Upcoming Performances

December 1
3:00 pm Eastern

Messiah organist, First Presbyterian Church, Statesville, N.C.

December 3
8:00 pm Eastern

Haydn Creation organist, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

December 13
12:15 pm Eastern

Music at Midday, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

February 9, 2020
3:00 pm Eastern

Inaugural recitalist, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C..

February 16, 2020
5:00 pm Eastern

Evensong recitalist, Church of the Ascension, Hickory, N.C..

March 6, 2020
7:30 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tenn.

April 5, 2020
2:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Macon, Ga.

April 18, 2020
7:30 pm Eastern

Concerto organist, Milligan College

May 12, 2020
12:35 pm Central

Tuesday Series recitalist, Church of St. Louis, King of France, Minneapolis, Minn.

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

Entries in The perfect console (4)


What's on YOUR console?

After a bit of a blogging hiatus, I’m back. Let’s have a little fun today, shall we:

Unlike Samuel L. Jackson, I don’t care what’s in your wallet. But I care a great deal about what’s on your console, and I prefer that it be nothing at all. I follow those rules for school and church organ consoles, definitely. But when it comes to the two consoles in my own house, I break my public rules.

“Clara Belle” is my Aeolian-Skinner, and “Big Al” is my Allen Bravura. You can read about Clara Belle here and watch videos about her here and here. Clara Belle’s console is nicknamed “Clyde.” On top of Clyde is some music and a nice music rack lamp. On Clyde’s side flats are a pair of nail clippers, a small emery board, a Kleenex dispenser, pencils, an eraser, a small pencil sharpener, a tube of chapstick, and a very nice Franz metronome (you know – the one that looks charmingly like a 1960s Kodak camera). There is also a small book in which I make repair notes for my tech, Morris Spearman. And yes, I’ll admit – there is also a small tube of l’Occitane hand cream, plus a coaster for the occasional water glass. Oh, the humanity. But with all these items, I have within arm’s reach everything I ever need during practice, and that helps me not to interrupt practice time by getting up to go get something I want/need but don’t have.


Big Al is a bit more heavily decorated than Clara Belle. On his top is everything “Clyde” has on him, plus a rather intriguing 4-dimensional puzzle of Manhattan that I chose not to put back in the box:


[The fourth dimension of this puzzle is Time. When you follow the directions for assembling it, you place the buildings in chronological order. It is so cool to see the city taking shape as you assemble it.] On Big Al’s side flats are the same items that Clyde has on his. Big Al adds a remote control for the playback sequencer. And there is a small wooden statuette of Elvis at his famous Hawaii concert:


[Elvis was a post-recital gift from Sondra Tucker and the wonderful audience from Holy Apostles in Collierville, Tennessee. I am reminded of good friends and happy times while I’m slaving away at these practice organs.]

Finally, next to each console is a fan, and each fan is plugged into the switched outlets inside the consoles, so that they come on automatically with the organs. What can I say -- practicing makes me warm.


Recruiting, Part 4: The Care and Feeding of an Organ Console

Dear Organist,

This is your console speaking. I am the coolest thing many young people have ever seen, and I am one of the most respectable things grownups will ever see or use. I am the ultimate seducer for prospective organists. I am your faithful servant, but I belong to your congregation. I must no longer look like your garage or attic. Therefore, I have formulated the following new rules for you:

Keep your hands clean. Have your serviceman do the same.

No hand lotion.

No street shoes nor bare feet. Play in organ shoes or socks/stockings.

No dangly bracelets, necklaces, and big rings. My keys are chipped.

No long fingernails. My keys are dug out.

Place nothing on my bench except your fully clothed hiney. And watch the jeans rivets, cellphones, and other attachments on your person.

Stop pounding my pedals as if you were squashing cockroaches.

Stop pounding my manuals as if you had to overcome 50 feet of tracker travel with five manuals coupled together.

Be kinder to my drawknobs. They are not ventilation knobs on a vintage Ford LTD.

Never, ever, stand on my pedals. Something just might break or loosen, and it is otherwise simply a bad example for others.

Place a rug next to me. Wipe your shoes on it.

My cabinet top may look suspiciously like a table, but it is not. Likewise my bench and the area below my stop jambs. I am tired of being a repository for key rings, old bulletins, paper clips, highlight markers, ink pens, ashtrays(!), soda cans, tissues, dead watches, coffee cups, jewelry, Post-Its, scotch tape, masking tape, duct tape, permanent markers, and eraser crumbs. I am currently sporting scratches, soda can rings, coffee cup rings, black marks from rubber-soled shoes, sticky finger residue, and cigarette burn marks(!). Both I and my piano friend over there are routinely used for desks, filing cabinets, conductor music stands, drink coasters, flower vases, and lost-and-found centers. Correction of all this must start with you. And when you must ask someone to follow suit, you could try the direct approach, such as, “Please don’t put that there.” That won’t work for long, so try these ‘pickup lines’ next: “My, but you have expensive taste in tables,” and, “You’re doing something to my instrument that you probably don’t want me doing to yours.”

Pick up all those pencils and paper clips from underneath my pedalboard. Matter of fact, remove my pedalboard periodically and vacuum the entire area.

Remove the masking tape from my dead drawknobs. Remove the Doxology and Gloria Patri that have been taped to my music rack. The last fellow who played on me from memory was distracted by those.

Be in attendance every time I am moved around.

