Easter 2024

29 April 2008
organs - animated

In the Family Guy episode "Boys Do Cry", we once again see a mainstream animated depiction of an organ. And it's all out of wack.

Here, the instrument is on the liturgical south end of the chancel, has gold facade pipes, two piano-sized manuals, assorted stop knobs, and three piano-style pedals.

The most striking feature to me is those three piano pedals. Don't people know about organ pedals?

It reminds me very much of the instrument depicted in the Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul". Unfortunately, I can't readily refer to footage of this depiction.

Unrelated: Yes, I think I will be getting a $199 iPhone


28 April 2008
store - organmaster

The Organmaster Shoes store isn't just for shoes.

I'm not talking about shoe accessories, like the organ shoe brush.

I'm talking about the Prelude on Morning has Broken by A. Royce Eckhardt. This is the only item in the "Music and Books" category, for now.

You can hear a recording of this prelude [mp3, 3.3 MB] piece performed on the Galanti Organs site.


21 April 2008
shame - spotlights of

Charles Ward again takes irresponsible mobile phone owners to task.

Too bad concert halls don't have spotlights of shame! If they did, Friday's Houston Symphony audience would have known the owner of the beeping device that prompted guest conductor Louis Langrée to stop his Jones Hall performance of Camille Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony (No. 3) after a couple of measures.

The beep goes on at symphony show Houston Chronicle 20 April 2008

As a church musician, I would gladly settle for torches of shame. The verger could lead them to the appropriate pew.

18 April 2008
peace - poop for

It's been a busy day on already, but let it not be said that we failed to acknowledge Poop for Peace Day.


quake - earth

If I didn't know any better, I would say that I was awoken by an small earthquake about 5 minutes ago (5:39 [Eastern Time]).

If so, this has fulfilled a lifelong dream.

UPDATE 6:09: Yes, it was a 5.4 magnitude earthquake, centered about 130 miles away from my location.

UPDATE 8:06 The earthquake, which is the leading story on NPR's hourly news roundup, has been downgraded to a 5.2 magnitude.

UPDATE 9:06 Homeland Security is holding a press conference at the statehouse. An "ongoing investigation" is mentioned. Perhaps Osama is behind this.

UPDATE 11:16 Just experienced what I believe to be a rather substantial aftershock.

UPDATE 11:38 The 11:14 event has been estimated at a 4.5 magnitude.

UPDATE 11:42 nine out of the top ten Google search queries today are earthquake-related; 25 of the top 30.

UPDATE 13:16 The 11:14 aftershock has been upgraded to a 4.6 magnitude. Usually, an order of magnitude lower than the initial event, this aftershock was comparatively quite strong.

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17 April 2008
massacres - biblical

7. The chief of David's captains killed either 300 (1 Chronicles 11:11) or 800 (2 Samuel 23:8) men with a spear. (Sometimes it's hard to correctly count the number of dead bodies in a massacre.)

from a list of Top Ten Bible Massacres

Read down to number ten. It's worth it.



16 April 2008
Bach, Johann Sebastian - new organ work by

A new Bach chorale prelude (or as one report refers to it, a chorale fantasy), "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns haelt", has been discovered in Germany.

Sensationsfund in Halle: Orgelkomposition von Bach entdeckt (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg) - includes tantalizing photos!

Lost Bach composition for organ discovered in Germany (The Earth Times) - describes a five to seven minute chorale fantasy!

New Bach composition discovered (

Bach's Cantata 178 is based on the same chorale.


15 April 2008
Cincinnati, Ohio - the Choir of King's College, Cambridge in

The Choir of King's College Cambridge stopped in Cincinnati, Ohio last week to sing a concert at Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral. Interestingly, this Roman Catholic edifice stands across the street from the Isaac M. Wise temple, which visited and photographed in March 2006.

Web site tangent: The cathedral website looks pretty nice on first blush but contains some pretty glaring errors. Spelling-wise "Calender" and "alter" come to mind. More to the point, I couldn't order my ticket to the concert online, because the order form was not secure

Being the most famous choir of men and boys in the world, it is not surprising that the 1,000-seat cathedral was filled to capacity. What was surprising is that the front half of the cathedral was militantly reserved for cathedral music "patrons". While this was mildly offensive at first, I soon realized that the strict ushers guarding white ribbons dividing the cabin into first-class and coach sections were simply reminding us of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.

So, listening from about halfway down the nave in a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Midwestern United States, I heard one of my favorite choirs in person for the first time.

The concert began with Tudor works by Gibbons, Weelkes and Tompkins which were ably, but not memorably sung.

