day, and he saw that it was good,
and went back to the hotel and collapsed! Tomorrow will be somewhat easier,
but I would not have had our Thursday any other way - a succession of
wonderful musical experiences!

OHS Boston, 8/18-Promenade Day
 

This Friday began with an early lecture by the wonderful Barbara Owen, to
whom our professions (organ playing and organbuilding) owe monumental debts.
The topic was "The Hook Years," not an overstatement when you realize what an
enormous number of instruments that workshop turned out each year in the
mid-1800s. Still recovering from Marathon Thursday, and hoping to keep at
least somewhat up-to-date with these reports, I skipped the lecture (and
breakfast too). So for me, the first part of this day happened in Hook
Country, Jamaica Plain, and one of the lovely features of it was a promenade
by the lovely yellow home of Elias Hook. Is it coincidence that the roof on
the front porch looks for all the world like the three center flats of a
typical Hook case?? We were split into three groups at this time, so that no
church was overly crowded, this meaning, of course, that each performer had
to play three times. My group began not with a Hook, but with Central
Congregational Church's Aeolian-Skinner opus 946 of 1936, made in the same
year as me - and now you know! I should only hope to be as versatile and
effective as this amazing 14 stop instrument. It can do anything asked of it,
and today, it met just the right player to direct it. Possibly, this organ
should not really function as it does - after all, it is stuffed into a
chamber on the north side of the chancel - but - the room is welcoming, and
aided by 5" of wind pressure and scaling and voicing to match, it reaches
every corner of the room. This should not suggest to anyone that it is loud -
it simply projects very well in all directions. The organ is entirely
enclosed in one swell box.
 

We began with a version of the choral "Freu dich sehr" slightly different
melodically than how I know it, a pleasant variation. Because of an
unfortunate misprint further down the program page, for some, it became
"Freud dich sehr," but I cannot here say more! After we sang, very well
indeed, including a good run at a very nice harmony, Mark played the bright
and cheerful Pachelbel Partitia on FDS, followed by the Sowerby Arioso -
these two totally contrasting works already demonstrating well the remarkable
versatility of this organ. Then, the driving Bach Trio on "Herr Jesu Christ,
dich zu uns wend" well driven indeed. "Langsam" from A Fantasy (opus 39) by
Harold Darke is a wonderful celestial bit of England, followed by another
piece I did not know, "Placare Christe servulis" of Marcel Dupre, a great
"tour de force."
 

The splendid playing of Mark Dwyer is no surprise to me - I have heard him on
several occasions, and know he is unstoppable. This organ, on the other hand,
was a total surprise. Fourteen stops, and look at the program it played, and
all beautifully and essentially authentically! Some rather larger instruments
cannot do as well. Thank you Mark and thank you G. Donald.
 

We walked through pleasant streets with lovely Victorian houses all around,
to First Baptist Church, with its essentially unaltered 1859 Hook, for a
concert by Lois Regestein, a regular at OHS conventions. Lois's programs are
always a bit off the norm, including a sprinkling of rarely heard works,
unjustly neglected. She began with a choral prelude: "War' Gott nicht mit uns
diese Zeit" by Johann Hanff, using a registration which Hook had set as the
plenum, just through 2' on the Great, without the mixture. It was fully
satisfying. Dan Pinkham is an old friend whose music has occasionally been to
me more cerebral than moving. I have not always understood, but Lois now
played "Pastorale on ''The Morning Star,' "which I found to be a wonderful
piece. I would like to hear it again, and also play it. Then, on to three
Haydn Musical Clock pieces, Minuet, March, and Andantino, revealing the
absolutely beautiful Flutes on this organ. I adore Respighi, but know nothing
of the organ works. We heard the ravishing "Prelude on a chorale of Bach,"
another work I must have.
 

The last time I heard Lois Regestein in concert was at the Denver OHS
Convention, and we were way up in Leadville, about two miles high. Baby Doe
of "The Ballad of Baby Doe" fame lived in this place, and Lois found a
Soprano living in the community who sang for us one of the arias from the
Opera. This added a great deal of interest to the program in that place,
where we were struggling to catch our breath. Lois again this summer brought
us a fine singer, Dianna Daly, who sang a setting of Agnus Dei by Leonard
Ciampa, music director of the church - from his "Mass in the style of
Perosi," pleasant stuff beautifully sung. After a jaunty little Trumpet Tune
in D from somewhere in Telemann's vast output, the program concluded with a
strong performance of the Brahms Prelude in G Minor.
 

As you will know by now from my scribblings, if there is one thing those of
us who attend OHS conventions do really well, it is the singing of hymns. We
are great, nay, fabulous, with an unequalled collective instinct and
intelligence. To hear us is to believe! All of this notwithstanding, Lois
gave us a rather stern admonishment that we not drag, that we follow her
tempo. Collectively humbled but not disabled, we responded with a most
rousing performance of "Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven."
 

Another pleasant walk brought us to First Parish, Unitarian, where we heard
Gregory Crowell, Director of Music at Trinity UMC in Grand Rapids, and on
faculty at Grand Valley State University. The organ is E. & G. G. Hook, Opus
171 of 1854. In 1860, Hook added the Choir organ, which was apparently
prepared for in 1854. Oh, that gilded age when that which was prepared for
was actually finished!! We began in glorious harmony with the hymn "Spirit of
God, descend upon my heart." The name of the tune did not appear either in
the program or the hymn supplement, so I can't tell you what it is, other
than that it is the tune to which I have always known this text. At this
point, Gregory was to have been joined by Paul Austin in a performance of
Pastorale for Horn and Organ (1899) by August Koerling, but Mr. Austin awoke
this morning with a hopeless head cold. I can play the organ with one of
those, but one would guess the Horn is hard enough to manage even with a
clear head! I am sure this was a disappointment to both men, as it was to us,
but Gregory played for us the organ introduction to the work so we could at
least have an idea of the musical style. Hopefully, this can happen next
year. We then heard a fine and sure performance of the Mendelssohn 4th
Sonata. In the first movement, the instrument struck me as somewhat shy and
retiring. The second movement demonstrated really lovely flutes, and the
Allegretto third movement a Clarinet with an amazingly beautiful timbre.
Gregory had commented earlier that Paul Austin had perhaps gotten too close
to that Clarinet, which clearly, on a very few notes, was also suffering from
a head cold. With the appearance of the Reeds in the last movement, the
instrument seemed to come out of its case and into the room with great power.
 

