Upcoming Performances

November 18, 2018
4:00 pm Central

Guest recitalist, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Columbus, Miss.

December 4, 2018
8:00 pm Eastern

Organist, Appalachian Chorale, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

February 12, 2019
8:00 pm Eastern

Organ-plus-one concert with ASU faculty, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

April 28, 2019
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Kingsport, Tenn.

May 5, 2019
Guest recitalist, St. Paul's Cathedral, Des Moines, Iowa

June 21-26, 2020
Worship Organist, Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, Lake Junaluska, N.C.


Franck-ly speaking, Part V: Pastorale

This is the fifth installment in a series on my take on playing the twelve large works of César Franck. Today’s topic is the Pastorale. See the first post in the series for background information.


Beautiful piece. Enough said.

Throughout the piece, notice that Franck places fermatas on notes, not on rests. Therefore, it interrupts things too much to go out for coffee during the rests in, say, measures 4, 8, 12, 16, 18, etc. Once you have released the elongated chord, the tempo should resume on the rest. This is even more important in, say, the Grande Pièce Symphonique, which if one isn’t careful with all those rests and fermatas can sound like a 20-minute organ demonstration. To be continued.

Measure 3: Don’t panic in the Pedal department. Keep it smooth. You can hear the panic in many performances as the feet scramble to substitute on tenor E and then on low B – it usually throws off the lovely flow in the hands. The easiest solution is simply to cross the right foot over to play the B, using no substitutions at all. Consult Gleason for the proper way to do that. :)

Measure 5: same tempo, please. It might be good to use this measure to determine your beginning tempo.

Measure 6 and similar spots: As it is with all of Franck, you have to make some decisions between tying and breaking repeated notes. Franck didn’t mind one way or the other. It was the guys who came later, such as Dupré, who established the rules on all this. For sections like this, keep things clear. Detach repeated notes only if it serves a rhythmic or melodic purpose.

Measure 28 and similar spots: in most cases when I have played this piece, I have been able to maintain voice consistency by tying the last note in the right hand from the alto. Example: the last melody note F# in measure 28 could be tied from the alto F# one eighth note earlier. Although neither breaking nor tying is ideal (breaking seems too broken), tying seems the lesser of two evils to me. There are several such spots, such as measures 29, 32, 33, 170, 171, etc.

Measure 37: Yes, there is a fermata there, but we’re not done yet. This section isn’t over until 40.

Measure 45: The obligatory “storm scene” is not much of a storm here. It’s more like a cloud and some drops, just a gentle shower while at the café. Please don’t try to make this section what it is not. One trompette doth not a full organ make, and Quasi allegretto means, “This ain’t the William Tell overture.” Keep the staccatos clean; perfect half-values ought to do it.

Measure 81: During the fugato, wide reaches are better facilitated with a dead Pedal with Récit and Positif couplers on.

Measure 98: I move the left hand on the downbeat and the right hand on the second eighth note. Not only does that complete one phrase before beginning the next, it also helps smooth out the transition to the Positif. If those two manuals are not adjacent, I recommend coupling one of them to your Great in the middle to make them so.

Measure 121: ditto, only this time moving to the Récit.

Measure 151: I know it’s hard, but same tempo, please. Thumb the higher notes in the accompaniment with the right hand: the upper E in 151, the upper C# in 159, the upper C in 165, the upper Bs in 166. And since the manuals are coupled, you can leave out the upper F# in the left hand in 152, plus the upper D# in 160.

Measure 179: a tempo may be taken with a grain of salt. Not only is the end near, but also if you had to slow down for the hard part before this, then it makes no sense to speed back up at 179, only to arrive at the end nine measures later.


Help Yourself XI: Two for Advent

Here are two more of my numerous re-harmonizations in this series. Feel free to click, print, and use in your church, with my compliments. And a blessed Advent to you.

HYFRYDOL with descant



Clara Belle

I didn’t even know her name then, but I had to have her.

Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1457-B was one of identical twins contracted for Concordia Teachers College (now Concordia University) in Seward, Nebraska. Opus 1457-A is still there and being used regularly:

Op. 1457-B didn’t last long there, if she went at all. Only three years after contract date, B went to Clyde Holloway’s residence, where she stayed in regular use until Clyde’s death in December 2013:

After Clyde’s death, I couldn’t shake the notion of owning Op. 1457-B myself, having in my own home the instrument on which my teacher made his career while he was teaching me to make mine. I finally got up the nerve to write to Clyde’s executrix Kay Hartley and made an offer. Wheels began turning, and I retained an attorney friend in Houston to grease the skids as necessary. I would make a long story short here, but the story actually shortened itself! Kay called a very short time later, in June 2014, and said that the organ would be mine for the price I offered. Once I picked myself up off the floor, she and I discovered that we were both in Houston, and so I took a check over to her immediately, met her, and started making plans for moving the organ out. Ask, and ye shall receive.

I immediately called Tom Martin of the St. Dunstan-Art Organ Works in Houston, who had cared for my beloved Aeolian-Skinners at First Presbyterian, Houston. He and Kay started working out dates for crating, and I started working on dates for loading and hauling. As things began to come together, I realized that there was not going to be a good time for getting all this done. Fall semester was about to begin, and I had recitals nearly every weekend in September and October. So I made quite sure I was ready to play all those recitals well in advance, and we set a date for Labor Day.

I put out an appeal on Facebook for someone to ride shotgun in the Penske truck I was going to rent. Keith Weber won the prize (if you like to call such a thing a prize). Labor Day Sunday I flew to Houston and stayed with a dear friend Stephanie from First Presbyterian days. The next morning, Labor Day, we got up bright and rather early and made our way to Intercontinental Airport, where Keith was leaving his car for his return from the road trip. The three of us then made our way to pick up the truck, and I promised breakfast at the location of their choice. We ended up at the 59 Diner, an establishment that none of us frequented often enough over the years. Then Stephanie delivered Keith to his church to play a funeral (those things come up quickly), and I went to Clyde’s with the truck.

“Heavy” doesn’t begin to describe the weight of the chest, the console, and the crates containing the biggest pipes. But they all went down a flight of stairs and around two tight corners into the garage and into the truck. Another long story short: if you need movers in the Houston area, call Treasure Movers. Not a scratch, and nothing shifted in the truck during the trip.

