Archive for July, 2006

“The God of glory thunders…”

Monday, July 10th, 2006

Who would know that our little last-minute visit to Summerfest (“the world’s largest music festival” in Milwaukee would turn out this way? With a 30% chance of rain forecast, we got more than 100% worth of water and some good Gospel music while waiting out the storm.

Arriving at about 5 pm, on the last day, we were fortunate enough to get free tickets from somebody at the gate. On the way in, we saw what looked like a little storm cell off to the west, and figured that would pass over quickly. $5 parking only 7 blocks away sweetened the deal. So all that cash went to a good mix of bratwurst, hot dogs, Thai food, fish-n-chips, pizza, soda, ice cream, and wine.

With little time to start looking around for music, we heard one up-and-coming rock band, then the rain started! Then stopped. Then the rain started in earnest. Fortunately, the nearest roof was on the Potawatami stage, where loud Gospel music by “the Mt. Olive choir” was in full swing, about 20 well-disciplined singers, bass, drums, pseudo-piano, guitar, and a real Hammond B3 with Leslie. And it was loud, louder than the rock band we’d heard previously. And it was church, of course, in the black Gospel tradition. “Can you feeeeel the Hoooooly Ghost?” And the rain, and the wind, which whipped up and blew water in on us and the stage, even though we were on the downwind side of the pavilion?


Weather forecast and pedestrian code – in Anglican chant!

Monday, July 10th, 2006

These have been circulating on the web for a while, but are worth mentioning again… sung by the Master Singers, according to an anglican-music mailing list post…

Buzard op. 34 coming in fall!

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Buzard instrument 15 miles away from me! Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church, Racine, WI (town of Mount Pleasant), will install 39 ranks this fall.

Church site

Buzard site, specification (pdf)

AGO Natl Conv (ChicAGO)/Valparaiso Univ. events, 7/3/06, part 3

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Looks like my Valparaiso photo link page has been well used – thanks for your interest! I did go through and add some photo annotations to it:

RECITAL by James O’Donnell

It is fortunate that life moves on after sad organist/clergy relationships led to the sacking of the noted Martin Neary at Westminster Abbey a few years back. James O’Donnell has kept the noted royal landmark hopping musically since his appointment in 2000, and he even passed through Westminster Cathedral (Roman Catholic) on his way there! (I only mention this because it was such a big deal years back when Stephen Cleobury was the first Anglican musician to be appointed to Westminster Cathedral, so it looks like, whatever faith community Mr. O’Donnell belongs to, that it appears to matter less to the authorities these days.) The ChicAGO bio of him is at

As a player, O’Donnell wonderfully balances technique and musicality, both of which were needed to sell a powerful but austere program. The program was billed as exploring various aspects of “fantasia” or “freedom” (my printed program got lost, so I’m operating from memory). Needless to say, the instrument was up to the task as well!

Michael Berkeley (son of Sir Lennox Berkeley) was represented with the 1986 composition “Wild Bells”, a colorful tintinnabulation. Bach’s “Pièce d’Orgue,” BWV 572 (aka Fantasia in G Major) was perfectly well-done, the only opinionated comment being: why the relatively light plenum in the middle section?! (Guess I just wanted to hear that Great 16′ based plenum, darn it!) With all the evolving knowledge on the “gravität” of Bach’s preferences and the huge weighty choruses of organs close to Bach, it just seemed a bit wimpy. Minor nitpick…

A commission for the convention, Augusta Read Thomas’s – “Angel Tears” and “Earth Prayers” for organ and trumpet (2006) were welcome lyrical additions to the organ/solo instrument repertoire. Kevin Hartman, trumpet pulled off some very lyrical music in the high register, not achievable by many more average players most of us are likely to work with – but fear not, the composer, in true “gebrauchsmusik” spirit, recommends the work to practically any solo instrument, with parts in various transpositions provided.

Who can resist the powerful wailings of the Jehan Alain “Deuxième fantaisie?” I myself have always associated this with Good Friday, but have usually followed the paradigms of minimal instrumental support on this day, so have never followed up on this mental connection. Nonetheless, hearing this, watching the wash of stained-glass up front, and connecting this with music of Alain heard in this place in my formative years, made this a highlight for me.

A new and delightful discovery for me – the 1989 composition “Miroirs” by the Dutch composer Ad Wammes. The most delightful little ostinato/scherzo piece you could program, perfect for showing off colorful prompt flutes – all the delight of something like Vierne’s “Naïades”, with half the difficulty! You can hear audio samples and see a sample first page, and order the piece for 12 euros, at the composer’s web site, . The wonderful quiet titterings from the audience as the piece ended testify to a great shared delight in the work, so perhaps this little gem will show up more often – it’s not that unknown, having been played by the likes of John Scott and recorded by Thomas Trotter at Birmingham (UK) Symphony Hall.

