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«The Significance of the Organ in Today’s Society»
« on: September 11, 2011, 01:23:29 AM »

Moderation Prof. Dr. h.c. Daniel Fueter
Prof. Michael Eidenbenz
Dr. Oliver Hilmes
Prof. Isabel Mundry
Roland Wächter

What is the significance of the organ in today’s society? Has the organ
degenerated to mere atmospheric background for weddings and funerals?
How strongly does the organ’s significance depend on the significance
of the church in society? Is there a typical «organ concert audience
»? Is the organ’s sound taken notice of outside the church’s liturgy?
What importance does the organ have in concerts today, and what importance
does it have in the media? Have the audiences of organ concerts
really diminished in number, or does the general public simply take little
notice of organ concerts because they take place in churches and are rarely
reviewed? Are there national differences or generally established tendencies
with regard to the organ’s attractiveness? Does the pipe organ
play a role in contemporary music? What challenges do today’s composers
face when writing for the organ? Are there experiences with and ideas
about increasing the instrument’s attractiveness? What is the importance
of professional culture promotion for the organ? Can professional
music schools have any influence on an instrument’s popularity, or at least
reinforce tendencies or counteract them?

David Pinnegar

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Re: «The Significance of the Organ in Today’s Society»
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2011, 11:23:55 AM »
Daniel Fueter
Born 1949 in Zurich, piano studies at
the Zurich Conservatory and the then
Zurich College of Music. Teaching and
Concert Diplomas. Since 1973 active
both educationally and administratively
in music. Composer of incidental music, chansons,
songs, piano and chamber music, choral works and
music for theater. Larger works include an opera, an
operetta with libretto by Thomas Hürlimann, a chamber
opera on texts by Lukas Bärfuss and an oratorio
on a text by Jürg Jegge. Appears in concert as lied accompanist.
Teaches lied accompanying at the
Zurich University of the Arts. Father of two daughters,
grandfather of two granddaughters and one grandson.
Married to the pianist Eriko Kagawa.

Michael Eidenbenz
Michael Eidenbenz was born in 1962.
He is organist and was for many years
music jounalist for newspapers and publications,
among others music critic
for the Zurich Tages-Anzeiger and editor
of the periodical «Dissonance». Since 2007 he is
Director of the Music Department of the Zurich University
of the Arts.

Oliver Hilmes
Oliver Hilmes, born in 1971, studied
History, Politics and Psychology in Marburg,
Paris and Potsdam. He completed
his doctorate with his work on the political
history of music and worked in the
Directorship Offices of the Berlin Philharmonic. His
books about contradictory and fascinating women,
«Widow in Delusion. The Life of Alma Mahler-Wergel»
and «Mistress of the Hill. The Life of Cosima Wagner»
were best sellers. His most recent work is entitled
«Franz Liszt: Biography of a Superstar». Invitations for
readings and presentations have brought Hilmes to
numerous cities within Germany and Austria and all
the way to Los Angeles. Oliver Hilmes is the manager
of the Karg-Elert Association.

Isabel Mundry
Isabel Mundry was born in 1963. She
studied composition in Berlin and
Frankfurt with Frank Michael Beyer,
Gösta Neuwirth and Hans Zender. After
several years in Paris and Vienna, she
taught composition and music theory in Frankfurt am
Main. She has been professor for composition at the
Zurich University of the Arts since 2004. She gave
master classes in Darmstadt, Copenhagen, Royaumont,
Tiflis, Japan and Korea, among other places. In
2002/03 she was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg
Berlin. She was Composer-in-Residence at the Lucerne
Festival, the Mannheim National Theater and the
Dresden Staatskapelle, to name a few. She ist a member
of the Berlin and Munich Academies of the Arts.
Her compositions are published by Breitkopf&Härtel.

Bernard Foccroulle

Bernard Foccroulle was born in 1953 in
Liège (Belgium). His international career
as a concert organist began in the
1970’s. His repertoire extends from the
Renaissance to the present, as dozens
of first performances attest. He has made over 40 recordings.
Besides his career as concert organist and
composer of many works for the most varied instrumental
combinations, Foccroulle was, from 1992 to
2007, Artistic Director of the theater La Monnaie in
Brussels, an internationally well-known opera house.
Since 2006, he has directed the Festival of Aix-en-Provence.
In 2010 he was named professor of organ at the
Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels.

Roland Wächter
Roland Wächter’s early musical experiences
date back to days as choir boy
in the Abbey School of Einsiedeln. At
university he studied German and English
language and literature. Since
1984, he has been music editor for Swiss Radio DRS
2. From 1995 to 2010 he was Chief Editor of the Music
Journalism Department, and in 2010 was named Music
Producer at Swiss Radio's Zurich Studio. He is the
author of numerous interviews, composer and performer
portraits, and reviews of concerts and CDs.

(On account of time constraints, this note will be added to in forthcoming days and I will post an announcement of finalisation)

Video of Cameron Carpenter
Greatest luxury is time. In order to achieve that one has to be commercially successful and channel that financial success back into one's work
CC is due to come to Zurich

Isabel Mundry - composer
People like noises and sounds that come from nowhere.  . . . . For this reason (???not understood, missed???) the clarinet scores over the oboe. People like a creative concert - an organ plays for longer than a human life.

