Author Archive

Hinners organ, Zion Lutheran, Gordonville MO revisited

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

 Following up on the 2008 visit to this little village organ (documented in this post,) I got to visit again this month, in the midst of a fun family trip with my two remaining siblings and my 90-year-old mother! On September 16, 2011, we all visited Arthur Seboldt and his wife Mildred, who have lived for years across the highway from the church, and part of that was of course a visit to the church and cemetery grounds, full of many memories. The last visit yielded a pretty good recording session of the organ (linked in the previous post); this time I resolved to do a hymn sing with the gathered family, a wonderful experience.

One thing that I have noticed in the past is a squeak on the low G pedal key. Uncle Art shared the tidbit that this little squeak has been there since his father and his family arrived in 1938, and seems to have persisted despite a 2003 renovation by the St. Louis Pipe Organ Company!

Here’s a video demonstration and humorous improv:

The Hinners Organ, Zion Lutheran, Gordonville, MO

Monday, September 1st, 2008

In the heartland of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod stands a country church served by my pastor-grandfather, Gottlieb Balthasar Seboldt, for 35 years, until his death in 1973. Our visits to Zion Lutheran, Gordonville MO (about 90 miles south of St. Louis, and near Cape Girardeau, MO) always included visits to this funky little Hinners organ, which always impressed me with its character even though far from the ideals of organ tone I was learning in school and lessons. Its 8′ “Humongous Open Diapason” would almost rip your ears off at the console, especially in the treble, but when in the room leading a singing congregation, this is what made it effective. In the 2003 renovation by the St. Louis Pipe Organ Company, it has been somewhat toned down, according to my uncle Arthur Seboldt who has lived across the highway from this church for many years, settling back into country life on the farm of the family of his wife Mildred (nee Grossheider) after some years of Lutheran school teaching. This disappoints me somewhat, since I wanted to check my fading memory on how loud it really was, but hey, things change.

Hinners could be called the “Ford” of pipe organ builders, providing some economical stock models. Naturally, they also built larger custom organs until they folded in the late 30’s. A description of this very model is found in Orpha Ochse’s book on the 19th-century American organ:

“For $485.00 we deliver this organ, one manual with four divided stops on the manual and an independent 15-note pedal bourdon. The organ arrives securely packed in boxes and crates on railroad cars or steamboat.

“Added to the cost is freight and the round-trip fare for one of our men to assemble, set-up and tune the organ. We make no charge for the time to do this work… only the traveling expense.”

The stoplist is:

stops divided, bass C-b, treble c’-c””, all but Diapason in a swell box
8′ Open Diapason
8′ Liebl[ich] Gedeckt
8′ Gamba (C-B from Gedeckt above)
4′ Flute
Octave Coupler

Pedal, C-d’
16′ Bourdon (C-d)
Manual Coupler

Bellows Signal

Amazingly useful, even if you don’t exploit the divided stops. The accompanying recording demonstrates some possibilities. Careful improvisation, observing the manual division and limits of the partial-compass pedal bass, can open up some fine possibilities.

The following recording is humbly presented (click here to play, right-click and select “save as” to download), a 40-minute file of appropriate improvs and simpler organ literature I had in my memory and fingertips, made August 26, 2008. A photo page is found here.

Track / Length / Title
——- ———– ———–
1 01:02 Geraldine’s Prelude (?, childhood memory)
one of the 3 pieces always used by the longtime Zion organist whenever we visited on a Sunday
2 03:02 Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr (J.G. Walther)
The prelude I played when serving once as guest organist at Zion during high school! A real family act, with Grandpa presiding and my dad preaching.
3 03:38 Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart (Improvisation)
4 02:13 Fughetta super: Diess sind die heil’ge zehn Gebot’ BWV679 (J.S. Bach)
5 01:34 Our Father, Thou in Heav’n Above (melody as in “The Lutheran Hymnal”, 1941)
6 02:18 Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV683 (Bach)
7 02:37 Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV737 (Bach)
8 09:49 O Sacred Head, Now Wounded (TLH) and Variations (Improvisation)
9 02:48 Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer (Improvisation)
10 04:32 O Take My Hand and Lead Me (Improvisation)
11 01:32 Silly Scherzo (Improvisation)
12 03:14 Prelude and Fugue in F Major BWV556 (attr. Bach)
13 01:40 Mr. Mueller’s Confirmation March (?, childhood memory)
The organist at the suburban St. Louis church I attended in my youth was another one of those who played the same three pieces each Sunday – EXCEPT on Confirmation Sunday, where he pulled out this processional.
14 00:57 Diapason Demo
15 00:20 Bellows Signal Demo

Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed revisiting this instrument of memory and playing for you!

German radio network makes recording software available!