The choir then processed back out leaving Tom Kimber, the junior Organ Scholar to perform Verset pour la Fête de la Dédicace (1960). The audience, however, would have none of it -- at least not during the performance. The atmosphere during this first organ piece was one of excited chit-chat before Sunday morning church, and not that of an audience enjoying a performance at $45 a pop. I found this kind of disrespect for the organ performance reprehensible, and I hope that this kind of behavior did not manifest itself on the rest of the choir's tour.

a spoonful of Tudor makes the Messiaen go down

That being said, the Verset is perhaps not the most well known of Messiaen's music (is any of Messiaen's music really well known?), but in a centennial year (noted in the program notes) I think concert goers, especially those moving in ecclesiastical circles could expect to encounter a bit more of his music this year. Even if King's programming of this work skews toward the more "academic" approach, well, why shouldn't it? After all, a spoonful of Tudor makes the Messiaen go down, or it least it should have. Shame on the duplicitous Cincinnati audience, who essentially ignored the performance, and then applauded it heartily.

The choir returned in a Lenten mood to sing a sumptuously evocative "O vos omnes" of Pablo Casals. The peneitential motets of Poulenc, aside from fleeting uncertainties in the opening "Timor et tremor", were remarkable for their powerful dynamic range.

Intermission provided ample opportunity to gawk at another choir in the audience: the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Terrace Park, Ohio. The trebles of that choir were clearly star-struck.

From the opening notes of Bach's motet "Lobet den Herrn", one Terrace Park treble in particular, exhibited what can only be described as a sympathetic bounciness. While he must have felt that the energy of that performance was palpable, the King's trebles at the front of the room were having a harder time feeling the beat. The culprit in this case being the organ, which was consistently behind the beat in this work. At one point toward the end of the first section the trebles, a particularly young looking group, were so confounded by the conflicting beats that they dropped all of their notes for about a bar before being able to recover.

A much more refreshing Bach was then heard from the organ alone: the hearty E-flat Major Prelude performed by Peter Stevens, the senior Organ Scholar. I can only infer that Stevens's elegant performance is a testament to the rigors of his training and daily performance at King's Chapel. The prelude was decidedly accurate and musical, a model of British refinement.

The choir redeemed their unfortunate Bach motet with powerfully resonant renditions of works by British composers. The dense harmonies of the Michael Tippet's Plebs angelica and modern rhetoric of the Britten "Antiphon" proved no match for this truly Anglican choral ensemble. The crowning achievement of this set, and the evening, was Vaughan Williams's visceral "Lord, though hast been our refuge", which sufficiently brought the house down so as to reveal Walton's intimate "Set me as a seal" as an encore.

Throughout the evening, the audience craned their necks en masse at every treble solo, endeavoring to see what innocent, angelic soul had been chosen to produce such sweet sound. It seemed that the neck-craners were, to a man, the same people who couldn't keep their mouths shut for the Messiaen, with one exception.

Remember that bouncy Terrace Park treble? He returned from intermission cradling his new, shrink-wrapped compact disc of Purcell and literally stood up on his pew to see the first treble soloist.

His wide-eyed awe and enthusiasm reminded me that he wasn't just listening to a concert, he was also listening to a tradition, one in which he does his best to take part.

As it turns out, I almost had the best seat in the house.

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14 April 2008
kitteh - Messiaen

. . . although that is a theremin and not an ondes Martenot.

(via BoingBoing)

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08 April 2008
Ravel, Maurice - Bolero

Just as fettuccine alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults, so is Ravel's Bolero Pachebel's Canon in D for those inclined toward twentieth century music.

Therefore, I really have to question if Bolero really is the result of "a torrent of creativity" as this article on a rare brain disease suggests.

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04 April 2008
God - baseball and

Hearing this poem on the Writer's Almanac today reminded us of baseball's similarity to the church

Assignment #1: Write a poem about Baseball and God

And on the ninth day, God
In His infinite playfulness
Grass green grass, sky blue sky,
Separated the infield from the outfield,
Formed a skin of clay,
Assigned bases of safety
On cardinal points of the compass
Circling the mountain of deliverance,
Fashioned a wandering moon
From a horse, a string and a gum tree,
Tempered weapons of ash,
Made gloves from the golden skin of sacrificial bulls,
Set stars alight in the Milky Way,
Divided the descendants of Cain and Abel into contenders,
Declared time out, time in,        stepped back,
And thundered over all of creation:
                                       "Play ball!"

by Philip E. Burnham, Jr., from the Writer's Almanac


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