The last venue in Jamaica Plain was to be St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where we
were to just have a peek and possibly sing one hymn, as the organ was in
terrible shape and almost unplayable. There was an escape bus promised for
those who wanted to get back to the hotel, and it had been my plan to take
advantage of that so I could try to (almost) keep up with these musings. The
express bus was cancelled on the grounds that not enough people wanted it,
fair enough when seats are being carefully counted to make sure that there
would be enough room for all the rest to get back to the hotel on the
remaining buses. This happenstance turned out to be something of a blessing,
because things were much better at St. Thomas Aquinas than we had been led to
believe. It was, no doubt, a touch and go situation, but Scot Huntington, who
had other things on his mind, like running a convention, had also managed to
give, and I emphasize *give,* lots of his time to trying to get this glorious
1854 Hook (moved to this church in 1989 and somewhat rebuilt by George
Hutchings) playing - it had not been heard in 20 years!!! This is a major
part of the OHS Convention History - the hours or weeks of time freely given
by OHS member builders to making ill instruments well enough to be heard at
conventions. I well remember the importance of this in Baltimore some years
ago, when for that convention, a number of builders put in countless hours
for churches that did not even realize what treasures they had. Some of the
reactions were very moving, with parishioners joining us for a recital with
tears of joy, some remembering how it used to be before the appliance
arrived. This wonderful effect was in fabulous evidence at St. Thomas
Aquinas, where, for more than 20 years, there was a pastor who would not even
allow the organ to be mentioned, let alone played. I was told that it was
only allowed to remain there (west gallery) because it looked so nice. (It is
indeed an unusually attractive case.) The new pastor welcomed us in a really
fine speech that made it clear where his sympathies lie, and he was roundly
cheered. No doubt with his encouragement, many parishioners were in
attendance, some of whom had ventured into the balcony for the first time to
see what the organ really looked like. Scot announced that he would
demonstrate the organ, announcing registrations as he went along. Then he
would play a few pieces. I am not sure many of knew that he actually played
the organ, but it turned out that he indeed does, and did, and quite well for
an organbuilder who surely has little time to practice - even doing a
creditable performance of the St. Anne Prelude. He then accompanied us in "O
worship the King," Hanover, and it was at this moment that the attending
parishioners collapsed emotionally. The building is not without resonance,
and to hear 400+ intelligent musicians filling that room with beautiful
sound, first in unison, then in harmony, was overwhelming. Tears of joy all
around. David Scribner, co-owner of Pipechat wanted to be certain that I
would mention all of this on the lists. Believe me, David, there was never a
chance that I would not. And who knows - will this organ now be played again
for Sunday worship in this place? One can only hope.
 

George Bozeman is always a major presence at OHS conventions, this sometimes
taking the form of an organ he has carefully restored, but most often in the
form of an interesting and somewhat unusual recital. Here, he fulfilled both
roles, playing on an 1860 E. & G. G. Hook (Opus 283) of 32 stops (rebuilt in
1913), which in 1992 had "tonal re-instatements and recreations;
refurbishment and restoration" at the hands of George Bozeman - all this at
First Congregational Church in Woburn, an amazing great wooden church with
what was, in its time and in this area, apparently one of the tallest and
largest open interior spaces without the support of any sort of columns. It's
quite a sight.
 

After a pleasant welcome from the church's organist, whose name I could not
hear, George began with the Bach P & F in G Minor (535) which I recall
hearing David Liddle play some years ago at Woolsey - not a work often heard.
It is filled with toccata-like bits, with echo effects - quite intricate, and
an unusual fugue subject, somewhat wedge-like in reverse. Nicely done. Then
my least favorite part of the program, a Sonata in A of C. P. E. Bach which I
really do not think works well on the organ. The first two movements are
terribly thin in texture, and do go on for a long time in what really want, I
think, to be Harpsichord figurations and ornamentations. The third movement
is a bit Domenico Scarlatti-like, and works rather better, to my mind. We
then sang a quite fine hymn, "Eternal Spirit of the living Christ" to a
strong, unnamed, tune by F. William Voetberg (a member of PipOrg-L), who is
one of my happily-remembered predecessors at my present church in
Connecticut. The unison verses were a bit tough, with a high F, but in the
fine harmony, it was great to sing and to hear.
 

Somehow, I think playing the Franck Chorals becomes very personal for many
organists, and everyone has their own way of approaching them, perhaps. To
the extent that this is true, hearing them in the hands of another player
often leads to a "how could he or she do it that way?" kind of attitude. This
is where I was in George's performance of the B Minor. Places that I feel as
slow and peaceful, he chose to take rather briskly, his treatment of tied
notes was different from my own (and surely Franck's - that's a joke!), and
he did some things rhythmically that I could not make my own. That did not
make it a bad performance for me or for anyone else - it was just different,
but well-done within those differences.
 

We heard then four exquisitely registered and played choral preludes of
Brahms: Herzlich tut mich erfreuen, Schmucke dich, O wie selig, and Herzlich
tut mich verlangen. And then, for something completely different: three of
the Bartok Mikrokosmos pieces - rather fun on the organ, but I don't think
they grow from the transition particularly. The program ended with a huge
Concert Sonata No. 5 in C by Eugene Thayer, the first movement (Allegro
energico) almost a large sonata on its own. The second movement, Allegro con
moto, was a charming canon in the manuals with a rapidly running pedal part.
The last movement is Allegro con brio, and was all of that.
 

Back to the hotel for a drink and another chance at the fabulous OHS store in
the exhibit hall.
 

An OHS Boston Weekend
 

After a fairly energetic and busy Friday, the prospect of a somewhat more
relaxed convention weekend seemed a good one, and I rather took advantage of
the more relaxed schedule possibilities. Saturday began with Jonathan
Ambrosino's lecture entitled: Ernest M. Skinner & G. Donald Harrison,
Retrospective and Review. I had heard Jonathan do something akin to this at
the Denver OHS Convention, and while knowing that much will have been added
to his research by now, I nonetheless felt I needed to continue my policy of
catching up by missing the lectures. Jonathan is President of the Society,
bringing to us a distinguished background in both communications and
organbuilding, and he is making his strengths very much felt throughout the
organization.
 