Keith got a ride to Clyde’s from church, and we hit the road with Keith driving so I could rest up for when we dropped him off in Atlanta. Keith and I had never spent much time together, but within about ten minutes, we had the world in our cross hairs, and the discussions began. We solved a number of problems on behalf of crazy people everywhere. What a road trip! The best kind. We stopped for a delicious lunch at Steamboat Bill’s in Lake Charles. Beyond that, it was munchies only during fuel stops, which in a Penske truck are numerous.

Keith got out in Atlanta Tuesday at 4 am, and I carried on to Boone, N.C. I had made plans with one of my more responsible students that I would send him a text ninety minutes before my arrival, so that he could rally the troops to help unload. I arrived, and we started unloading. And unloading. And unloading. Hauling “an organ” kind of makes it sound like it’s all in one piece. Buzzer; thanks for playing.

I had made arrangements with Brad Rule to reassemble the organ. We set a date for later in September. Meanwhile, I walked around organ parts in my house for three weeks and took some time to get better acquainted with them. I organized things a bit better for reassembly and created better paths to the refrigerator and the bathroom.

Brad Rule arrived, and we set to work. The organ had been well marked which pieces go where, and after working out a minor leveling issue with the floor, it all went back together quite neatly. Electrically, we had to figure a few things out with the rectifier and the Zimbelstern, of all things. On top of that, the console had to be hard-wired back together, note by note. My wife Susan wins MVP: she soldered at least half the wires back into the console and proved once again to Brad Rule that women are sometimes the best help around.

Brad and I had to perform a surprising amount of voicing and regulating. Many of the taller pipes had been tubed off to offset chests to accommodate Clyde Holloway’s short ceilings in his homes over the years (see the photo above -- see those backmost pipes not standing on the main chest?). With tubing off, you sometimes have to open pipe toe holes to make the pipes speak promptly. But in my house, we had enough ceiling height to put the pipes back on the main chest, which meant that many of them were now a little too “hot” with wind. So we did a good bit of surgery on some toe holes and got everything back in order. Note to self: if you ever move again, make sure there is an 11-foot ceiling somewhere. Well, here is the finished product:


You can find the full spec and more technical/mechanical description here, in the Organ Historical Society organ database.

You can see a full photo journal of the move here, on my Facebook page.

The organ is two ranks: Gedeckt (97 notes) and Spitzflöte (85 notes). The Gedeckt changes its nature as you proceed up the scale, going from a Gedeckt in the bass to a Chimney Flute in the alto (notice the gold chimneys on the front of the chest, right side). The Spitzflöte changes toward a Gemshorn as you ascend, which renders it a successful surrogate “Principal,” as it were.

The action is a tracker imitation. I flipped the keyboards up to look at it only once and don't know much about it, but it is a pretty ingenious system that never wears out and stood up all those years to Clyde Holloway's legendary attacks and releases. It is a resistive action at first which then gives way to full attack, like a tracker. The downward key travel is surprisingly shallow for an electric action, but not surprisingly so for a tracker. Very interesting and very comfortable. All this was sort of the thing in those days, especially if the organ was originally destined for a Lutheran college in the Heartland, I suppose.

Now for the organ's name: I put out an appeal among my students and on Facebook for people to help me name her. She had to have a feminine name, of course. Beyond that, I felt that she should have two names, or at least a multi-syllabic one. It would also be good if her name/s could refer in some way to Aeolian-Skinner personnel or to me or to Clyde Holloway. The names started coming in, and my wheels started turning. Within about 2 days, I had it. You can follow the thread here.

Her name is Clara Belle. Her initials CB are Clyde Barrington Holloway’s first two initials. Her first name begins with ‘Cl’ as ‘Clyde’ does. Her second name is a version of mine and a nod to French, which style Clyde and I agreed was a specialty for us. Her double name nods to her current status as a good Southern girl. In addition, the console is nicknamed “Clyde,” not only for the obvious but also for the fact that that console has worked harder than a Clydesdale over the years. The bench is nicknamed “Big Mac,” in homage of Clyde’s love of all things Apple/Macintosh and for the fact that it is extremely heavy with a pecan top and formica structure.

Finally, Clara Belle stars in a two-part video series that shows in photos and tonal demonstration everything you have just read: here and here.

Clara Belle is a princess in my home, and she will give audience to any who wish to visit her.


Franck-ly speaking, Part IV: Pièce Héroïque

This is the fourth installment in a series on my take on playing the twelve large works of César Franck. Today’s topic is the Pièce Héroïque. See the first post in the series for background information.


Trivia: this was the first Franck I learned in college. I also remember playing it in a masterclass with John Ferguson at Second Presbyterian in Knoxville. The things we remember.

This piece is rather heroic for Franck. He’s usually grand, noble, heartfelt, etc., but rarely does he grab his sword and mount his trusty steed like this. Even the Final is not this warlike. So stay heroic, never flabby – not even the soft, pretty part in the middle should be allowed to get too sentimental.

The title itself has three different accents on vowels. Learn how to mark those correctly by hand or how to make them on your computer, and make sure whoever is printing the program pays close attention to them, too, lest a font substitution sneak in.

I take the maestoso in Franck’s marking of Allegro maestoso seriously. This is a march, not a cavalry charge. If it’s played too fast, it becomes just another casualty at the hands of just another organist showing off.

Measure 1: I begin a bit under tempo and torque things up going into measure 2. I also begin with the box open, then closing it during the first measure. That lets the opening make a nice statement and then get out of the way for the melody. Keep the repeated eighths absolutely steadfast in their rhythm – Dupré would say they should be exactly half-values: sixteenth-note durations followed by sixteenth-note rests. I agree; such is the backbone of the heroic element of the piece. If the accompaniment gets flabby, our héro will fall off his horse.

Opening melody: Our American organs rarely have enough power in our 8’ and 16’ stops, and so I usually end up adding a 4’ flue of some sort to the melody. Fortunately, Franck allows some wiggle room by suggesting jeux de ____, rather than so many specific stops.

Measure 2, melody, last note C#: Here is one of those places where you might explore the notion of shortening that note just a bit, so that it doesn’t bloom too much in such a rhythmically weak part of a measure. For heaven’s sake don’t clip it to death, but see if the phrase might taper off by releasing that last note just a bit early. Any time a short, weak note is followed by a strong rest, you might explore that option, such as in measures 8, 22, 71, etc., and 60-64.