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

WDR, Cologne, Germany, makes available a piece of software that will capture any of their programs to an mp3 file for later listening or downloading to your mobile music gizmo. The link is here.

I’m a loyal follower of several German radio networks primarily for their church music programs, capturing them automatically with a variety of geeky methods. There are also various commercial programs available that serve as kind of a “timed recorder” for Internet radio streams. However, this is the first broadcaster I’ve seen that actually provides something like this for its own programming, actually permitting you to download any program to your hard drive.

The next best thing is the BBC’s “Listen on Demand” service which keeps most programs available for a full week after broadcast, but it doesn’t save them to your drive. WDR is to be commended for trying this!

Relaxing (but engaging) music

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Music that focuses on relaxation without sounding like Muzak? MDR Klassik has it right in their Musik zum Träumen (i.e., Music to Dream By) slot from 10pm-12am German time – which also ends up in a nice time in my workday that can use that kind of mood (3-5 pm US Central time). Adagios galore, and a new age piano piece or two thrown in, with no announcements. The slow movement from Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, those tender movements from Bizet’s L’Arlesienne featuring flute and harp, unfamilar adagio movements from symphonies… on and on, without even having to strain your brain to make out the German announcements. The excerpts from Wagner’s Parsifal might grow to full orchestra and shock one out of one’s twilight meditations, but on the whole it fits the mood –  I mean, not every single moment can be meditative, what the hey…

Mary Preston dedicates Buzard op. 34

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Following up on an old post, a Buzard organ went in down in Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church, near Racine, WI (in the town of Mount Pleasant, logically enough …) and the Milwaukee AGO chapter and the church co-sponsored a wonderful program by Mary Preston on April 22, 2007. The builder’s page on the organ is found here. The chapter’s Pipenotes newsletter contains details and an organ spec, but not the full program, so I’ll only give you a few highlights.

A talk beforehand by the builder, John-Paul Buzard, and acoustician Scott Riedel gave an idea of what they were up against, and still are to some degree. Basically, only a few acoustic improvements could be made in the unusual space, and then it was up to the builder to make the sound work in the dead space. The choice was a very dark sound, which supported singing well with a fine foundational feeling in the “gut”, but which at times left one at least wanting a little bit of bite and brilliance. Still, the choice might have been wise considering that many seats are very close to the organ, so a bit more to the brighter side and these folks might be blasted out of their seats.

Mary Preston’s program exploited the instrument well… my biggest memory is the Joseph Jongen “Sonata heroique”, a fiendish work which got a brilliant reading in the daunting acoustic. A rich clarinet and solo flutes were the highlights of the soft parts, and the copper chamade reed did not at all “part your hair” but capped the full organ quite nicely. More as I remember it…

Krishna Das and Hindu chant on German radio!

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Playground on RBB Kulturradio is a late-night (German time) program of world music… and I was brought home in an odd way by yesterday’s broadcast of music by Krishna Das, an American convert to Hinduism who is becoming well known for an American version of the kirtan, a devotional singing style which even in recordings just gives you the feeling of getting right to the root of all of humanity’s spiritual strivings. German radio playing an American Hindu’s devotional music influenced by the spiritual culture of India!

Of course anybody of my generation knows the flirtations of the Beatles with eastern cultures – George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” being the best known setting of the “Hare Krishna” chant 🙂 …

Why did this come off as a “homecoming”? Well, I’ve had a few brushes with the East and various East-meets-West figures in spirituality… In the late 70’s, at a visit to St. Joseph Abbey in Louisiana, I heard a talk by the late Bede Griffiths, a British Benedictine who worked on the fine border between Hindu devotional culture and Catholic monasticism. A disciple of his, Russill Paul, is a musician offering workshops incorporating Hindu customs and a Christianized version of this participatory musical style, and at one of the “Creation Spirituality Workshops” (influenced by Matthew Fox) in the 90’s I encountered him leading us through “Om nama Kristai”, a chant with movements that meant something like “Christ, I surrender all to you.” (I actually got to jam with him later at another event too!)

The centering quality of this music has been absolutely amazing – a bit of downloading from Napster and a quick capture of the samples from RBB’s webcast have kept me in peace for over 24 hours now 🙂

The renewed question for the classic church musician in me… not to neglect the devotional, irrational, repetitive, mantra-like aspects of music and meditation. Especially walking among Lutherans now, this becomes a great concern – how easy it is for them to think rationally, verbally efficiently, in a time-limited fashion, and lose the ecstatic, interior, meditative aspects. (Catholics who like their short, spoken “low mass” might fall in the same category…) Yes, Taize and traditional Western chant has some element of this, but are a few snippets from this repertoire enough? What about worship planning, where so much concern for time leads sometimes to minimizing redundancy, “cutting for time,” picking the “shorter option” instead of really getting people caught up in the prayer. A never-ending quest…

Mobile Internet Radio

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Classical radio in Milwaukee was never all that great since the departure of WNIB/WNIZ in Chicago/Zion, IL about 3 years ago… and now the local commercial classical station, WFMR, dropped the classical format about a year ago. Bummer.

