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Coming festival features instruments built by renowned Kilgore organist2011-11-02 / Front PageBy JAMES DRAPERnews1@kilgorenewsherald.comNo two people play the same organ alike, Lorenz Maycher says.With six organs awaiting a slew of performers during the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival Nov. 14-17, he's eager to hear the rich variety swelling from master builder Roy Perry's signature work."Even though these organs were designed by the same person, each one of them is completely different, and I'm looking forward to hearing the different organists come in and explore them and work their magic on them and find the magic within the instruments themselves," he said. "Each person brings out a different aspect that often has gone overlooked or you never knew was there. It's just an endless amount of variety and tonal color in all of these organs."On the roster for the fourday festival are the centerpiece, Perry's Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1173 at First Presbyterian, as well as other examples built by Perry while working for Aeolian-Skinner: First Baptist Church's instrument in Longview, the organs of Holy Cross Episcopal Church and St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Shreveport, one at First Baptist Church in Nacogdoches and another Kilgore organ at St. Luke's United Methodist Church.According to Maycher, the festival is a celebration of the life and work of Perry, who served for decades as First Presbyterian Church's organist and choirmaster and built masterful organs with the Aeolian Skinner Company.More than 50 guests from around the country have registered, Maycher said, and with no ticket charge for the vast majority of events, he is a little anxious about whether there will be enough space for all guests at the multiple recitals, lectures and other events, including a classic silent movie accompanied live by an organist."I don't really know what to expect," Maycher said. "I think we're going to have packed houses for everything."Registering for the event includes transportation on all excursions outside of Kilgore, meals and admission to the opening night gala reception at the Malcolm Crim Mansion, is a $400 package. Registration for just the meals and reception is $320, and all other events are free and open to the public."We've got organ builders coming as well as organists and non-organists, just music lovers...people coming here from far and wide who also knew Roy Perry," Maycher said. "I've had a number of calls and emails from people saying it just stirs up such memories hearing the name 'First Presbyterian in Kilgore' and 'First Baptist in Longview' – they grew up listening to these organs and many people have said that hearing the recordings of these organs back in the 50s and 60s is what made them decide they wanted to be organists."One elderly gentleman, flying in from Minneapolis, Minn., said he's always wanted to hear Perry's organs before he dies, Maycher added."Even the organist of the Mormon Tabernacle (Choir), when I invited him to play...his response said that he was practically in tears because he had wanted to play this organ his entire life."For more information on the festival or to register, call Maycher at 903.987.0317 or visit easttexaspipeorganfestival.com.
By MICHAEL FOXGuest ColumnistI spent most of last week in and around Kilgore, Texas, at one of the best organ-related gatherings I have ever attended.It was basically because of two men: Roy Perry, the former organist-choirmaster of the First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore, and Texas representative for Aeolian Skinner; and Lorenz Maycher, the current Kilgore incumbent, and devoted historian of Aeolian-Skinner, who decided that Perry’s achievements deserved wider recognition.Admirers of Aeolian-Skinner have long known that G. Donald Harrison held Perry’s work – and zany humor – in high esteem. And the Texas instruments that were installed by the Williams family of New Orleans and finished by Perry have a special place in the hierarchy of Aeolian- Skinner organs. Perry’s own organ in Kilgore was featured prominently in the King of Instruments records that the company released to promote its organs, and the slightly larger sister organ in Longview was used by Catharine Crozier to make two important recordings of American organ music. If for no other reason, the Kilgore organ would have its place in history as the organ that introduced the chamade trumpet to America, perhaps a cause for sorrowful head-shaking to many.Fashions changed in the following decades, and many regarded the American Classic ideal as unsatisfactory eclecticism, and it must be said that even before Harrison’s death that approach seemed