Measure 12: I take the right-hand alto B-sharps with the left, “thumbing” across the two manuals. Same goes for the E-sharps in measure 32. This is one of the many lengths to which I go to preserve legato whenever possible, in this case the upper voice of the right hand. Now, for those two spots, it will require some inventive fingering, but it can be done if your fingers have the length and you’re willing to go for it. See my post on the Cantabile for a discussion of fingerings for the Great on the middle manual vs. Great on the bottom.

Measure 14: Decision time: should the Pedal notes, marked as eighths, be half-value like the accompaniment, or should they be full-value eighths? I make them full eighths, while still keeping the accompaniment half-value. But it might depend on the acoustics or the fullness of the organ – if you’re not careful, it could just sound like bad rhythm.

Measure 15: Careful that the last note [C] of the melody doesn’t get clipped. Give it a little TLC to finish the phrase. Same for measure 17 and plenty other spots like that.

Measure 18: I hit a piston here to kill the Pedal and couple the accompaniment to it. I then use the Pedal to help out in measure 21 by taking the entire lower voice, just for that measure. After that, there is plenty of time to hit the original piston to return the Pedal into service.

From measure 34: Instinct tells me to play 34 and 35 detached, including the Pedal. Then instinct tells me to go legato for 36 and 37. Detached at 38-39, and legato again from 40 on. I can’t tell you why, but it works for me.

Measures 47-51: Just memorize that section! And don’t telegraph to your listeners how hard it is. Keep things heroic.

Measures 60-64: see the discussion above for measure 2.

Measure 79: I move to the Swell, just to continue the decrescendo.

Measure 83: I take the right-hand alto E with the left.

Measures 111-120: You might take a look at Dupré’s edition for some clever solutions to keeping (most of) those octaves legato.

Measure 129: by this time, we have probably slowed down or gotten a little romantic along the way. At 129, I pounce immediately back on the heroic tempo. No warning.

Measures 129-132: I keep the right-hand melody legato and the left-hand accompaniment detached. Can’t tell you why; I just like it. HOWEVER: In measures 130 and 132, I hold the tied melody note full value, while still keeping the accompaniment half-value. That sort of thing is a bit of trouble to keep up with, but it adds elegance to the sound by keeping each voice or ensemble consistent. For 133-138, see my discussion above on measure 2.

Measure 139: This section is clearly an older sibling to the final buildup in the B minor Choral. Don’t slow down here; it needs to continue building. Yes, we know it’s difficult. But we’ll be mighty impressed (and grateful) if you’ll keep the tempo absolutely steady and heroic.

Measure 151 will need some preparation by slowing down into it. I begin a ritard in 149 and make sure that my ritard does not get any slower than I intend to go in 151. That way, 151 simply proceeds out of 150, rather than starting a new idea. Practice the cross-rhythms in 152, 154, and 158 to perfection.

Measure 164: notice there are no fermatas leading up to this full rest. Don't sit on the last eighth of 163 -- you'll give away the surprise! Make 164 an unexpected pregnant pause. This measure is perfect to use against those parishioners who won’t shut up during the prelude. Spring this piece on them sometime and watch/listen them wither during that measure, then slap them over the head with 165! Priceless.

From measure 165, you’ll keep yourself busy deciding when to detach and when to go legato. For example, I play pretty much detached, but I go legato 167-168. For whatever reason.

Measure 168: the fermata is on the rest, not on a note.

Measures 173-179: I take the Pedal and the upper voices of the hands legato. I detach (heroically) the repeated notes in the hands. Notice the Pedal does not break going into 176. That can work to your advantage for giving the Pedal some direction into the next phrase. Same for 178-179, even though there’s a pesky repeated note to deal with.

Measures 179-183: This isn’t much of a pedal solo, and so it isn’t showoff moment. (There are no showoff moments in Franck’s organ music.) Make it musical. Make it build somewhere. Make your listeners wonder where this is going, how it's going to get back to B Major, and how it’s going to end.

Measures 184-end: More decisions between detached vs. legato. I play the pedal legato. For the B-F# “tympani” hits, I play the left foot legato and detach the right. That’s just a thing with me, but I feel the legato left foot adds weight to the passage, and the detached right foot adds clarity. I also play the hands legato 185-187; it gives a sense of crescendo to the hemiola.


Dear Teacher

Students of Mildred Andrews called her “Dear Teacher.” Surely other teachers have been similarly endeared, but she was the most famous of the nicknamed. Recently one of my classmates called our own teacher Clyde Holloway that, which isn’t surprising, given that he was an Andrews student himself. Here is an excerpt from a hypothetical letter I might send to my Dear Teacher today, were he still around:


... I remember those long Tuesday evening studio classes, listening to people perform their recital pieces. Two, sometimes three hours. It felt like family; we were glad to be there. For the first time ever, my studio resembles yours. I have eight students now, including three grads. Everyone now speaks the same language, because they have studied with me long enough. The older ones are shepherding the younger ones (for the most part). If there’s one thing I do differently in my studio, it is in disallowing people to look down upon others slogging through Gleason exercises while everyone else breezes through Vierne, Buxtehude, Bach, and Roger-Ducasse. One should never become smug about being done with Gleason, because the fellow actually doing it just might come up and pass you before long. I saw that happen in your studio more than once...

... I miss your smooth, soothing voice full of good advice. I miss going to Luby’s and catching up. I miss seeing you show up at my performances in Houston. But I believe I miss most of all any opportunities for you to hear some of my students play. You heard only one, but you should have heard THESE. It is such a feeling of connection to know that my students speak the same language you taught me and that if they were to fly to Houston and play in a blind competition in your presence, you could identify them as mine...

... Let me tell you about my students. They love to get together. They love to eat. They love to go to Kilgore every year for the festival. They love to gossip. They love to compare notes on church politics, beautiful music, and performance critiques. I say to them all the time how I wish they could play some Gleason for you. Imagine how NERDY that would sound to any other studio but how absolutely thrilling it would be for you and me. Alas, you heard only one of my students, but you could tell that I was on the right track as a teacher, and that means everything...

... I was particularly excited about one student who NAILED every lesson, every assignment, every detail, the first time. There are a lot of details in what you and I do, and consequently there are many lessons I am prepared to re-explain the following week, student after student. But not this student. This one was, to use your word, a thoroughbred...

... Then there was another student who played better and better, having discovered inner genius. Also a thoroughbred, but it took a few years to get used to the saddle...

