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Upcoming Performances

February 11
Inaugural recitalist, Casavant organ, Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C.

March 9, 2018, 12:15 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 11, 2018
Guest recitalist, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Valdese, N.C.

May 13, 2018, 5:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, N.C.

Sunday
Oct052014

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.

Sunday
Sep212014

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.

Monday
Sep082014

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.

Friday
Aug292014

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.

Sunday
Jul132014

Summer 2014

So far this summer, I have biked about 500 miles in New England. I have attended the national convention of the American Guild of Organists in Boston. I have played one recital and one choral concert.

The second half of the summer includes my semi-annual pilgrimage to Houston, a wonderful pilgrimage to introduce my sister to the Outer Banks, and the Organ Historical Society convention in Syracuse. And another recital -- this one came out of the blue. Lorenz Maycher called and asked if I could take his place as a featured recitalist at the OHS convention. He is having some issues to work out with his rebuild at church in Kilgore and couldn't get away as he had hoped. I am sorry for his situation, but I am so very honored and humbled by his asking me and by the OHS agreeing to it, too. And the best part is that this all happened before the convention book went to press! And so, as usual, on top of all the fun and games is a huge amount of practicing, just the way I like it.