Therefore, for me, the first concert of the day was that of Richard Hill at
First Parish in Arlington, one of the truly great recitals of the convention,
on one of its very best organs - an 1870 Hook (opus 529) of fifteen stops,
moved into First Parish's fine modern building from a church in Philadelphia.
I actually wrote on the top of my program: "This organ rocks, and so does
this organist!" We began with a hymn that rather set the tone for the rest of
the program - "Stand up, stand up for Jesus," to the tune Webb. Well
supported by the organ(ist), we filled the place with sound, and it bears
remembering that we were only one third of the convention, as were divided
for the early afternoon. The organ is tucked in a corner in the front of the
church, and has facades on two sides, and the whole thing resonates like one
big soundboard - it really is rich and full, and beautiful besides. Worthy of
note was the fact that the previous day, we had been lectured by one of the
recitalists before the hymn on the subject of Amens, and how they were now
considered "declasse." Sorry about the accent-challenged Internet. Well, this
was going to be a program of the good old way of doing things, meaning good
organs, good acoustics, good music, and good solid playing, so just for fun,
we had a good, solid, AMEN. The Lord won't mind one bit - trust me.
 

On my own personal scale of taste, which may be irrelevant to anyone else,
the first piece, the Triumphal March of Dudley Buck (Spoonerize again) is
just above the centerline of acceptance, on the good side just a bit, but
that spirited if questionable stuff can really take on goodness in the hands
of a strong and sure player with spirit to match, so the preformance really
was good fun. We then heard what I believe Richard said was the only organ
piece by Amy Beach, a lovely work called "Prelude on an Old Folk Tune," very
Irish sounding, I thought. The next piece, Richard suggested, was the kind of
thing that would keep a congregation around for the postlude; Toccatina by
George E. Whiting (1840-1923). The beginning was a bit reminiscent of the
Lemmens Fanfare.
 

This program was developing into a clean sweep - not one piece I have ever
heard before, or even heard of!! Next, David the King, based on a theme of
William Billings, by Gardner Read - a lament on the death of Absalom.
Finally, the grand finale, Allegro comodo, from Suite in D by Arthur Foote.
Foote was from Salem Mass., on the water, and Richard suggested that the work
is redolent of the sea, and much like a schooner in a fresh breeze, moving
right along without ceasing. This work might have suffered from a lesser
performance, but there was nothing lesser about what we heard - a great
ending, to much applause and a quick stand up!
 

On to Follen Community Church, the oldest church in Lexington, boasting as
one of its ministers Ralph Waldo Emerson. What a beautiful place and
beautiful instrument, both to look at and to listen to. E. & G.G. Hook Opus
466 of 1869 was originally in a church in Stoneham, but was given as a gift
and moved to Follen Church in 1995. This was my first chance to hear Erik
Suter, of whose adventures and successes I have heard through a number of
mutual friends. Erik, with degrees from both Oberlin and Yale, is now
Assistant Organist and Choirmaster at Washington National Cathedral. He began
his program with another fine and accessible work by Dan Pinkham, "Festive
March" from "Music for a Quiet Sunday." This was commissioned by the church
to celebrate the instrument. We then heard the Mendelssohn Third Sonata, and
in the Andante Tranquilo, Erik used the Great 16' Bourdon up an octave, a
most attractive stop. He had warned us to listen for it. Next, the Sweelinck
"Variations on Balletto del granduca," for which organbuilder John Bishop
operated the hand pump, which really did make a noticeable difference. The
wind was rather gentle and supple. Erik chose to end quietly with the Paul
Manz "Aria," which I first heard played by Tim Smith at The Riverside Church
for a group I had taken to hear the Riverside organ. The piece stayed with
me, and Erik has now made me realize I must buy and learn it (the second does
not always follow the first). The Melodia was the solo stop, living up to its
name, and toward the end of the piece, we heard it an octave up, where it was
just totally ravishing. The final hymn: Come down, O Love Divine (Down
Ampney), in which we got to wallow in a harmony verse, ending then in unison
to a Bruce Neswick reharmonization. At hymn's end, Erik launched into a quite
cathedral-like improvisation on Down Ampney which sent us all out very
cheerfully indeed. Erik is a very fine player, and a modest and pleasant man.
 

Sometimes food claims a place amongst the list of OHS Convention memories. On
this Saturday evening, we had an example of this, and what an example! At
5:30, in the beautiful evening light, we boarded a large and very fast boat
for Thompson Island, the history of which is complex and off topic here,
other than to say it is a quite large, hilly, and scenic place from which, in
the right spot, one neither see nor sense the presence of the big city so
near. I have been to one clambake in my life, a small, private affair,
memorable for the wonderful seafood I love and for good company. This was
this experience writ large. My goodness, there was no end to the wonderful
food. There were various salad things, baked beans, a wonderful piece of
steak, a large pile of steamed clams (O Rapture) and an enormous lobster on a
separate plate (O Rapture Doubled). We were seated in a great tent, with some
outside places for those who enjoy Mosquitos. They clearly like organists a
whole lot - the affection was not returned! This is the kind of stuff the
OHS tries to do at each convention - some extra pleasant touch - and it was
much appreciated. At the end, we hiked down to the dock through the cool
darkness, and after a bit of a wait, our boat appeared to take us back to the
mainland, giving us a gorgeous moonlit ride back to Boston Harbor - no tea in
evidence! At this convention, as at others, the day ends in the exhibit hall,
where there is a bar, much good conversation about the day's events, or about
other conventioneers! Lots to say on both subjects!
 

Sunday morning, the Annual Meeting of the Society was scheduled for 8:30.
Achieving a quorum of the full membership of the OHS is required for doing
any binding business, which means that a large number of those attending the
convention are needed at this meeting. It speaks of the devotion of the
membership that I have never been at one of these meetings that was less than
really well attended. There are reports from all the committees carrying on
the work of the Society, including the Historic Organs Citation Committee,
the superb OHS Archives in a new home in Princeton, the Biggs Fellowship
Committee, the Convention Committee, the Publications Committee, and so much
more. At this convention, about a half-dozen plaques were presented to
churches that have recognized the historic significance and musical
importance of their instruments, and have continued to maintain them
properly. This recognition, plus the very presence of several hundred
musicians in their church coming to hear the instrument, sends a strong
message of support and encouragement. The Biggs Fellowship is a great
program, and its ability to assist interested people in attending a
convention, when they might not otherwise be able to do so, has been greatly
enhanced by a major gift from the estate of Peggy Biggs, the wife of E.
Power, who died recently. This year, our convention has been enriched by the
presence of four Biggs Fellows: Daniel W. Hopkins of Lockeport, Nova Scotia,
Ted Kiefer of Franklinville, NJ, Tony Kupina of Montreal, Quebec, and Daniel
B. Sanez of Hollywood, CA. A visit to the OHS Archives in Princeton finds you
in a place where you know you could happily stay for days on end, exploring
the amazing riches, holdings unequaled by any other resource anywhere in the
world. Most of the important books about many aspects of our instrument were
written with help from visits to the Archives. Many have studied there helped
by one of the research grants available through OHS. The Archives were
bursting at the seams in the old space in the Westminster Choir College
Library, and through gifts from business and arts organizations and
individuals, the sum of $85,000 was collected to make possible the move to
new and spacious quarters. Confident in the knowledge that OHS is important
to all its members, important enough that they are willing to help the
organization financially over and above the membership fees, a new fund has
been established and announced at this year's annual meeting. This endowment
fund will help stabilize the finances of the organization, and enable it to
expand its work in a number of areas where money has been a bit tight. The
goal is a half-million dollars, and amazingly, a small group of officers and
close friends of the Society has already pledged the sum of $58,000. I hope
anyone reading this who is not a member of OHS will consider now joining.
Try: < www.organsociety.org >. By the way, next summer's convention will be
in Winston-Salem, NC from June 21-28.
 