... Then there was the student whose lousy practice habits reminded me of a story you once told about Mildred Andrews. She had instructed a student that he was to practice that evening and was not to attend a certain recital in Oklahoma City. He went to the recital anyway but had a flat tire on the way home. Miss Andrews passed right by him in her land yacht, glaring at him the whole time. Teachers can always tell that a student hasn’t practiced, but we always have other ways of finding out why, don't we. You and I don’t set out to find out these things – the information just comes our way. I have plenty more stories of students goofing off, but then when a thoroughbred shows up the next semester and starts providing some competition, the game is on. Such is this studio now. There is a lot of traffic on the practice organ, and people are making weekly rather than monthly progress...

... I tell your stories. I use your vocabulary, at least the cleaner parts. I can still hear your voice saying some things I now say word for word. I channel you every time I walk into a lesson. Even so, I have found ways to keep Gleason from feeling like punishment or boot camp, and I’m constantly searching for ways to speed things along. For example, I teach all new students twice per week during their first semester: once on hands, once on feet. That gets them going faster and into “real” music sooner. The material covered is the same; perhaps the biggest difference between you and me is that I’m never late for lessons. :) ...

... Perhaps the ultimate closeness to you comes from now owning your practice organ, Aeolian-Skinner Op. 1457-B. I think of you constantly when I’m sitting there. (That's why I'm writing this letter while seated next to that organ, rather than practicing on it.) Many people have commented to me that they took many lessons on that organ. I don’t recall ever having taken a lesson on it, but as it turns out I taught some Gleason on it within two weeks of setting it up in my house! Anyway, I have named the organ Clara Belle, an amalgamation of your first two initials, the first two letters of your first name, and my own last name. I have nicknamed the console Clyde, not only after you but also for the fact that that console has worked harder than a Clydesdale. And I have nicknamed the bench Big Mac, in honor of your love for all things Apple/Macintosh and also for the fact that that bench weighs five thousand pounds. Really? Solid PECAN for the bench top?...

... You played so well and worked so hard. But you didn’t know squat about organ maintenance, did you. Your Aeolian-Skinner needed a fair amount of voicing and regulating at my house. I fixed things that should have driven you crazy. With an organ that close to my ear, I need things perfect. But I also noticed that the organ was beginning to show signs of under-use, as if it hadn’t been turned on in a few years. I am saddened to think why...

... Remember before my final doctoral recital some notes on the Rice organ that were out of tune? I was going crazy not because of the tuning but because every time you climbed up there to tune something, you knocked something else out, whether with the tuning knife or with your butt. So I committed a crime one night by bringing a friend over after hours. She held notes, and I tuned the problem notes, plus those that you knocked out. I never told you that, and I enjoyed a quiet triumph at our next lesson when you announced, “Hmm, those notes seem to be fine now. The whole thing seems to have settled down. I won’t bother.”...

... You loved your gadgets and your technology, and you had no idea how to use any of it. You had read all the promo materials to know what something was supposed to do, but you didn’t read the manuals and had no idea how to do it. Even the phone at the Rice console was a mystery to you in some ways. It is all now very endearing, but I was a nervous wreck when your learning interfered with your teaching...

... I have had several mentors, none of whom was perfect. I have spent countless hours in therapy (most of it with wonderful counselors you recommended), learning how to hold on to the good stuff and ditch the rest from my mentors and parents. You were no exception, but the good stuff I get to keep from you is far greater than anything I needed to ditch from you, and what I am able to keep has given me the tools to maintain a reputable career in teaching and another one in performing. I really do owe you everything. There was no way to repay you even when you were alive. The best any student can do is pay it forward to his own students. Rest in peace...


Franck-ly speaking, Part III: Cantabile

This is the third installment in a series on my take on playing the twelve large works of César Franck. Today we look at the Cantabile. See the first post in the series for background information.


The Cantabile is the shortest of the big twelve. Perhaps it’s also the easiest, but none of them is truly easy, so don’t get too excited.

I insert a lot of inter-manual “thumbing” to keep things legato, and therefore I try to place the hands on two adjacent manuals whenever possible. If the Great is the middle manual, then keeping hands on adjacent manuals will require a couple more pistons to convert the Great into the Positif and back several times. This also brings up the issue of fingering for a Great on the bottom or a Great in the middle. Solution: finger it both ways, and write it all in. Things won't always work in both directions, of course, but when it is possible, I’ll draw an up- and a down-arrow to show which direction to travel to the other manual, and then I’ll write in the fingerings for both configurations. Then it’s only a few extra minutes for me to memorize both ways and then be ready for anything at the recital site.

Throughout the piece, you’ll need to make innumerable decisions between tying and breaking repeated notes. Don’t forget that Franck composed vertically, not contrapuntally, and so he didn’t mind when notes were tied across. But of course, repeated notes in melodies should be broken. I break repeated notes among other voices to hear/show a beat better, and I break when a voice sounds imitative of a melody. I try to break in voices that aren’t terribly exposed, so that the beat is merely heard rather than hammered.

Registration: our American Swells can be sorely lacking in the colors Franck is looking for. Trumpets are too strong or weak, Hautbois are too weak or strong, and there’s very little in between. You might consider adding the 4’ flute and/or the 8’ string to the Récit texture. They might come in handy later as the piece winds down; more on that later below.

In the U.S., rarely does the Positif/Choir have enough 8’ flues to do what Franck asks, and so I usually add a stop or two from the Great to give the Positif more presence. Of course that’s not always possible, but if you have the stops, the pistons, and the time to switch stops back and forth between the "real Great" and "contrived Positif," then surely Franck would approve. For the Cantabile, that means I use one piston for the first two measures of pedal “solo” against Great and Positif 8’, then I hit another one in measure 3 to reduce the pedal and remove some of the Great to sound like a Positif. All while remaining on the Great. Back and forth like that we go: measures 6 and 8, measures 11 and 12, measures 25 and 27, etc.

Franck’s initial dynamic of p is unnecessary. To the French organist, a dynamic indication is a box indication. But the Récit is not playing there, and when it does show up in measure 3, the dynamic is mezzo forte. So set the box to mf before you begin, and for heaven's sake don't lunge for the box in a panic at the last second. But on the other hand, if you choose to hit extra pistons as explained in the paragraph above, you could add Récit fluework to the Great to strengthen the 8’ registration when the solo is not playing, then operate the box accordingly. If you have time to do all that in the moment, it’s a nice idea that helps our American organs nudge closer to what Franck heard.

Franck marks the piece Non troppo lento, so don’t get stuck on half notes and quarter notes. The piece still needs to pulsate with some life.

