Upcoming Performances

August 25
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Church of the Savior, Newland, N.C.

September 17
8:00 pm Eastern

Faculty recital, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

September 22
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Statesville, N.C.

October 18
12:30 pm Central

"Friday Pipes" recitalist, Third Baptist Church, St. Louis, Missouri

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..

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.


Fall Break adventures in the Heartland

I'm just wrapping up a trip to the Kansas City area, where I have enjoyed engaging in some of my most treasured activities: visiting with friends old and new, visiting a new area of the country, driving hundreds of miles, and playing for an appreciative audience and collaborators.

Last Wednesday, I arrived in Kansas City. I met up with an old friend Scott Foppiano, now director of music at the church of St. Vincent de Paul, one of those rare churches that celebrates Mass in pre-Vatican II style, in LATIN. Scott and I enjoyed dinner, and then he took me to the church, where I took in the architecture and the new Johannus organ that Scott designed. It's quite a space, and Scott presides from that rear gallery with great pride and conscientiousness. Scott and I spent much of the evening catching up on old friends and on our old teachers John and Margaret Mueller. Rosie the cockapoo also spent a lot of time grooming me.

Thursday, after a delicious breakfast, Scott and I journeyed five miles to visit the organs at the Community of Christ headquarters, where the 1959 Aeolian-Skinner and the 1993 Casavant organs preside over the Auditorium and the Temple, respectively. Alas, we didn't get to play, but I took in the architecture and bought a book. From there, we went to President Truman's library and to First Presbyterian, Independence. Organ crawl days are the ultimate nerd's nectar.

We skipped lunch, because dinner was at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. Mercy, what a delicious meal. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should.

Friday morning, I made my way to St. Joseph, Missouri, to start making friends with the rather stunning Hook & Hastings [et al] at Francis Street First United Methodist. After four hours' practice followed by a delicious Cajun lunch with gracious host David Lewis, followed by five more hours of practice, I was ready for dress rehearsal that evening with the St. Joseph Community Chorus for a hymn festival on Sunday. The Chorus and their conductors Frank Thomas and Jennifer Stammers were gracious collaborators, and a few of them were gracious beer drinkers afterwards. More nectar.

Saturday, I had the day off. But wheels had been turning in my head for weeks. I knew that I was going to be only a three-hour drive from Aeolian-Skinner Op. 1457-A, the identical twin sister to my own practice organ at home. And so I set out that morning. Along the way, I stopped in Corning, MO, to visit what looked like a stunning church out in the distance, St. John's Lutheran, Corning. It is on the Historic Register, but the poor building is currently boarded up after some recent, devastating flooding. I also took the business routes through all the towns, enjoying my very first visit to Nebraska and my first time operating a motor vehicle in Iowa. Nerd.

And so I completed my stalking of Op. 1457-A by finding the campus where she lives and by finding my way into the music building. Upon entry, I immediately heard organ music and followed my ears to the sound. There was one lone student practicing the Franck Pastorale on Op. 1457-A. Recognizing that I was an unannounced visitor in an otherwise empty building, I decided not to disturb the student and be taken for a stalker. But to the fellow who was practicing: you get extra credit for practicing on a Saturday game day on your campus. Anyway, I got to see the organ from a short distance. That was enough for now; I can always go back. Meanwhile, I took photos of ELEVEN practice pipe organs in that building, and I'm told they all get used. I drove back to St. Joseph and finished the evening with a bit of practicing and then some reading in a wonderful book on the worship spaces of St. Joseph, courtesy my gracious host David Lewis.

Sunday, I enjoyed a morning off before heading back to the church for the hymn festival. Full house of singing people, and a chorus full of enthusiastic collaborators. This one was a hit, and I am so glad to have been a part of it. Dinner was delicious and courtesy new friends Bill and Judy McMurray.

Sunday evening had a bonus in store. I was invited to visit the Visser-Rowland at First Presbyterian, courtesy Donovan Jones, Michael Shaw and benefactors Jim and Judy Trout. This was a superb way to wrap things up!


Buried treasure in Valdosta

I am just back home from a most unique and invigorating recital experience.

My friend and previous colleague Paul Neal is the Director of Choral Studies at Valdosta State University. He is also a former organ pupil of my teacher Clyde Holloway. After a number of years now, Paul has finally managed to get the Möller organ in Whitehead Auditorium at Valdosta taken out of mothballs and put into playing condition, at least for now. That's where I came in last week. My task was to prepare a program for an audience, many of whom had never attended an organ recital, and most of whom had never heard that particular organ, even though it was installed in 1970. What a freakish time warp that must have been for some.