to be narrowing its scope even as it was narrowing its scales, and some notable instruments came to be deprecated or ignored – or, worse, rebuilt.Through these decades, some organists continued to maintain that the Roy Perry organs were very special. He figured prominently in Charles Callahan’s histories of Aeolian-Skinner, with letters to and from G. Donald Harrison. Inevitably, tastes changed yet again, and some of the Romantic aspects of Perry’s designs once again could be seen as reflections of a good musical sense rather than deviations from classical ideals. But the piney woods of east Texas are a long way from big musical centers, and mostly the instruments sat ignored by the larger world. One of them had even fallen on hard times and changing worship styles and was sitting unused.I was enough of a dedicated admirer of G. Donald Harrison organs that I had occasional retirement fantasies about jumping in the car and heading on a long diagonal trek from the Douglas firs of the Northwest to the loblolly pines of Texas and actually hearing them, if that could somehow be managed. But in addition to the miles involved, there were other concerns: I am in fact an unashamedly partisan liberal, and I couldn’t help noticing that the Congressman representing that area was #1 on my list of obnoxious reactionaries: the only possible benefit I could see in his being in Congress was that at least he was no longer a judge, which must have been a period when Justice was not just blindfolded but also lobotomized.So for one reason or another the fantasy trek never happened, and so when I read the announcement of this East Texas Pipe Organ Festival I signed up immediately. It ran from a Monday evening opening concert through Thursday evening, three non-stop days and nights.The Festival was basically on the scale of an unusually good AGO Regional, but it really was the work of one man with whatever support he may have asked for and received from others; those are details of which I know nothing. But however he made it happen, the organization was impressive. There were 50 or 60 attendees, a comfortable and convenient headquarters hotel, a giant bus, catered meals that were never less than good and in the case of a gumbo dinner, just terrific, organs that had been freshly tuned (and because of some odd swings in the weather, even retuned), hospitable churches, and first-rate recitalists. For arranging this tribute to Roy Perry, Lorenz Maycher undoubtedly earned himself a place in the ongoing Aeolian Skinner saga.The opening concert was at First Presbyterian in Kilgore, and the program repeated the content of Roy Perry’s original recording, “Music of the Church,” Volume Ten in the King of Instruments series. A choir of some 30 voices was conducted by Frances Anderson, who as an Austin College student had sung on the original record. After the appropriate opening hymn (Engelberg) the choir, accompanied by Robert Brewer sang Parry’s “I Was Glad,” Ireland’s “Greater Love Hath No Man,” and Vaughan Williams’ setting of Old 100th. Practical considerations led to the substitution of Elgar’s “The Spirit of the Lord Is upon Me” for David McK. Williams’ “In the Year that King Uzziah Died,” and following the congregational singing of St. Clement, Lorenz Maycher played Bruce Simonds’ “Iam sol recedit igneus,” the only organ solo on the original record.The concert set the tone for the Festival perfectly. First Presbyterian is not a huge church – I’d guess that it seats around 300 -- and even though seat cushions had been removed, it is not a particularly live room. It is not a hostile building: music is clear and well-balanced there, but it gets very little enhancement, so the organ’s glory is of its own making. It didn’t take long for that glory to be evident, as Robert Brewer accompanied the choir superbly. The Parry was tremendously exciting, even without the Vivats (I’m sure there were queens present, but not E.R. II herself ), and that first Trompette-enchamade is still one of the very best examples, a well-nigh perfect balance of brilliance and body, and just louder enough than everything else to be dominating without being annihilating.As I heard throughout that concert, and in the succeeding events in that church, Roy Perry’s own organ, Aeolian-Skinner opus 1173, embodies that kind of musical balance in any number of voices. Uniquely, I think, among instruments carrying the G. Donald Harrison signature plate, it is only “rebuilt” by Harrison, since it started life as a Möller and much of the structure and even pipework (including the notable French Horn) remains from its origin. Which perhaps makes Roy Perry’s achievement as a tonal finisher even more notable, because this instrument of 69 ranks is versatile and elegant beyond description. Other Harrisons that I have heard and loved – Grace Cathedral, Church of the Advent, St. John the Divine, etc. etc. – owe something of their effect to their glorious buildings. Kilgore does it all on its own, and I left the concert convinced that I had just made the acquaintance of one of the world’s truly great organs.-- firstname.lastname@example.org