Measure 1: notice that the Pedal foreshadows the real melody coming up in measure 3. Franck even registered those first two measures and their later siblings to bring out the Pedal, but for whatever reason the registration was watered down at publication. In his complete Franck recording, Jean Guillou registers a quiet reed in the Pedal for those. I also try to bring it out a bit, but I try to use fluework.

Measure 5: It’s curious that Franck does not insert the global quarter rests from measure 5 into 6 and 10 into 11 that he inserts from, say, 2 into 3 or 7 into 8. Nevertheless, I insert the rest for all voices. It just begs for it, I feel. One exception is in Measure 11, where I go into measure 12 without breaking, not only because it’s possible but also because I don’t want things to get predictable. Non-breaking requires some quick fingerings and substitutions.

Measures 13-14. I get across that barline legato in the left hand.

Measures 15-16: I carry the melody from measure 15 without breaking. With the box closing, I feel it’s a nice enough arrival without the break.

Measures 18 and 67: I thumb the second quarter note in the alto with the right hand. I do the same thing in measures 24 and 73 for the first eighth in the left hand. See the discussion above regarding playing this piece on adjacent manuals.

Measure 27: I thumb the b in the alto with the left hand.

Measure 32: if you’ve been on adjacent manuals up to this point, you’ll need to move your right hand to the “real” Positif here (assuming it's on the bottom), to be in position for Measure 43, where all three manuals are needed on their own terms. Everything can be re-positioned as you wish at 65.

Measures 38-39: I don’t break the melody across that barline. I like the continued crescendo that allows.

Measures 51-61: The canon is exquisite. Register it carefully so that the Pedal gets its due, and phrase the Pedal melody exactly the same way as the right hand melody. Keep careful track of the couplers, and know that you could cheat with an extra coupler to the Pedal, if you need it.

Measure 59: I take the lowest right-hand note E with the left.

Measure 61, fourth beat: I take the lowest right-hand note E with the left.

Measure 62, third beat: I take the lowest right-hand note F# with the left.

Measure 64, third beat: I take the lowest right-hand note D# with the left.

I live for measure 74. I believe it’s a stunning repose the piece has been yearning for all this time. I start preparing for it in 72 with a subtly graduated ritard and a smooth closing of the box.

At 78, some Swells have little left when the Trumpet comes off. Here you could use those extra stops I suggested at the beginning, such as the string or a 4’ flute. Hopefully, there’s an Oboe that would also have been on from the beginning. The reason I mention all this is because I remove all but the Oboe from the Swell at 82. It helps with the decrescendo, and it gives me a chance to get rid of any lingering stops (such as my added 4') that may not contribute to a quiet ending.

Measures 86-end: Use the slowdown to buy successively more time on each note so that you don’t have to add a fermata at the end where Franck didn’t write one.

Measures 88-89: I add a stop or two to the Pedal so that it can be heard. This is especially important if the left hand has been coupled all along to the Pedal. (Sometimes coupling the accompanying manual to the Pedal makes a more subtle 8’ than the Pedal’s own.) Play those Pedal quarters with a nice tenuto; don’t clip the penultimate one prematurely.


Franck-ly speaking, Part II: Prelude, Fugue, and Variation

This is the second installment in a series on my take on playing the twelve large works of César Franck. Today we look at the Prelude, Fugue, and Variation. See the first post in the series for background information.


The title is problematic. Not only is there only one Variation (not Variations), but also the use of the Oxford comma gives some of us fits. Against my usual punctuation morality, I insert the extra comma just to show the three sections at a glance. The original edition cleverly gets around this with the title “Prélude, Fugue, Variation,” omitting et [and]. I don’t recall as of this writing what Franck called it in his manuscript/autograph. The later Durand edition says, “Prélude, Fugue et Variation” (no Oxford comma). Anything is possible, and I’m over it. All I'll ask is that when printing the title, stay in one language: use the accent in Prélude with the French conjunction et, or use no accent with the English and. I’ll stay in English below:

The truncated version which omits the Fugue is a bastardization and should never be used in public. The original piece is a complete whole, for heaven’s sake. The interlude alludes to the Fugue subject, so it makes no sense to play the interlude without the Fugue attached. And it makes no sense to play the Prelude by itself, because it ends in the wrong key. So about the only excerpt-able section is the Variation itself, which is hard to play, in which case you might as well learn the whole thing.

The Prelude and the Variation are trios. The left hand spends a lot of time in the alto range, and the feet spend a lot of time making surgical little movements from note to note in the tenor range. The whole body is put into traction to play this piece, and there are just too many pitfalls to be checking music AND feet AND hands. If one of those gets derailed, the others are likely to follow. Therefore, this is one of those pieces that will go better if it is memorized (and well).

Throughout the Prelude and the Variation, play the melody and make the accompaniment fit around that. The most common error I hear is the left hand rushing into the second eighth note of each beat, following the rest. Once that is under control, the piece flows quite naturally beautifully. Sometimes I think it’s silly to hear a different instrument in your head when you play a melody on the organ, but in this case it works: pretend you’re an actual oboist, and the melody will speak for itself. First eighth of each beat stronger than the other two eighths.

Measure 10: obviously, the right foot needs to make the crescendo in this measure, rather than lunge for the box AND high B at the same time for measure 11. You can hear that panic every time otherwise, so just take care of the box earlier. This applies to the other similar spots throughout (31, 156, etc.). Remember that Franck’s organ had the box lever placed all the way to the right, which means that he could have (but did not necessarily have) had someone moving the box for him. Franck was known to have said that you should play as many pedal notes as possible with the left foot so that the right could operate the box. But myself, I sacrifice neither notes nor their legato for anything. So I work out some box movements at other times as required to preserve line and legato. Throughout Prelude and Variation, only slight box movements need be used; just enough to hear a difference is plenty.

Throughout Prelude and Variation, obey Franck’s every rhythmic command. He built the breaths into it, so don’t cheat the breathing voices. And don’t hold left-hand notes into rests. Keep it clean.

Measures 39-42: it is suddenly about the pedal, so let that melody rule the rhythmic motion of everything else. The same goes for 177-180.

Measures 51-59: the interlude is just an interlude. Don’t make it an event. Notice that it alludes to the Fugue subject, so make it sound that way. And notice that the fermatas have been placed on notes, not on rests, so don’t go out for coffee during the rests.