On this Sunday afternoon, there were some opportunities to visit Cambridge
organs which I already knew, and also the astonishing beauties of Mount
Auburn Cemetery, which for American organists and organbuilders, might be a
rough equivalent to an Englishman visiting Poets' Corner in Westminster
Abbey. Some recitals were played in Cambridge, and some churches held special
musical events for conventiners. I am afraid I chose to stay close to the
hotel to write, to read, and even to nap a bit in some catch-up sleep before
the great evening event, a concert about which I almost fear to write, so
controversial was it. Catching all the buzz on the walk back to the hotel,
and in the exhibit room later, there seemed to be no agreement whatever about
the instrument, the player, her registrations, the music she chose - even
what she wore! That Cherry Rhodes is the consummate concert artist can not be
in dispute. Nor can one deny the historicity and significance and (arguably)
beauty of the enormous 1952 AEolian-Skinner organ, much upgraded and changed
both mechanically and tonally over the years, but still bearing the stamp of
the makers, working under consultant Larry Phelps. Beyond that, I heard those
things that I thought I rather liked being roundly condemned by some, and
those things that I thought I did not like being roundly praised by others.
If nothing else, the organ is a great amusement. There is much to gaze upon,
with all manner of pipes mounted in all kinds of arrangements. There is
nothing to suggest the historic structure of the Pipe Organ, perhaps even
less so than in some of the exposed organs of Papa Holtkamp. Looking at
those, you usually knew what was where. Not so here in the First Church of
Christ, Scientist, known familiarly as The Mother Church. The great heaps of
pipework are not identifiable without some sort of guidance. The exposed
pipework speaks into an enormous space, seating about eight thousand people,
and amazingly, it projects fairly well, coming to the listener's ear, I
think, with the aid of the various domed shapes in the building. It is
capable of gentleness and also of bombast, all sounding to my ears just a bit
on the thin side, and looking at the pipework, one does have the impression
of thin. I am sure I will pay for this in some way, but I have to say that at
the end of the first piece, a large plenum with tons of mixture ranks in play
caused me to say that I thought it all sounded incredibly electronic.
 

Quickly changing the subject, the program (12 pieces, only two of which I had
ever heard) began with a piece that made use of the spacious layout of the
organ, a work by Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) dedicated in its organ arrangement
to Cherry Rhodes. Pacific Fanfare (1999) began very softly and finally did
build up to live up to its name, or our expectations of its name, exploring
the many reeds of various volumes on this instrument. To me, quite an
interesting work. This was followed by the Sweelinck Bergamasca, using what
is called the Continuo division of the organ. This certainly was possessed of
no intimacy, which I think is wanted by this music. I did not know the
"Deuxieme Legende" of Bonnet, a beautiful work I am glad to have heard. Then,
from the Vierne "Pieces de Fantaisie," Impromptu, a terrifically fast and
difficult work played with seemingly no effort whatever. Gabriel Dupont
(1878-to 1914 - living only 36 years) was an organ student of Widor. We heard
Meditation. Before the intermission, we heard a work by a Yugoslav composer:
Deszo d'Antalffy-Zsiross (1885-1945), who studied, among others, with Max
Reger. "Sportive Fauns" was dedicated to Marcel Dupre.
 

After Intermission, we sang our obligatory hymn, "I love thy way of freedom,
Lord" to a Hubert Parry tune, "Heavenward," which I had not heard. The
accompaniment was unusual, being almost a gentle wash of sound much in the
manner of some English Psalm accompaniments, very much in the background, and
from where I was sitting, quite indistinct, making it quite hard to get any
leadership from the organ. The activity was not a great success, but there
were some that very much liked it, opposed to others who thought it made it
clear that Cherry Rhodes does not play in church. We then heard Four Pieces
for the Mass of the late 18th, early 19th century Spanish composer, Jose
Lidon. I well remember his Sonata on the First Tone (for Harpsichord or Organ
with Trompeta Real) bursting into our world via a recording from St. John's
College, Cambridge, showing off the then new en chamade Trumpet. The second
of the four pieces we heard was very reminiscent of that Sonata, almost like
an upside down version of it. Fun stuff, and the final of the four pieces,
Allegro, made use of some wonderfully blazing reeds from somewhere in the
organ.
 

Clarence Mader was a well-loved California organist, composer, and teacher.
"The Afternoon of a Toad" left me rather cold, I am afraid, contrived, and to
me, simply not humorous, as it was, I think, meant to be. The final work on
the program is, I feel, a work of great importance. Jiri Ropek (b. 1922 in
Prague) wrote Variations on "Victimae Paschali Laudes" in 1963, and it was
featured by Ropek in his first recital tour of England in that year. There
are eight sections to the work, each with its own verse of the Sequence, and
we were given the text of the eight parts.
 

Whatever misgivings people might have had about the concert, at the end of
the Ropek, there was a spontaneous and essentially unanimous standing
ovation, and it kept going long enough that it was clear an encore was
needed. We heard the lovely and quiet "Salve Festa Dies" by Marius Walter,
about whom I know nothing. Hailing the festival day was a very gentle affair,
but beautiful. And thus ended Sunday.