The options:

  • HD radio
  • Satellite radio
  • The Internet

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin Public Radio’s WHAD has a second HD radio program with only about 6 hours of locally originated programming, the rest a canned satellite feed. Is that worth getting a mobile HD radio for? Not for me… though at home it’s nice to have the option on the Polk iSonic, an excellent tabletop radio. XM Satellite Radio (which I also get on the iSonic) has about 3 “okay” classical channels but I don’t know if I’d run out and get an XM subscription and mobile satellite rig just for them…

The Internet is by far the finest source of varied classical programming, which I’ve long known at home. But how to get it mobile? Well, surprise, a company discount on an all-you-can eat Sprint data plan came to the rescue. The phone is a Sprint Treo 755p, and with proper adapters, a cheap car amp, and speakers I get the world (literally) of classical listening with surprisingly few hiccups while on the road in a company truck. One piece of purchased software for the phone (Kinoma Media Player) handles internet radio fairly well, and Sprint’s connection at its best handles hi-fi 128kbps connections quite decently. AAC, mp3, and Windows Media formats are available with good smartphone software – Real formats are not as well supported, if at all, so the BBC’s fine programming on Radio 3 isn’t mobile friendly yet.

The quick list of favorites:

Once programmed into the phone, the list is easily accessible to punch in. Several of these have wonderful church music programs, my favorite being HR2’s “Geistliche Musik” from 6-8 am German time. See my list for more information over time.

Interested? Well, unlimited plans (including internet) are now the rage with the wireless companies, and you can get good smartphones for $100-200 after rebates. Check around for what’s available in your area – Sprint’s data service is the best so far, despite some bad press on Sprint in general, though others are catching up with new “3G” higher-speed wireless services in major cities. Of course you can always go for the expensive trendy iPhone from AT&T, which will likely do a great job on internet radio (although the less robust AT&T data network might not work as smoothly for high bit rates…)

Ready for the mobile Internet radio revolution?

Our Savior’s Lutheran (Milwaukee) German Choir Tour

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

This is the beginning of some travelog notes on the 2007 tour to Germany by the Senior Choir of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Michael Barna, director, John Seboldt, organist)

Michael organized this in connection with a sister city relationship between Brookfield, WI (in Waukesha County) and Seligenstadt, Germany (in Kreis Offenbach). With Seligenstadt and Kreis Offenbach officials doing most of the organizing, it should be a very hospitable affair.

The singing itinerary is:

  • June 10 – Our Savior’s (bon voyage)
  • June 15 – Dom, Mainz (informal)
  • June 17 – Basilika, Seligenstadt (Sunday Mass and afternoon concert)
  • June 19 – Thomaskirche, Leipzig (informal)
  • June 21 – Kreuzkirche, Dresden (informal)
  • June 23 – Nieder-Roden (at 135th anniversary celebration of the Sängerkranz Polyhymnia

A complete Google Map is at this link. A PDF scan of the program is here, basic listing below

Go Not Far from Me O God Zingarelli
Christus factus est Bruckner
Alleluja, surrexit Dominus vere Jachet de Berchem
A Modern Medieval Carol Mawby
Were You There? arr. Burleigh
Sing Unto God Fetler
The Lamb John Chorbajian
Little Lamb arr. DeCormier
Simple Gifts arr. Marie Pooler
Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho arr. John Purifoy
I Have Dreamed (The King and I) arr. Kirby Shaw
Over the Rainbow arr. Emerson
Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit arr. Dawson
A Gaelic Blessing Rutter

Some short solo playing opportunities for me will be connected with the programs. In Seligenstadt, my emphasis will follow that of Mike’s choral programming: American music with a popular flavor, without ignoring classic European selections!

Three Global Songs (Halle, Halle / Linstead / Siyahamba) John Behnke
Benedictus, op. 59 Max Reger
Every Time I Feel the Spirit Adolphus Hailstork

Other selections prepared:

Prelude and Fugue in G, BWV541 Bach
Te Deum, op. 59 Max Reger
Sonata 2: Maestoso Gustav Merkel

Numerous other Bach works, Mendelssohn sonata movements, etc. will pour out of the memory on encountering appropriate historic instruments. The only pre-arranged historic organ visit is a time slot at the Trost organ, Schlosskirche, Altenburg, with its close connection to Bach. See the Google Maps entries for links.

“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…