Fugue subject: I cheat a little by making a slight(!) break after the half notes in measures 64 and 65 and all other similar passages in other voices (72, 73, 82, 83, etc.) throughout the fugue. Such is (barely) legal in Franck – don’t forget that he was developing organ playing from ordinary touch into legato, but that did not fully arrive until Widor and later. So don’t arrest me.

Measures 117-122: fingering here will be unorthodox to many. Don’t be lazy – work out a legato fingering. It is possible.

Measure 128: I decrescendo here. I love that arrival on the Picardy.

Make the Variation flow. Again, make that left hand obey the rhythmic wishes of the melody. Yes, I know that 162-169 is difficult for the left hand. Tough! Learn it cold and make it fit.

This is one of those pieces that is beautiful to the ear but horribly awkward to play. Go with making it sound good; never telegraph how difficult it is. Sit up straight, and refuse to lunge for any note or swell shoe in a panic.


Franck-ly speaking, Part I: background and the Final

I have been on my way through performing the twelve large works for solo organ by César Franck. I have programmed them at a rate of about one per year, having begun in 2007. I have learned or re-learned them in order of my own preferences: Final, Prelude/Fugue/Variation, Cantabile, Pièce Héroïque, Pastorale, Choral in E, Prière, Fantaisie in A, Choral in b, Choral in a, Grande Pièce Symphonique, Fantaisie in C. As of this writing, I have just put the A major Fantasy to bed and will move on to the b minor Choral for early 2015.

This music is groundbreaking and very popular among organists, audiences, and audiophiles. I played several of these pieces during college, but I discovered their true difficulty when I started working back through all of them with a professional fine-toothed comb. These pieces are HARD sometimes, but their nobility forbids you from glossing over a single note. I love this music; it fits my sense of phrasing at the organ. I say a lot with these pieces in less time than with others. They “learn” quickly, and they speak to me and my listeners immediately. But they must be approached somewhat carefully to keep them from sounding like halting organ demonstrations or unnecessarily mad dashes to the finish.

This blog series will outline some of the usual troubles we encounter in these pieces. I’ll add some of my own hints and personal reflections on each. Then there are the other well-known sources to get more information, such as Rollin Smith’s two books, the Durand edition, the Craighead/Goddard corrections to the new Durand, the Dover compilation, the Wayne Leupold edition, the Gunther Kaunziger edition, the complete recordings, etc. I gravitate toward the complete recordings by André Marchal and David Enlow. Marchal is musical and forward-moving. Enlow is all that, plus muscular.

In this series, I don't correct notes or other misprints in the score that haven't already been addressed in a critical edition. Consult those editions carefully, especially when you suspect something isn't right in your score -- it probably isn't.



It may be an omen to begin a series with a "Final," but here we are! What's more, when I performed this piece, I always placed it first on a program. It opened my recitals with the kind of bang I look for. This is a thrilling piece that has no sister among the big twelve. It has no slow section, and it keeps charging at you.

Beginning: I use measure 29 to determine my beginning tempo. I think about that measure first and then start the piece with that tempo, which tends to hover around 120 bpm. Thank God Franck adds “maestoso” to the tempo marking. Otherwise, people would play it too fast. Oh, wait, they already do. Folks, this isn’t the Sowerby Pageant. It’s only coincidental that the main melody appears in the pedal. It is still music. Make sure it’s played clearly and musically. Throughout this pedal solo, decide carefully how long any given note before a rest will last. Too short, and it sounds clipped. Too long, and it invades the rests. Give as much attention to the releases as to the attacks. And depending on the acoustics and my mood, I may cut dotted quarters at the dot, replacing the dot with a rest -- Franck does that later on the piece, in measures 207-211.

Measures 13-27: This is that hard part in the pedal solo. This section needs a steadfast refusal on the performer's part to play it any way other than nobly. Usually a more majestic tempo will fix it. In any event, focus on playing every note in this section, without rushing anywhere just because it's awkward to play. Use the feet equally in this section; don’t ask one foot to do all the work without exploring more innovative pedaling. Prepare your ankles for some interesting contortions!

Measure 33: Take Franck seriously when he thins out the texture by dropping out the alto and tenor. You’ll need that space for the soprano to be heard. Keep all triplets even; don’t allow the left hand to call the shots; make the melody rule all rhythms and rubato.

Measure 87: Notice the difference on the second beat between a full quarter (manual) and a quarter staccato (pedal). I play the difference.

Measure 94: I decide in the moment how long I’ll hold the second beat in the hands. Maybe that beat should be staccato like the notes leading up to it. If holding them through threatens to make the second beat (a weak beat in 4/4) too strong, I'll release them early.

Measure 99: Don’t lose the tempo; keep things moving. In the pedal is a preview of coming attractions, namely, the second theme. So let the pedal call the shots; don’t get hung up on how angular the hands are there.

Measure 125: I move Franck’s registration directive to measure 119, and I make it last until 127. It’s a smoother registrational descent that way; I tend to use three to four generals to thin things out. Then throughout the second theme that follows, you’ll need to make a lot of decisions on voice redistribution among the hands, plus when to tie and when to break. Franck wrote vertically, and so we are at full liberty to tie when desired. I break for voiceleading clarity and when a beat needs to be heard. Same directions apply to the recap later on.

Measure 155: By now, you have probably slowed down more than you intended to. An abrupt return to the opening tempo is too abrupt. Use 155-163 to make a (smooth!) accelerando.

From measure 173, it's all about the pedal. Don’t telegraph how difficult the hands are.

Measure 187: I put the right hand on the Great. In this country, the Positif/Choir rarely has enough 8-foot to support that soaring melody.

From measure 206, it's all about the pedal again, not about how hard the hands are. Don’t let the left hand rush the pedal; make the left hand obey the melody’s wishes.

From measure 215, it’s all about the left hand. Make the right hand notes fit exactly where they are supposed to go to support the melody.

From measure 245, you might go somewhat faster. But not too fast, because you still have a long way to go to the applause.

From measure 305: This is still Franck, so no one is authorized to fly through this section! If anything, you might consider making it sound somewhat halting and improvisatory and getting bolder while things make their way back to the home key and the home melody. People tend to play from here to the end somewhat detached. I do that, too, but it’s nowhere near pecking. Be careful, and stay noble. This brings me to the notion of detaching Franck where he didn't say to. We get away with a lot of re-interpretation of what Franck wrote or didn't write, but that's okay because this was the beginning of a style that was codified after Franck. In some cases, it was still played with "ordinary touch," and we can detach. With today's hindsight, decisions can now be based on musical and/or acoustical instinct. See Wayne Leupold's comments in his edition.