The organ is Möller Opus 10600, three manuals. I didn't count ranks, but there are plenty, which is the exciting part. Two sets of reeds on the Swell, three 16' flues in the Pedal, enclosed Choir, independent Great reed, FOUR 8' flues on the Great, Erzähler and celeste on the Choir, etc. I could go on. The organ was one of the most complete and satisfying instruments from that vintage and from that builder that I have encountered. Buried treasure. The room, of course, is another matter, as those rooms usually are.

The organ is placed in two chambers spread a good distance apart in the room. Dialogue effects were impressive, but the blend between the two was quite satisfying. When I first arrived, I saw that the cap on the tenor A-sharp key on the pedal was broken off. Great. Well, THAT will make for an interesting Sowerby Pageant. But then I had the bright idea to look under the pedalboard, and there was the cap. Wood glue found, black tape to hold it together found, and we carried right on. I played the recital with that black tape in place, just in case.

Michael Proscia performed some mini miracles to get the organ back into shape for at least this new premiere. The more I worked at it, the better the combination system began to behave. There were very few dead notes, but even when there were, there was plenty of organ to cover it up, or plenty other stops to choose from. That's a real perk of having an organ with more than one choice for certain colors.

The recital itself consisted of about half playing, half talking to the audience which numbered around 300, I suppose. (Publicity was terrific, but so was the public's curiosity.) I took a show of hands for people who had never heard this organ and people who had never attended an organ recital. I quickly saw that some teaching was going to be necessary. This wasn't the first time I had demonstrated the families of organ tone or various stops for an audience. People seem to like that, and so I soldiered on with the demonstration. (No one left, and no one fell asleep.) I also demonstrated a few quirks that will need to be fixed if the organ is to have a life. The audience saw the warts, heard the pops and squeaks, and left with a better understanding of how those machines work and what it will take to resurrect one fully. We had a great time that night.

The organ, of course, will need considerably more surgery to bring it back to life and to bring its technology into this modern age. And so I hope that the audience has been set afire for this and that an endowment fund will materialize very soon. The vice chancellor for development was in attendance, as was the dean of the College of the Arts, as were several donors looking for a place to send their money. And some wonderful soul from Paul's chorus brought me chocolate.

The evening was one of those rare homeruns hit out of the ballpark. Paul Neal had a great idea for an evening, I had a great night, and the audience seemed to have a great revelation.


Taking Franck to task now

I have been taking a lot of people to task lately in my blog: Kenny Lamm, musicians Unions, tech Unions, and the Dallas Symphony and its house. Then just this week, I saw a mypoic article on why people don't join choirs any more, but I'm tired and just don't have the energy to flesh out my thoughts on that. I also dropped in to see a friend at her church on a recent Sunday morning, only to discover that the congregation was singing "Rocky Top" to their UTenn fan pastor, to celebrate his fifth anniversary among them. Again, I'm just tired and don't have the energy.

But here's a new idea posed to me by a friend: my soul and my performing resonate well with Franck's music. So just a moment ago, I posted the first in a blog series on how I play Franck. You can find it here. This will be a welcome rest from all the yelling and screaming, and I hope it might even prove useful.


Gifts keep coming

What a summer of acquisitions!

1. Box upon box of music and books from friends and classmates Jeff Binford, Charlie Steele, Beth Hill, and John Marsh to share with students;

2. Clyde Holloway's Aeolian-Skinner;

3. Free registration and lodging for all my students at the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival;

4. Free back adjustment from a new friend at a recital venue; (Can't imagine why my back was hurting. I only loaded a pipe organ, drove it halfway across the country, unloaded it, then drove six hours to a recital venue to practice.);

5. A wonderful goodie bag from the choir of the Belin United Methodist Church, Murrells Inlet, SC, where I just dedicated their new Allen organ;

6. A facsimile of the autograph of Franck's Choral in b minor, courtesy Bruce Cornely.

A summer of rich blessings, indeed.


A time warp

Last night, I put about 300 people into a time warp. I re-played the inaugural program that was played 30 years ago this year, on the Casavant installation at Appalachian State University. The original program was played by my teacher, H. Max Smith, in whose memory we announced a new scholarship endowment last night, as well. It was a triple whammy evening: the organ's 30th birthday, a celebration of Max's legacy, and a new scholarship. Program was Lübeck F major, Scheidt Warum betrübst, Bach E-flat, Lesur In paradisum, and Reubke. And of course, the necessary eating and drinking ensued. Today I am not the least bit exhausted, even as I prepare now to go play in Knoxville, then fly to Houston to pick up Clyde Holloway's Aeolian-Skinner and move it to my house, then go dedicate an Allen on the South Carolina coast, then put all this music to bed and start on the next round of music for October and November. It's gonna be a killer.