OHS Boston, Monday 8/21
 

On this Monday morning, as an equal-opportunity lecture-misser, of necessity,
not desire, I did not hear Alan Laufman's history of the Organ Clearing
House, which he heads and has headed for many years. Like any other regular
OHS convention goer, I have, in part, lived that history, having visited
parts of the country where the tentacles of the OCH have been very much in
evidence. I recall that this was particularly so at the convention in
Portland, OR, where it seemed sometimes that every new church, and there are
many new churches in that rapidly growing part of the world, had a fine and
perfectly efficient old organ in it. It made economic sense for them to deal
with OCH, both in terms of affordability, but also of the hope for real
musical quality - this, along with the not unimportant fact of recycling an
excellent old organ needing a home. The Organ Clearing House and Alan Laufman
really deserve a loud Well Done.
 

The recitals I heard this day were part of an elective involving visiting
instruments in the Newton area. The alternative was the Mount Auburn
Cemetery, also available the previous day. A third choice was to do nothing
and ride a bus later to a concert at The Korean Church in Cambridge. I'd been
a bit lazy on the weekend, so guilt and the realization that there were
things on offer in Newton that I really wanted to hear, caused me to hop on
the bus yet again. After all, that is what I am here for!
 

First stop: Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, Newton, something of a
cookie-cutter Anglican pretend Gothic building, of which there must be
thousands around the country. (I may be getting in trouble here - it probably
is a fine Cram building, but cliche is cliche!) I am afraid it boasted
pretend Gothic acoustics as well. I sat in about the third row on the wrong
(south) side, despite the fact that the organ is in a chamber on that same
side (with a reversed console also on that side). I was out of sight of the
case. Many early arrivers dashed for seats in the north side of the chancel -
I do believe they might have regretted it later. I have heard some recent
gorgeous to-cry-for organs of Fritz Noack. I suspect this chancel
installation caused him to want to push the instrument out of its sepulchre
so it could lead those in the back row of the church. I did not talk with
anyone who sat back there to learn how it sounded - I should have taken a
walk at a break in the music. From up front, it was overpowering.
 

Gretchen Longwell gave us a program that made me think we were back to the
"real world" of the organ recital, as opposed to that of the OHS - and this
is NOT in any way a negative comment about OHS programming, or of Gretchen's
program. It was what one might play on a North German oriented mechanical
organ in a good room in an academic environment, and we were almost
completely an audience of organists, so it should be fine to do the following
program, but it missed one of the features of OHS programming - showing a
variety of things the organ can do. Many thought that we could have heard
some Vierne, Mendelssohn, or anything else that might show the Romantic
possibilities. I think they were probably there in this instrument. The
program:
 

Buxtehude - Praeludium in G Minor, rather heavy-handed with none of the
lightness of touch that is so pleasing on a mechanical instrument. (We heard
it later in the week in Mean Tone tuning - a very different piece!)
 

Georg Boehm - Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten, a wonderful work
beautifully played.
 

We sang "Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten" as "If thou but trust in God
to guide you." There were only two stanzas given us, so most of us turned the
second into harmony.
 

Two Schuebler Chorales: Meine Seele and Ach bleib bei uns, the latter
something of a finger breaker, and both really well played.
 

Ernst/Bach - Concerto in G, a somewhat quirky but bouncy piece that I used to
play with great pride and pleasure. This was a fine performance, but I have
to say that I thought it too could have used a somewhat, and only somewhat,
less legato approach to the keyboard and the action. It was also very
overloud, and I think registering this instrument a bit more selectively
rather than by the book would produce better results.
 

The next recital gave me my opportunity to hear for the first time, a new
instrument built by George Bozeman, which, like its builder, is full of color
and character. Unlike George, the instrument has rather active or flexible
wind, a bit more so than wanted, as there was clearly no room for the main
reservoir right with the instrument - it is in the next room - and even
fitted with concussion bellows, things get very occasionally a bit bouncy.
But I really liked the whole effect, and the sound in particular. There is an
amazing wooden 16' Pedal Trombone, tremendously round and full in sound, but
not loud, and perhaps a bit slow of speech, but really fun when it opens out.
This is at Eliot Church (Congregational) in Newton Corner, Newton, and the
recitalist was Kimberley Ann Hess, Director of Chapel Music and College
Organist at Stonehill College in Easton, MA. She changed the first work on
the program from the Buxtehude G Minor Praeludium, already heard in this
convention, to the De Grigny Veni Creator Suite, played with glorious
ornamentation and clarity on a very sympathetic organ in Kirnberger I. This
has been something of a Schumann year at OHS, and we heard four Sketches from
Opus 58. Last, but by no means least, Ms Hess gave us a magnificent reading
of the Bach Toccata in F (540), including the most expressive playing of that
long Pedal solo I have ever heard. Even it alone was really moving. To "Sine
Nomine," we sang "We are Your People" in glorious unison. Good for Kimberly
Ann Hess and for George Bozeman, and thanks to both.
 

Brian Jones always gives good value, and he has been giving it at OHS
conventions seemingly forever. To be sure, his playing is always wonderful,
but he gives more, steeped as he is in the history of the instrument, OHS,
and New England itself. I recall him playing for us in Maine, I think in
1992, in a small country church, where he eventually revealed he had grown up
pumping the organ for his aunt or some relative, in any case, who had played
at that church for many years. Later on in the program, he asked all the
members of his family in attendance to please stand up, revealing that they
filled at least three long rows at the back of the church. Today's program
began with the Lefebure-Wely Bolero de Concert, without benefit of a thunder
pedal. It was great fun anyway. Then to a fine four movement Concerto in D by
Charles Avison (1817-1953), and following that, a wonderful Jongen piece I
don't believe I had heard, Scherzetto (Opus 108, No. 1). The next and final
work on the program was dedicated to Alan Laufman, Director of the Organ
Clearing House, who, as a young man, first turned pages for Brian for the
same piece quite a few years back at an OHS Convention on The Cape. In fine
form, Brian gave us a spirited reading of the Bach A Minor Prelude and Fugue
(543). We could therefore forgive him for throwing us a bit of a curve with
the final hymn, shattering our hymn singing pride just a bit. Neither the
program nor our little Hymn Supplement say who wrote the tune Coe Fen (Brian
may have said it was Parry, and my English Hymnal is at church - I might find
it there), and a fine tune it is, too, but the words were on the facing page,
which made it a bit tough in reading a quite complex tune, particularly when
it came time for harmony. Brian had the grace to suggest that he expected us
to finally be really strong by the last stanza. Anyway, it is a very strong
tune, set to a John Mason text, "How shall I sing that majesty which angels
do admire." I think we were strong even before the last stanza! We have been
in First Baptist Church, Newton Centre, by the way, and the organ is a really
fine and fabulous looking piece of work by Andover, taking in bits of four
Hook and Hook & Hastings organs from the last half or the 29th century. The
stencilled case pipes are truly wonderful.
 