From measure 360: Be sure the hands don’t derail the pedal. Many times, those chords are played in such a way that the pedal eighth notes get compressed into a faster rhythm, which tends to over-rush the whole thing. Make smooth trades between manual chords to pedal notes.

From measure 372: No slower; we’re still not there yet! You can ritard at 378.

From measure 379, I make the eighth notes a fast flourish and the final quarter-note chords a guessing game of, “Is it really over?”


Life in the Big D: The tough questions

The title of a recent article by Bill Zeeble seeks to get to the bottom of a troubling situation by asking, "Why isn't the Meyerson's world-class organ played more often?" Alas, although the title asks it, the article does not answer it, and so I will:

The article talks about that immense pipe organ staring you in the face upon entry into the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The Lay Family organ was built by the C. B. Fisk company and installed and inaugurated in 1992. The article mentions that that organ is not played much these days. It then goes on, as general articles on these topics do, about the organ’s superlatives for sizes and its scope of dynamics and frequency range. Same statistics we hear all the time about new organs. Biggest pipe is 32 feet tall. Smallest is the size of a pencil. Yawn.

Then it says that if you’ve ever wondered what that Fisk sounds like, you’re finally going to get three chances to hear it this coming season. Well, now we’re getting somewhere. But then the article fizzles out into just another shallow teaser for the reader to attend two or three programs to keep this organ’s life support plugged in so that no one has to answer the article’s title’s question for another twenty years.

After the inaugural concerts in 1992 (which I attended), the Lay Family organ dropped off in usage. So what happened? Why didn’t the organ keep its momentum going? Mr. Zeeble actually answers that (somewhat), ironically by celebrating the upcoming season, which will include “three concerts with international soloists.” And the soloists who inaugurated the organ were also international. Mr. Zeeble also brags that an international (there’s that word again) competition was founded on the Meyerson instrument. Yes, it was a big deal, but when its supporters moved on, it fizzled out.

I would suggest that the love affair with “international” is part of the problem. Yes, this is a world-class organ built by a fine builder in a fine hall. This organ was the inspiration for a renewed interest in major concert organs installed outside of churches. But after the inaugural concerts are over, it is just another fine pipe organ in another fine hall in another fine city -- we have many of all those in our great country. But there is not one contraption on this organ that hasn’t been installed on others, and there is absolutely nothing about the operation or playing of this organ that differs from any other similarly-sized organ. And the cleverly-designed acoustics, so proudly touted by Mr. Zeeble and his interviewees, are just another successful imitation of other, older places that also got the acoustics right. [Update: one reader has rightfully corrected me on that point. Although good acoustics are good acoustics no matter how achieved, the Meyerson acoustics are indeed groundbreaking in their adjustability due to those resonance chambers, and the geometry of the room is unprecedented.] So when the celebration is over, the Meyerson is another concert hall, and it needs to get to its daily work. The celebration of the acoustics is nice, but now use the acoustics. The celebration of the organ is nice, but now use the organ. The subliminal message of 'international-or-hands-off' does not help the cause. “International” cuts down dramatically on the pool of prospective performers, and it dramatically increases the cost of getting them to Dallas. What's wrong with "national" soloists? Or state ones? Local AGO ones? Or students who might increase their interest in the organ if allowed to play?

DSO organist Mary Preston wants this organ to be heard more. Journalist Scott Cantrell says that the organ sits right there in front of everyone and that people want to hear it. But neither of these fine folk asks the tough question of the DSO or the Meyerson: “What are you waiting for??” Using the organ more would require the DSO to plan more rep for it, which to its credit it has done for the current season. [Might be nice if Mr. Zeeble had mentioned who is playing and what they’re playing.] Anyway, it is a worthwhile endeavor, but no one on the planning end of things ever seems to look past the first few concerts to keep it going. Once the DSO has performed, say, Saint-Saëns, Jongen, and Poulenc, they lose interest because they think everyone has now been sated for a while. But what about Rheinberger? Sowerby? Dupré? Handel? Holst? Paulus? Hakim? Respighi? Commissions? Smaller works for organ and winds? What about an annual Messiah singalong or July 4 celebration using the organ alone? What about student field trips? What about sending out an invitation to organ teachers all over the country to bring their students to visit a world-class instrument in a world-class house inhabited by a world-class orchestra? What’s wrong with a little outreach, folks?

The Meyerson organ is in tip-top shape and currently needs nothing fixed, but to keep that organ playing publicly would require far more resources of time, energy, and money than the Meyerson or the DSO has or wants to throw at it. And if that’s the case, then here’s another tough question: “Why was this organ installed in the first place?” Even more to the point, “Why do we keep installing these monumental instruments in these great halls, when the common pattern is that they will rarely see the light of day again after the inaugural concerts?” The organ becomes a museum piece, and the house brags that it has this magnificent organ. 'Oh, but you can’t play it or get close to it, for heaven’s sake; that’s just not done here.' So another tough question is, “Was this organ and its sisters around the country built merely because generous people paid for them and that we hope to get more of their money sometime?”

Yeah, okay, it costs an awful lot to rent the hall for non-DSO events. It costs too much to run the place for an audience that won’t fill a third of the seats, if that many. I can hear a bureaucrat saying now, “Oh, it’s just not economically feasible to open the house to such a small audience.” Well, then, my next tough question is, “How in the world do you suppose it got that way?”

I'm told that the organ is practically off-limits to organists who just want to lay hands on it during the week. In many houses, getting in and out of the building outside of a performance is a security problem. Tight scheduling conflicts are sure to abound, and practice time must be extremely limited. Of course, many organists are happy to practice overnight, but then the ultimate Catch-22 is set in motion when the house and/or Union requires Union crew be present to open all the doors, turn on/off all the lights, turn on/off the organ, operate the elevator for you, move the console out for you, and clear the hallways for you to pass through. I’m not nobody, but I guarantee that Meyerson and DSO managements have never heard of me and that therefore I'd never get to lay hands on that organ or introduce my students to it without providing some amount of CV to prove my worth, getting Mary Preston's approval and probably having her present, getting officially scheduled with house management for my visit, and hiring Union house tech crew to be present to do everything except play the organ and help me in the restroom, plus make sure that I don't trip over anything and sue. That's true in symphony houses all over the country, not just at the Meyerson. Dear Reader, it's the red tape that shuts these organs down, not a disinterest on the part of the audience, and certainly not a lack of organists who are glad to line up to play, if only they were invited or at least considered worthy. [Update: an apathetic administration would also be to blame for the silence of an organ. I suspect that's a big part of the problem in Dallas (and other places, of course), in which case you and I are wasting our time writing and reading this blog until that is rectified.]