Keep your housekeeping crew away. The last time they were here, they swiped me with that same oily rag with which they had just finished polishing the pulpit and pews. My keys were slimy and wet with pools of standing furniture polish. They also sprayed my plexiglass music rack with window cleaner, which also sprayed the woodwork and left spots.

The better I look, the more respect I get. And the more respect I get, the more attractive I become to others.



The perfect console, part 2

Wonderful comments are coming in about The Perfect Console. Here are a few more theses for my Lutheran-style posting on the doors of organ builders:

26. Drawers installed under stop jambs tend to serve only two purposes: a) contain important gadgetry that you can't reach in the heat of battle; b) destroy your knees when you enter/exit the bench.

27. Key cheek pistons are OK, I suppose. But are they really necessary if we have room for drawknobs and generals to do what we need to do? And if key cheek pistons are installed on every manual, then there's nothing to hang onto during pedal solos.

28. Clarifying my original thesis regarding sub-octave coupling: I'm not advocating for extensions on all ranks. That would be foolishly expensive and space-hogging. I am suggesting that certain stops make use of the lowest 12 notes of other similarly-voiced stops that already have those pipes installed. Examples: when sub-coupled, the 8' flute could make use of the low 12 notes of the existing 16' bourdon. When sub-coupled, the 8' string could use the lowest 12 notes of the 16' violone. The 8' trumpet could go into the 16' fagott. And so forth.

29. From Part 1: "If there is only one expression shoe, it should be located in the center, not right of center. The right foot is not the only foot that is often required to move the box." I should add that it is most inconvenient for a lone shoe to be recessed into the console so that it is "boxed in" and you must literally "insert" your foot STRAIGHT into the recession to get to the shoe. That wastes precious time, removes the other foot from being considered for box operation, and it turns the kick board black from all the "missed approaches."


The perfect console, part 1

Those of us who play lots of consoles become console snobs, whether we mean to or not. On the other hand, WHY, OH WHY do some builders continue to do things on consoles that just aren't useful?? And in that same vein, why, oh why do churches and builders allow the incumbent organist to design a dream console (or dream instrument, for that matter) that the next organist won't appreciate as much or be able to use as well? One of these days, I'm going to dress up as Martin Luther and tack the following 25 theses to the doors of many organ builders:

1. General piston toe studs must match thumb layout. It is completely illogical to arrange those in different configurations or to have a different number of studs than thumbs. It is much more efficient to hit the “third piston on the top” with thumb or toe than it is to hunt for the correct number among two different configurations.

2. Five or so Generals on the right-hand side would be nice. They must be duplicated on toe studs, too, and also on the right-hand side – see above.

3. Memory level up/down controls needs to be on thumb pistons WITHIN REACH. It’s nice to have them on toe studs, as well.

4. Piston sequencers for the page turner need to be on both sides of the console and completely out of the organist’s way.

5. Thumb pistons should be round, not square. There is no such thing as a square thumb. And thumb pistons should have a diameter greater than that of a shirt button.

6. Ventils on electric consoles are absolutely useless and are usually laughably, distantly located.

7. LCD readouts are too slow to change and too hard to read at an angle.

8. Box position gauges are nice, so long as they are accurate.

9. Make sub-couplers create a real lower octave by wiring the appropriate stops to lower-pitched stops already installed. 8-foots could descend into 16; 4-foots could descend into 8', etc. [EDIT: see this post for more on this concept.]

10. Make standard: I/II transfer, piston sequencer, detachable cables for movable consoles.

11. See No. 1 again, just to refresh your memory.

12. Pedalboard and music rack lights should come on with the blower, but they should also have manual switches to achieve darkness during Holy Week services.

13. Manual keys, pedals, and expression shoes need to be weighted, not merely stiff. And none of them should ever be hair-triggery. And the weighted-ness of all these needs to be about the same. It is silly to have feather-light keys and pedals, only to have to throw hips out of joint to move an expression shoe.

14. Expression shoes should be located BEHIND pedal sharps, along the natural arc that the knee joint creates. It is absolutely ludicrous to have to twist one's leg sideways to get a foot up onto an expression shoe.

15. If there is only one expression shoe, it should be located in the center, not right of center. The right foot is not the only foot that is often required to move the box. [EDIT: see this post for more.]

16. Boxes should have movement across the entire range of motion of expression shoes.

17. Allow some extra play in the Crescendo shoe before the first stage engages. Better for the shoe to have some “forgiveness” built in when it is accidentally grazed in performance.

18. Organists need spacious key cheeks to hang onto for dear life during pedal solos. Let’s not install drawknobs too close to the cheeks.

19. Install no locks requiring keys. Keychains will swing while hanging from a lock and scratch whatever they’re rubbing against.

20. Pencil troughs are nice to have below the coupler rail, above the top manual.

21. Every bench is too tall for some short person. And every bench is too short for some tall person. Solution: make it really short, and provide a crank AND bench blocks. If the crank doesn’t crank it up far enough, add the blocks. If the crank doesn’t lower it enough, remove the blocks.

22. AGO Standard is nice, but there is no such thing as an AGO standard body.

23. Low C and high G of the pedalboard must be unimpeded by stud mounts or console frame construction. It is not encouraging to go for low C with authority, only to hit General 26 or the console frame instead.

24. Include a large plate glass on top of the console cabinet. You’ll need it to protect the console from the inevitable choir folder, Kleenex box, Coke can, and CCTV equipment.

25. See No. 1 one more time, just to be sure.

In closing, see No. 1.