Review of the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival IIby Michael FoxNovember 23, 2011The third day started with a little jewel, the 22-rank opus 1153A in the First Baptist Church of Nacogdoches. Roy Perry priorities are made clear by the presence of two celestes in a small two-manual, and again the organ fits the church like a dream. The church itself was an odd amalgam: distinctive stained glass windows and this vintage American Classic organ on the one hand, a full drum kit opposite the console and a light bridge that would be adequate for a good regional theatre on the other. I dunno. In any case, Joseph Causby did a great job with a varied program from Bach to Locklair – that last being a substitution that allowed us to hear some very nice Chimes, again a voice found in most Perry organs. No snob, he….And the day continued in glory. I had gotten Catharine Crozier’s recordings from Longview in my teen years, and I remembered the small picture and extravagant description of the First Baptist Church on the jacket backs, but I wasn’t prepared for the size and magnificence of the building. It is like no other church I have seen, Gothic stripped down to the essential pointed arch and built in yellow brick on a grand scale. The window at the east end of the church is 66’ high by 16’ wide, and that reflects the sheer verticality of the design. The organ, opus 1194, sits in chambers on either side of that lofty chancel, and I remember writing to Boston, getting a stoplist of the organ, and reading it with wonder – more mixtures than in the Grace Cathedral organ I was in love with, that exotic Positiv, even though it was in essence just a Cornet – and admiring the pristine clarity heard on the Crozier recordings.Well, I discovered that there was more. There were also five celestes, not far behind Grace Cathedral’s sextet, and in fact it can be just as luscious, as Charles Callahan demonstrated in a fascinating recital, mostly of unfamiliar pieces that I’m sure were chosen to show off every aspect of the organ. It sounded wonderful in that huge room, a more sympathetic acoustic than Kilgore, and Opus 1194, wide open, filled it perfectly, the 8’ and 4’ Trompettes and Cornet of the Bombarde division being ideal climax reeds. I was told that from the console at the rear of the highly elevated chancel the sound is almost overwhelming, but I suppose the organist must pay a small price to create such magic out in the nave. It is sad to think that the organ had fallen into disuse for some years and then was severely damaged by catastrophic leaks, but it is a cause for rejoicing that the church repaired and restored one of the real monuments of American Classic organbuilding.The final event was a recital back at Kilgore by Rick Elliott, one of the masters of the Mormon Tabernacle Organ. I’m sure the church elders were gratified to hear someone who daily plays an organ almost three times the size speak of how thrilled he was to be playing the Kilgore organ for the first time! In turn he managed to thrill the large audience, first with a superb performance of the Bach Passacaglia in the grand manner (every line of counterpoint there to be heard, but also every ounce of drama and passion — not the sort of effect you can get from a start-to-finish forte plenum), and finally with an all-out Ride of the Valkyries, with that miraculous Trompette-en-chamade spurring the riders on. Very exciting stuff, an over-the-top ending to an exciting week.I am boundlessly grateful to Lorenz Maycher for organizing this heartfelt tribute to Roy Perry and his instruments. I can’t imagine how many hours’ work must have gone into planning all of the necessary arrangements and making everything work so smoothly. The music came first, but it was accompanied by good food and comfortable accommodations, and lots and lots of late-night stories. If the Festival is ever repeated, I’ll sign up the day it’s announced, and you should too.Amidst the glorious music and the fun, there was an occasion for solemn reflection when the bus en route to Shreveport stopped to visit Roy Perry’s grave. His last years were difficult, and his death was tragic. His final resting place is in the family cemetery of the Crims, the local eminences who had built the church, donated the organ, and supported Perry’s musical education. His gravestone reads “Music, once admitted to a soul, becomes a spirit and never dies.” Amen!