We next heard the excellent Nancy Granert at The Korean Church (formerly
Pilgrim U.C.C.) in Cambridgeport, Cambridge. The 22-stop Hutchings instrument
of 1886 was not very telling in a fully carpeted room, unfortunately, and we
began with three early works that, for me, just did not make sense on the
instrument and in the non-intimate environment. Spanieler Tanz of Johannes
Weck (early 16th century), "Mit ganzem Willen wuensch ich ihr" of Paumann,
and "Kochersperger Spanieler" of Hans Kotter. We then heard two Bach settings
of Liebster Jesu, the first on the really warm Open Diapason, and the second
using the Dolce Cornet for the cantus, quiet but pungent. We then sang the
chorale, with a chance to sing harmony in the middle stanza. The George
Chadwick Canzonetta gets trotted out at OHS conventions once in a while, but
it wears well as tuneful salon music. An Offertoire by Everett Truette was
omitted here, in the interest of time, and we next heard another, if lesser,
Salon style work by Frank Donahoe, an Impromptu. We finally heard the (rather
underwhelming) full Organ in the Arthur Foote Prelude in C. Nancy Granert is
now organist at Emmanuel Church (Boston) and Temple Sinai (Brookline), and is
on faculty at the Boston University School for the Arts. The only other time
I have heard her was at another recital in which she was fighting dead
acoustics, in that case, deadened by an oversized crowd at a long-ago
regional convention, playing a small Walker instrument (Enfield, CT?) well
scaled and voiced for a small church with normally decent acoustics. We lot
stood all around the walls, around the altar, and in extra seats in each of
the aisles. The organ did not have a chance, but I distinctly recall that
Nancy put in a valiant effort, and it was clear that she was and is an
excellent player.
 

We had heard four recitals already, and it was getting on for 5 p.m., but I
(and most) did not accept the proffered escape bus to the hotel, instead
opting to hear Rosalind Mohnsen at the beautiful St. Catherine of Genoa
Church in Somerville, with its fine 1894 Jardine, and decent acoustic.
Rosalind shared her program with a wonderful, expressive Soprano, Maura
Lynch, who added a great deal of interest to the program. First, three
Antiphons from the Fifteen Pieces of Dupre, which were beautiful on this
instrument: His left hand is under my head, Lo, the Winter is Past, and How
Fair and Pleasant art Thou. We then sang Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest to a
pleasant minor key tune from the Pius X Hymnal - no details given, and my
copy of Pius X is at church where I am not. The two outer verses in unison,
and the two inner verses in harmony kept us happy. Melodia, Opus 59, of Reger
was next in the program, but was omitted in the interest of time. The
announcement of this omission was greeted with groans of protest - I don't
know the piece, but clearly, some did. Continuing this year's (coincidental)
presentation of lots of Schumann, we heard two of the Fugues on the name of
Bach. Ms Lynch stepped forward to the balcony rail, and sang "The Flag of
Prospect Hill" of J. W. Bailey (19th Century). We were then to hear Prelude
in F, by Charles Ives, "restructured" by Charles Krigbaum, but again, the
lateness of the hour ruled this out. We then sang an interesting Cantor and
Response sort of hymn "Now Help Us, Lord", with Ms Lynch serving as Cantor
and us singing a bit of a harmony response of six notes at the end of each
verse. We were given no printed information about this hymn, but I thought
Rosalind said it was by Charles Ives. I may have misunderstood. Then we
heard, for Soprano and Organ, "Der Schmetterling ist in die Rose verliebt,"
Opus 14, No. 2 of Henry Hadley (1871-1937). Last on the program was Henry
Dunham's (1853-1929) Fantasia and Fugue in d, Opus 19. The Fugue, again for
time reasons, was omitted, but from the prelude, one would have to conclude
that this is a work of great significance. Rosalind Mohnsen is Director of
Music at Immaculate Conception Church in Malden, and today, she was playing
her 15th OHS Convention recital.
 

Dinner on this evening was at the Charlestown Navy Yard - delicious barbecue
- rendered a bit inconvenient because someone at the Navy Yard had forgotten
to deal with chairs and tables. We are nothing if not resourceful, and
managed to find places to sit and work away with plastic knives and forks on
paper plates in our laps on a low wall behind which was the beautiful and
large sailing ship, Constitution! The food, by the way, really was delicious,
and when we finished it all, we were only a short walk from St. Mary Roman
Catholic Church, Charlestown, where we heard a stunning recital by Dana
Robinson. This church was one of a number of very old, large, Catholic
churches we saw that have been recently carefully and beautifully restored,
as though there has been a general movement involving a new appreciation of
these old treasures. Dana Robinson is another treasure - this was a great
evening of great Organ music suited to the grand old Woodberry and Harris
Organ of 1892 in a fine acoustic.
 

We heard first Introduction and Fugue in E Minor of Horatio Parker, a totally
convincing performance on this instrument's well-developed choruses. Paul
Tegels, of whom we learned nothing, joined Dana in a duet version of six
Schumann Studies for Pedal Piano (Opus 56). I am not sure who was doing what
- we could not see into the balcony - but the pieces really worked with some
added richness from the four hands. The Franck E Major Chorale was ravishing
on this organ, and was followed by our rousing singing of the good old tune
to "Immaculate Mary," the Lourdes Hymn. It still gives me a warm feeling to
be able just to say that the program finished with a stunning performance of
what is, I am sure, my favorite of all the works of Widor, the complete
Symphonie Gothique. I don't believe anyone was unmoved by this, as
demonstrated by the great and loud standing ovation. Dr. Robinson teaches at
the School of Music of University of Illinois.
 

Back to the Park Plaza, tired but happy.

OHS Boston, A Busy Tuesday, 8/22
 

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.
 

Boston OHS 2000, The Final Great Day
 
 
 

Dear Lists and Friends,
 

The last day is here - Wednesday, August 23rd, and it is hard to refrain from 
commenting on the weather, something I have not done. With the exception of 
one evening of some rain, the days were cool, sunny, and dry. One's 
impressions of a convention are somewhat tempered, I think, by whether one 
has or has not sat in broiling hot churches with perspiration pouring down. 
We had essentially none of that. The Godess frequently fails to smile on the 
AGO, but somehow, she doth generally smile upon OHS gatherings, almost 
without fail.
 