OK, now, you want something that transcends the Duruflé Toccata for gnarly, knuckle-busting dark sonorities? Try the 1970 “Toccata” by Patrick Gowers on for size. I first heard this on a BBC Choral Evensong broadcast (there’s also a fugue that goes with it, but it ends quietly, so I can see why it might not have been played today), and found it quite gripping. Personally, I’ll be lucky if I finally take on the Duruflé before I die, but it’s nice to know there’s something even beyond that devilish deluge of notes.

AGO Natl Conv (ChicAGO)/Valparaiso Univ. events, 7/3/06, part 2

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

So, after Dobson’s renovation in 1996, we have just enough extra weight
without the sizzle, an extra foundation division (Solo), a bit of
revision in organ layout, completion of most of the basic 3-manual
scheme, and a few additions such as the “Chalumeau” (Cromorne), and some
harmonic flûtes to die for. Final spec from the Dobson site is here:

Now, the opening service…

Christopher Cock’s Valparaiso University Bach Choir is a premier group
by any standard, auditioned from a wider pool than the student body –
see – beginning with Bach’s
memorable little early motet for double choir, “Ich lasse dich nicht, du
segnest mich denn” , a Mendelssohn setting of Psalm 43, and Bach’s
motet, “Lobe den Herren, alle Heiden.” . Hymns were grandly set by
Richard Webster, one being the hymn used for the dedication of the
Letourneau organ in Houston, TX (cover feature of TAO a while back).
Proulx’s commissioned piece, “Works of the Great Spirit”, based on
native American texts, was a moving exploration of the “we are all part
of creation” spirituality… Richard Webster took on the Auden “He Is
the Way” text, another commission for the convention. A rousing
rendition of the Vierne Finale from Symphony I by Martin Jean only
disappointed me in the lighter registrations featured in the middle
sections – I was hoping to hear all those nice “fonds” over some swell
reeds, but a different approach was taken than replicating the specified
registrations, which I can’t say is “wrong”, just that it disappointed
*me* 🙂 … oh, well, what did the preacher just say about listening
with the intent to one-up your colleagues? 🙂 🙂 …


AGO Natl Conv (ChicAGO)/Valparaiso Univ. events, 7/3/06, part 1

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

With time only for selected events, despite my proximity to ChicAGO, (the 2006 national convention of the American Guild of Organists, Chicago) ,there was no doubt of my plan to re-visit the holy ground of Valparaiso
University’s Chapel of the Resurrection, which represents a lot about my
own early background and whose instrument, path-breaking within the
neo-classic milieu, has also evolved with the times. Since I was only
familiar with the organ’s renovation through recordings, I knew it was
about time to experience this venue in the flesh. with my own ears and guts.

My own humble photos, a bit dingy due to the gray skies outside, are at … this
striking 1960’s space was a monument of Lutheran high-church of the
time, with the brilliant riot of stained-glass color and a potpourri of
symbolism you could spend hours unpacking (and part of the fun was doing
just that as the worship and music unfolded).

My own personal connection with the place began with campus visits when
my older brother attended in the early 60’s – the whole thing just
captivated me… from singing “The God of Abraham Praise” with a pretty
full campus congregation… to hearing (and recording) some student
practicing Alain’s “Deux danses” and Marchand’s striking 6-voice “Plein
jeu” (the one with double-pedal)… to later visits in the 80’s for
Institute of Liturgical Studies sessions… and, last time, finally
playing the instrument in the early 90’s, in its original state, as
renovation plans were firming up.

The 1959 Schlicker instrument, with the noted/notorious Paul Bunjes as
consultant, was certainly an organ of substance for its day – with its
16′ “Holzprincipal” in the pedal (a lighter relative of the British
“open wood”?!), wooden Pedal Posaune, and 16′ principal basis on the
Great, the stage was set for more-than-adequate sonority, and in the
huge room the trademark sizzle of the foundation work was not at all
unpleasant. The later extremes of Bunjes’ designs – missing 8′
principals, weird pipe formats – were not much in evidence, and even the
one oddball mutation that was prepared for (Swell Schreipfeife, 1-3/5 +
1-1/7) had to wait for Dobson’s completion!


A Sacred Ruin in Gary, IN

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Having just passed Gary, IN on my way back from Valparaiso, IN, I was reminded of these photos of a grand old church edifice left to decay.