Organ fest organizers prepare for hundreds of visitorsBy JAMES DRAPERnews1@kilgorenewsherald.comThe organ-tuner is here.It’s an important part of the final days of preparation for the 2013 East Texas Pipe Organ Festival, getting Roy Perry’s Aeolian-Skinner organs in tip-top shape before hundreds of people fill churches throughout East Texas (Louisiana as well) to see 14 featured organists put the Kilgore organ designer’s instruments to the test.The third annual festival officially begins Monday evening and closes Thursday – since the final notes of the last festival faded, it’s been another busy year for organist and choirmaster Lorenz Maycher, who founded the festival in 2011 and continues to spearhead the effort with a group of dedicated volunteers from First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore.With light at the end of the tunnel, things are really clicking, Maycher said Monday.“This falls together too easily for there not to be somebody else looking down on it and organizing it,” Maycher said incredulously, crediting his predecessor and the festival’s primary honoree, Perry. “I don’t know if he’s involved or there’s a guardian angel. It all comes together too easily for their not to be a larger force at work. “It’s certainly not me, because I have no experience doing any of this. I think it’s wonderful how people come together and make it run smoothly.”With more spots than previous years and already sold out, there are 100 registered guests for this year’s festival, Maycher noted; after filling their block of rooms at Comfort Suites, the remaining visitors are spread between three other Kilgore hotels.While the festival performances are free and open to the public – and drew some large crowds the past two years – paying visitors receive transportation to and from concerts in Kilgore, Longview, Tyler, Nacogdoches and Shreveport as well as admission to select private events and post-performance socials.“We have a public schedule of events, then we have a private schedule of events for registered people. We’ve got some interesting people coming,” he said, including former concert organists and several notable organ working and retired organ professors at large universities and conservatories. In addition to one overseas guest, “Almost every state is represented except Hawaii and Alaska. We have quite a few coming Saturday because they want to come to church Sunday morning.”A Houston benefactor is also sponsoring 10 college students’ trips to the festival, Maycher noted.“I’m just continually amazed at the support we receive,” he said, especially in organizing the event through First Presbyterian Church. “Almost every time I asked a question – ‘Can we do this? Can we do this?’ – it’s always a yes.”With two festivals behind and the third primed, the festival has proven its worth, FPC Rev. Scott Nowack said.“We’re taking an asset of our church, our congregation and we’re trying to maximize our use of it and use it not just for worship on Sundays – although that’s what it’s mainly there for – but to share with everyone in the world,” he explained. “It’s exciting, it feels great. Lorenz has worked very, very hard. He has some help, but he’s worked very, very hard to make this happen. All year. I don’t know how he does it, but he does make it happen.”The concert series is precious to people, Nowack said. They travel great distances to arrive in Kilgore for a few days of firstclass organ music.“We’re just excited that it keeps growing, that more and more people want to come and be here for it,” he said. “This isn’t an easy place to get to. That says a lot too, that people are really interested and are really ready to go to great lengths to be here.“That feels good on our end, it feels like we’re respected and admired. That never hurts.”Considering the early arrivals, the festival’s organizers have set two pre-festival concerts Sunday afternoon and evening and three on Monday before the 7:30 p.m. opening performance Nov. 11 by organist Isabelle Demers on Perry’s 1949 Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1173 at First Presbyterian Church.Sunday’s pre-festival entertainment includes an 8 p.m. duet by Maycher and organist Charles Callahan at FPC, performing music by American composers and including the world premiere of Callahan’s“Lyric Suite.”“My practice time is normally around midnight, so I’m basically playing it in my sleep,” Maycher quipped, eager to debut the piece, commissioned by the festival committee.For a complete schedule of events log on to easttexaspipeorganfestival.com.Last year’s most well-attended event was organist Brett Valliant’s accompaniment of “The Phantom of the Opera” silent movie on the Opus 1173 at FPC – he returns this year to accompany “The King of Kings” by Cecil B. DeMille.“It was supposedly his favorite movie he ever directed,” Maycher said. Valliant will also once again perform shows for local schoolchildren next Wednesday at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. “He’s done that every year. He’s a big hit. He’s up on all the latest movies so he can play Disney scores or Star Wars – the kids just love it. And he communicates with them really well.”Other guest performers at the 2013 festival include: Joby Bell, George Bozeman, Ken Cowan, David Ford, Scott Hayes, Nathan Laube, Bruce Power, Jason Roberts, Chandler Teague, Tom Trenney, Thomas Trotter and Bradley Welch. Special elements of this year’s event include a lecture by Callahan entitled “Alexander McCurdy: A life of Teaching” and a visit to Perry’s burial plot in Thompson Cemetery.In addition to Perry, the 2013 festival honors one of his contemporaries, organist William Teague.At 91, “He has more energy than I ever had even when I was 14,” Maycher praised. “He’s just a human dynamo.”For more information on the festival, contact EastTexasPipeOrganFestival@yahoo.com, call 903-987-0317 or search “East Texas Pipe Organ Festival” on Facebook.