This day began with a lecture which I did not hear. It will have confirmed 
that Boston has consistently been a center of organ pedagogy and appreciation 
for at least a century and a half. The title of the lecture was "Organ 
Pedagogy in Boston 1850-1900," and included a discussion of the 
personalities, the publications, and institutions of the period. To attend a 
Friday noon recital at Trinity, Copley Square, is to learn that this organ 
culture remains very much alive today. It will be you and about 299 others in 
attendance! The AGO Chapter is one of the largest and most active in the 
country. 
 

For the first two concerts of the day, we were split into two groups, so 
today's performers each played twice. The order in which I heard the two 
concerts in the midday group, both of enormous interest, turned out to be 
pleasing to me. Also determined by one's group was the place where lunch was 
served. Two church halls were used as lunch rooms. More about all that later.
 

Our group began at First Baptist Church in Framingham at 11:30 with a totally 
satisfying event - a fine way to start the day! The church is the oldest in 
the area, clearly well-loved and well kept. Victoria Wagner gave us a program 
of organ works and songs in which she accompanied Nancy Armstrong, Soprano. 
The organ is gentle, the room not resonant but small and clear. The idea of 
this combination organ concert and song recital was just right. The 
instrument, William Simmons of 1853 - 17 stops, is lovely, but not perhaps 
compelling enough to carry a full program on its own. Like the church, it has 
been well cared for, and was presented with an OHS Plaque before the music 
began. The program:
 

Handel - Voluntary XI, lovely and pleasantly Tierce sounding - a pungent 
Sesquialtera is the only compound stop on the organ. (Page turning and 
registration services were provided throughout by Peter Sykes, who is married 
to Victoria Wagner.)
 

Continuing in British mode, we turned to two Purcell songs, We Sing to Him 
(Harmonia Sacra) and "Tecum principium in die virtutis" from Dixit Dominus, 
both beautifully and expressively sung by Nancy Armstrong, with both organ 
and organist providing a perfect and colorful accompaniment. Pure bliss.
 

We sang in a manner worthy of the Baptists, Rock of Ages to "Toplady," 
harmonizing like Welsh miners. This was followed by James Woodman's splendid 
song, Rock of Ages. I only became aware of the work of this Boston composer 
(born 1957) through a piece commissioned of him by The Presbyterian Church of 
Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia) for the May dedication of our new instrument 
there. He is adding worthy music to the repertoire for our instrument, coming 
soon to a venue near you. 
 

Next followed a special event. Peter Sykes is, within (and without) the OHS, 
a treasured performer, one who has given of himself on behalf of the Society 
and also the larger world of the Organ. I don't think most of us had 
experienced him as a composer - perhaps Boston area people have. We were 
honored with a premiere of his "Arise my love" for Organ and Soprano. As at 
most daytime convention recitals, we were asked to hold all applause until 
the end, in the interest of time. As much as we wanted to clap at this point, 
we were obedient and clapfree, but there were a number of audible murmurs of 
appreciation from the audience. I do think that had copies of this lovely 
work been available at the door, it would have sold out very quickly - a 
truly lovely addition to the repertoire for voice and organ. The perfect 
finish to this lovely event was Festival March, by Christian Teilman. Corliss 
Arnold, John Henderson, and Rollin Smith do not list this composer, so I can 
tell you nothing, but it was a fun closing work.
 

Victoria Wagner is Director of Music at Trinitarian Congregational Church in 
Concord, organ instructor at Regis College in Weston, and on the piano 
faculty at the Noble & Greenough School in Dedham.
 

It was lunch time! If you were in Group A, you ate at St. Andrew's Church, 
Wellesley, but Group B, of which I was a proud member, ate at Village 
Congregational, also in Wellesley. There were no concerts scheduled for these 
churches - only the use of their facilities for feeding us. Lunch and I had a 
minor disagreement, about which more later. After the meal, some of us 
wandered into the church to discover a quite large, 60s (I think) Rieger - 
there was also a smaller one in the chancel. As we had a bit of time, someone 
did manage to get the wind on, and play a bit. Anyway, then onward to the 
Chapel at Wellesley College.
 

I had played, heard, and even pumped this instrument. When I say played, it 
dignifies too much what I actually did do, as the complications of the 
keyboard require quite a bit of time and understanding. There are split 
sharps and a "short octave," and nothing quite feels like what one is used to 
at home, whatever that might be. But the whole thing represents the kind of 
creative adventure, unique, I think, to the questing and curious mind of 
Charles Benton Fisk. I first heard it demonstrated by Ross Wood, assistant at 
Trinity, Copley Square, and Music Librarian at Wellesley. He is one of the 
masters of this instrument, and I was bowled over by the experience of 
hearing the right stuff on this amazing machine. These are not sounds to be 
feared, although some of the reactions I have read on the lists border on 
fear, tinged with some sort of hostility. Sticks (not trackers!) and stones 
may break my bones, but surely sounds may never hurt me. I need to quote a 
bit of history from the ever-helpful Organ Handbook: "In 1972, Wellesley 
College signed a contract with C. B. Fisk for a two-manual organ based on 
Dutch models, c. 1620. Inaugurated in 1981, this organ and its design 
underwent considerable evolution in the decade leading to its fruition. From 
the beginning, it was intended that a specialized instrument, built 'in the 
spirit of uncompromising authenticity' would allow students a European 
experience in America." The Pedal Posaune was added in 1983, as were carved 
pipeshades. Additional Pedal stops were added in 1987, and the case was oiled 
and gilded in 1992. There it sits in all its magnificence, and no one need 
worry about the chapel music being corrupted by the sound and tuning of this 
organ. At the other (east) end is an Aeolian-Skinner instrument which is, in 
fact, used for accompanying the choir and congregation up front. I hope 
occasional preludes and postludes do get played from the back. I suspect they 
do. There is a sad but very discreet note about the Aeolian-Skinner, by the 
way, as follows: "Were it not for irreversible revoicing in the 1960s, 
[Aeolian-Skinner] Opus 943 would be one of the most significant remaining G. 
Donald Harrison instruments, from the period many consider to be his finest."
 