The over-management stranglehold on houses all over the country has evolved in recent years. Apparently someone gradually got it pushed through that the Union ought to “protect” the house by over-controlling and over-managing it. "Safety" tends to be the curtain behind which most managements hide. The Union and the house "don’t want anyone to get hurt," which really means, “We don’t want to be sued for anyone getting hurt, and we don't care to address the more pressing issues of people not watching where they're walking or being so vain as to sue when they get hurt for not paying attention in the first place.” And so the over-management is actually about money (as most things usually are in these cases): saving money by removing all chance of litigation to the point of shutting out legitimate visitors, and spending money on "trained experts" to flip some switches and open some doors. (Not to minimalize their training, of course. They are capable of super-human feats backstage, but turning on lights and organs is something they ought to watch a church organist do sometime. And they ought to get a load of the trip hazards that await a church organist at every turn.)

Here’s an interesting question: "What does Fisk have to say about all this?" Perhaps they might lament all that work put into a huge instrument that no one knows about any more. Or they might actually enjoy this ivory-tower effect, where people wonder just how great this organ really is and they go in search of other Fisks to hear. And Fisk got paid for the Meyerson organ immediately following installation, plus there are no royalties on the use of a builder’s instrument once installed, so Fisk has no money in this game. And that means I'd really like to hear their opinion on all this -- it would probably be an honest one; this isn't their only symphony house organ.

[Update: another interesting question would concern what the Lay Family thinks of all this. I can't imagine.]

Well, I have said it. But the truth is that the Meyerson and its sister houses have no way at present of making changes. There's not enough time and not enough money. The Catch-22 of available house time and available Union crew is too strong. The organ is stuck where it is, and it will not be dug back out of moth balls until rampant over-management implodes or at least subsides. It is what it is, folks. So when you’re in the Big D, just pay for a ticket to attend something at the Meyerson – you are not likely to get in otherwise. Unless you’re internationally known.


The irony of a musicians union

It’s time to write about this. And it won’t be pretty.

Orchestras all over the place are in trouble. And it always seems to be about money. And it usually involves some toxic combination of an administration, a Union, and a healthy pinch of myopia. It never seems to include idealism or an interest in music.

For the record, most administrations are myopic. There’s not much more that need be said about that. They should all be fired and replaced with working musicians. Failing that, I’m taking the Union to task now:

In terms of pay, musicians get raped all the time. But it’s our own fault, because we are often too willing to give our art away, out of love for the art. Sometimes there’s just too much energy involved with educating a presenter on the expenses of art. It’s just like educating couple after couple, bride after bride, on what is appropriate in church and what is not. The battle is sometimes too taxing on our time and energy to continue. Fortunately the Union can sometimes do that battling for you. BUT:

Although I’m not a struggling musician, I still negotiate recital fees rather than set them in stone take it or leave it. I enjoy performing more than making money, and I enjoy bringing my brand of the art to an appreciative audience more than in staying home in protest over the compensation package for a recital. I know some organists who don’t leave home unless they make a profit. I also know that they are jackasses in general. And so I have established my own common ground, and I can live with that. The Union would probably not be so flexible.

I have never joined a musicians union. Few organists need to. They’re usually already employed by the presenting venue where an organ will be used. And they are rarely called on to play someone else’s instrument, unless there has been an easy mutual agreement reached. And so my experience working with Union musicians has come from only one perspective, from the outside. Unfortunately, aside from the occasional contractor who was also a friend, my experiences have rarely been positive.

The Unions exist many times to protect musicians from getting raped in the pocketbook. But what about protecting the musician from the unpleasantness of working with a jerk of a conductor? I should think it would be pretty easy to blackball a venue or conductor after just one or two bad experiences. God knows I have quietly blackballed some places on my own behalf because the director of music was a complete jackass. It’s not that difficult. However, with the Union on your side, you can continue to go play for that venue and be guaranteed pay. But for me, there is a choice between getting paid and having to deal with a jackass in the first place. That really is a viable choice after a certain point in one’s career, and I believe the Union's guaranteed pay might cloud that choice until it’s nearly too late.

If the Union protects the players, it ought also to insist that those players be the very best they can be and play the very best they can play. But that has not been my experience. I have seen Union orchestras play like pigs and then revolt when rehearsal runs late. I have seen a concertmaster slump in his chair and doodle in the floor with the tip of his bow at the end of the Tchaikovsky Sixth, where the violins have nothing to play. I have seen a Union flautist request a rehearsal break so she could practice her part. American orchestras routinely clear the opera/ballet pit at the end of a show before the conductor has arrived onstage to acknowledge them; the audience is applauding madly, but the conductor is acknowledging an empty pit. I have been blamed for holding chords after cutoffs, when it was really the Union horns who weren’t paying attention over and over. I have heard many Union musicians complain that they can’t hear the tempo, even while the tempo is being presented visually right in front of them on the conductor’s box. I have seen too many Union musicians glare at me and tune sharp because they don’t like the A that the organ gave them. I have heard a Union violist complain that the organ was coming in early (with the baton, actually), while the orchestra was coming in behind the stick (but with each other).

I’m sorry, but the Union musicians I have worked with default to laziness, and only the better conductors can pull them out and make them play as well as they were trained and are being paid to. But I default to being the very best I can be, and THEN I back off if I discover that it’s just not worth it. I’m sorry, but I have never seen a Union musician enjoy the music; I have only seen them enjoy being Union musicians. This is a foreign concept to me. I am constantly in awe of what composers have left us to play and enjoy, and it is astounding to me the number of professional musicians out there who hate music.

Union musicians: your pay is important. Keep fighting for it. All I’m asking is that you fall back in love with the music and with your instrument and with sitting up straight and playing well no matter what else is going on. You know, just as organists have been replaced by canned music in some churches, we organists could replace you. I can play Messiah and Elijah as well as you can. And back in the day, people like my teachers used to play entire oratorios on the organ every Sunday for Evensong. And quite a number of organists are transcribing full symphonies and other big works for organ solo these days. Rediscover the music, and find the balance.

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