Scott CantrellClassical Music Criticscantrell@dallasnews.comPublished: 15 November 2013 03:01 PMUpdated: 15 November 2013 03:04 PMRelated Review: Mixed results in Brahms-and-Britten concert Review: A moving Orpheus Chamber Singers JFK tribute Review: Lifeless acoustics, lively concert at new UTD building Review: Dallas Opera’s ‘Carmen’ introduces a new tenorSHREVEPORT, La. — In no church in Dallas-Fort Worth can you experience as glorious a marriage of a pipe organ and an acoustic as at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral here. After two recitals Tuesday, organists from the Dallas area were wishing to take the building, with acoustics warmly reverberant but still clear, and its rich-toned Aeolian-Skinner organ home with us.From the mid-1930s through the 1960s, Aeolian-Skinner was the Cadillac of American pipe organs. The Boston-based firm built or rebuilt organs in some of the country’s most prestigious venues, including Washington National Cathedral and New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Boston’s Symphony Hall and numerous colleges and universities.Oil-enriched Texas had its own quasi-franchise, thanks to Aeolian-Skinner’s longtime Kilgore-based representative, Roy Perry (1906-78). Organized by Lorenz Maycher, the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival has become an annual celebration of instruments Perry sold and finished. This week’s, between Sunday and Thursday, included recitals in churches in Tyler, Kilgore, Longview, Nacogdoches and Shreveport.In Dallas, during the 1950s and ’60s, Perry was responsible for negotiating the sales and determining the final tonal personalities of organs at, among others, Temple Emanu-El, Highland Park United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation and Southern Methodist University’s Perkins Chapel and Caruth Auditorium. Given changing tastes in organ design, most of these instruments have been replaced or modified beyond recognition; the Caruth organ was moved to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.The Shreveport organ, and the instrument in Kilgore’s First Presbyterian Church, where Perry was organist and choirmaster from 1939 to 1972, remain intact monuments to Perry’s work as a pipe voicer. He was a master at figuring out dimensions and adjustments of pipes to produce desired sounds. The best of the organs he voiced have a fine balance of warmth, clarity and color, with great finesse.Perry was a champion of the American classic organ, a label invented by G. Donald Harrison, an Englishman who ran Aeolian-Skinner from 1935 until his death in 1956. Organ-builders in more recent decades have painstakingly copied pipes and voicing techniques from organs from the 17th through 19th centuries, but Harrison homogenized sounds from a variety of historic precedents.Organs during the 1920s and ’30s had become increasingly thick toned, spiced with stops imitative of orchestral instruments. Harrison, while retaining some orchestral sounds, favored more transparent choruses better suited to Bach. The best of the Aeolian-Skinner organs — Shreveport has one of the masterpieces — could be highly effective, if not strictly authentic, in music from baroque, through French romantic to modern.The 1949 instrument at First Presbyterian, Kilgore, demonstrated by recitalists Isabelle Demers and Nathan Laube, has a meatier, more English sound than some that came later. The priority was obviously accompanying choirs and congregations. Higher-pitched stops Perry added in 1966 supply additional tang and shimmer, but the warm-toned flutes, purring strings and gorgeous English horn and French horn stops still ravish the ear.Organs sound best in more reverberant buildings, and the vastly larger Shreveport church, with a high ceiling and mostly hard surfaces, has a brighter and much more reverberant acoustic. The considerably larger organ here still has great richness and warmth.But, demonstrated by Tom Trenney, Ken Cowan and Dallas’ own Bradley Hunter Welch, choruses are clearer, capped by brassier, more French reeds. The full-organ sound is as thrilling as you’ll hear anywhere, but never does it overwhelm as so many newer organs do.The organ world used to be well-populated with great characters, and Roy Perry, whom I met during my undergraduate years at SMU, was one of the greatest. A gourmet cook, he was a great raconteur and wit, although many of the best stories couldn’t be printed in a family newspaper.