On the above-described Fisk instrument, Margaret Irwin-Brandon gave us a most 
elegant recital, as follows:
 

Heinrich Scheidemann (1596-1663) - Fantasia in C
 

Matthias Weckmann (1621-1674) - Canzon in G Major
 

These two early works, eminently suitable to this instrument, are examples of 
what certain people, not all of them students either, used to call "Pre-music 
music." Perhaps they would call this a pre-music organ as well. To me, it was 
all very clear, and full of vitality and interest. The second work brought us 
the fun of the Zimbelstern, with its quite large star spinning at the top of 
the case. Staying in the period, a choral prelude by Franz Tunder 
(1614-1667), "Jesus Christus, Unser Heiland, der von uns . . . " served in 
alternation to our singing of the choral in or with various harmonizations. 
We had three choral harmonizations on two pages, and somehow the whole effort 
got somewhat complicated, and was not totally satisfactory. The organ 
preludes were superb, however.
 

To really assess the effect of the temperament in full, one needed what came 
next, a large-scale work, rich and full, and this we got in the Buxtehude G 
Minor. It was akin to hearing a piece never heard before, although I had 
indeed heard it many times, including twice at this convention. There were 
some moments that can only be described as wild. Near the very end, where the 
music ascends to a great altitude, and soon comes home again, the sound 
became gentle but interestingly raucous at the same time. I desperately 
wanted to push the rewind button to go back several bars, and hear these 
sounds again and again, until I could fully take them in.
 

While there is an electric blower for practice, in normal public playing, the 
organ is human-pumped. One person can do it all, although there is room for 
two at the pumping apparatus. One must carefully go backwards up a short 
staircase, step out over a beam connected to one of the feeder bellows, and 
glide down, propelled by one's own weight, on that beam until the bellows 
hits bottom. At this point, one goes back up the stairs, and vigilance is 
wanted to wait for the last-pumped bellows to rise almost to the top, at 
which point one rides down on the other one. Is that clear? It's an exercise 
that adds a most graceful visual component to the playing of this instrument. 
As you look at the case, to the left, you see the pumper backing up the 
stairs, and then ever-so-gracefully, riding down quite slowly on the bellows, 
after which the work is repeated. A couple of our Biggs Fellows had the honor 
of raising the wind, apparently becoming instant heroes, as many of the 
audience walked up the stairs to capture a true "Kodak Moment."
 

At the end of the concert, I suddenly had the feeling that Montezuma was 
avenging something through me, either from lunch, or perhaps from El Salon 
Mexico of the evening before. In any case, I betook myself to the basement 
facilities, where my presence was required for quite a few minutes. When I 
got upstairs, it was in time to see the last bus pulling out of the drive. 
Not to worry, as this potential difficulty turned itself to advantage. John 
Nelson, of the Fisk firm, was, by prearrangement, giving a private 
demonstration of the organ, which involved pulling out the music desk and 
various other bits, so a clear view of some of the action was provided. What 
a gorgeous piece of work - simple in its great artistry. John also drove us 
all back to the hotel. Regrettably, we had missed a recital at St. Mary R.C. 
Church, Waltham, by Libor Dudas, Music Director and Organist at the famous 
Old North Church. He played an interesting program, including the Brahms A 
Minor P & F, the Elgar Vesper Voluntaries, and the Franck Finale, on an 1874 
Hook & Hastings instrument, restored by Henri Lahaise and Son during the 
1990s (remember the 90s?). I heard from others that the recital was excellent.
 

Our last concert of the convention took us back to Immaculate Conception 
where, before an enormous audience of conventioneers, AGO members, and Boston 
music lovers, Thomas Murray gave us one final fabulous musical memory. We had 
learned to love this organ on opening night, and as I studied the printed 
program, I found myself thinking about how much I would love to hear each 
listed piece played on it. The whole program was a procession of delights, 
all played in the elegant Tom Murray manner and wonderfully registered with 
great care. This was a program without anything but Organ music - no 
gimmicks, no transcription, just good solid stuff from the Organ repertoire. 
That is not to be construed as a negative comment about transcriptions or the 
occasional lollypop piece, but this was an evening in which the performer, 
the chosen music, and the instrument could hold us completely at attention 
throughout, with nothing else needed. Here is the program:
 

Guilmant - Sonata IV in D Minor
Allegro assai
Andante
Menuetto
Finale (Adagio-Allegro vivace con fuoco)
 

Reger - Benedictus
A note followed this in the program asking that applause be withheld at 
this point. Silence might well have happened on its own, given the intense 
mood this piece can create.
 

Schumann - Three Studies for Pedal-Piano - Not too fast, C Major; With 
earnest expression, A Minor; Andantino, E Major.
 

Bonnet - Matin Provencale (No. 2 from "Poemes d'Automne" - 1908)
 

After intermission:
 

Franck - Fantasy in A Major
Again another "hold applause" note, not to break the contemplative mood 
before we sang a rousing hymn, "Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore him" to a 
grand Victorian tune called Faben, composed by the first organist of 
Immaculate Conception Parish, who served until his death in 1875 - John Henry 
Wilcox.
 

Finding and choosing a hymn by someone connected with the parish was a lovely 
stroke, but there was something more about this tune. In Denver two summers 
ago, Tom asked us to sing the Vaughan Williams tune Down Ampney, followed 
immediately by a Rheinberger Sonata which began with precisely the same first 
six notes as those of the hymn tune, with only a slight rhythmic difference. 
I thought this year there was a connection between Faben and the next piece 
on the program, and felt reenforced in that when Paul Marchesano came up to 
me and commented on the same thing. I did not have a chance to query Tom, but 
of course we are correct!!
 

Next, three more of the Schumann Studies, Intimately, A flat; Not too fast, B 
Minor; and Adagio, B Major.
 

Finally, the Mulet Carillon-Sortie.
 

And sortie we did, back to the exhibit hall cum bar, for a last social time 
with friends from far and near.
 

What a wonderful convention! I heard 27 concerts in the seven days plus one 
evening! There were more than that, but I reluctantly missed a few. Sadly, I 
also had to miss six lectures, an important feature of all OHS conventions. 
In my small way, by my attendance, I showed my firm support for the work of 
the Society by attending the Annual Meeting on the Sunday morning. I saw 
countless good friends, and made quite a few new friends. It was also fun 
getting to know Boston a bit better. I hope these little scribblings might 
help some readers to consider making plans now to attend next summer in North 
Carolina, from June 21st to the 28th.
 

Some questions I have raised in some of my postings about this convention 
have been graciously answered by members of the Lists. In a kind of wrap-up 
posting, I hope to make some of the really interesting information I have 
received available to all.
 

Cheers,
 

Malcolm Wechsler
www.mander-organs.com
 
 
 
 
 

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