Roland Wachter
What is the importance of the organ in concerts? I'm a bit confuised wondering if organ concerts aren't happening or whether they are not perceived. There have been only 3 organ concerts in the Zurich Tonhalle in 20 years. I lack that data. On perceives that one has to travel to hear a concert. Difficult to say how they are percieved: on Swiss radio we never report on the organ - there are hardly any reports of organs or concerts. On RS2 we used to have organ music till 15 years ago but we polled our listener and no-one was listening to the programme. It was an early Sunday evening and an important prime slot, but everyone had turned off to it. So now there is no programme on organ music - but there is similarly no slot for choir or brass. It's seen as a special interest group. When do you pander to special intrerest groups? We deceided that the organ is best served with historic music such as Baroque: after 1750 there is a question mark. Organ music is less suitable after this date because the part of the organ within the ensemble is smaller.

Michael Eidenbenz
Is there such a thing as a typical audience? I know every single person in the audience of my concerts! (audiences are that small) They are usually colleagues. People just visit Zurich and come to cathedrals for an hour of silence. If the media don't report about organ concerts, people don't know what it's all about. There aren't people (journalists) who know anything about the repertoire. This symposium is one of the Big Events we have ever had in the organ world.

Bernard Foccroulle
We suffer from a separation from the music world. We see concerts of Baroque and other music getting full houses but with the organ we don't. My experience is opera - but organ is the opposite end of the spectrum. We are doing a Charpentier opera in Paris and then the next event comes to St Maximin to hear and experience how it was heard.

Continues . . . .

David Pinnegar

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Re: «The Significance of the Organ in Today’s Society» continuation of note
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2011, 12:45:05 AM »
. . . continuation
Bernard Foccroulle
Shouldn't we be more proactive? Should we use the concert hall organ in different ways? Accompany dance? Video artists? Try to build something for concert halls in a way different to the traditional abstract organ concert? There is a big difference between Europe and Asia: there are few churches in Japan. Accordingly the organ is a concert hall instrument and concerts are experienced in a different way. In contrast Europe is the native place of organs and associated culture.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Isabel Mundry
Expression of the terror of the instrument - the new composition we heard yesterday - with "soundsticks". Should one retain a link to tradition? * Do you count on heritage or in contrast rely on sound phenonomae? With the organ, the visibility of the artist is rare. The audience is exposed to only the sound  and the organ is an instrument where everything is audible. The sound is either on or off - this element is frightening. The instrument is geared to harmony but modern music is harmonically poor. Compositional thinking has to be different for the organ. Composing for the organ made me develop as a composer.

* Mention of ??Matthias Steinhauer?? composer

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Michael Eidenbenz
As an organist how do you cope without being heard? People have no clue as to modern music or Baroque, so an audience do not approach these with any preconceived ideas. We experiment on our small numbers of church goers who are open eared.


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An Aural Embodiment of Magnificence.........
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2012, 06:19:47 PM »
All of the above comments from the "professional" community are certainly intriguing observations.

What follows is a blog by an "ordinary person" who had the occasion to visit an organ recital  on an instrument recently restored, in a church--

His writings have been inspired by this experience and one should note his observations and compare those to what has been discussed here on this forum as of late...

Writings, observations and ideas either caused by or meant to induce a minor disruption.

Monday, January 30, 2012
Pipe Organ Restoration Concert

Praise Him With Organ was the name of a mostly sacred and but still somewhat secular recital in recognition of the restoration of a rare pipe organ housed in St. Michael Church on 9th street. It was one of the most unique music experiences I’ve ever had and it’s not just because classical and choral music have never been on any playlist of mine.

The concert was held in a church, the audience sat in the wooden pews. The organ and the organist were in the balcony and in the back of the church, far above the pews. Unless you turned around and arched your head at a distinctly uncomfortable angle, the organist performed unseen. Even if were willing to risk a neck cramp, you still only caught a few glimpses of the organist’s back, maybe some elbow.

Part of the live music experience is watching a musician play; for musical theater or some other type of show, the orchestra is hidden. The point of those performances is not the music, it’s the show and the story it tells or extravaganza it presents, be it opera or musical comedy. Sometimes at large concerts, even sans show, the charisma of the celebrity on stage, the way he or she personifies the song, can overcome the actual musicality (or lack of it) of the performance.

Here, there was no distraction to the music, no visual point of focus to dilute the aural experience. Surrounded by colorful, stunning religious art – St. Michael is home to some of the best sacred art in the entire state of New Jersey – you merely sat and listened, your mind was what you heard because there was no stage to hold your attention, other than the intrinsic abstractions of your own consciousness.

The story behind this particular organ is fascinating. The church was founded in 1867, serving the then mainly Irish immigrant community. The St. Michael organ is a 1925 E.M Skinner Opus 542, which is similar to the one at St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC. Similar is the key word because the pipe organ uses pipes – St. Michael’s has 2,702 pipes – which are fluted with wooden resonators, much like a whistle – and the pipes are placed through out the church, literally embedded into the architecture. Because the instrument must be customized to the building, the organs can only be similar to each other, each one is unique. According to notes in the brochure given out at the event, in the 1920s, EM Skinner was a premier organ manufacturer, but the company went out of business during the 1930s and as musical tastes change, pipe organs fell out of fashion. While Skinner made 2,500 (St. Michael’s was # 542) only 190 are believed to still exist and only 20 are believed to be in their original condition, making the St. Michael instrument rare indeed, so rare in fact that the Joseph Bradley Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Skinner organs, agreed to underwrite the bulk of the cost restoring the instrument – $400,000, a five-year project by Peragallo Pipe Organ Company of Paterson, whose founder of the company first installed the instrument. “We are continuing the history,” said John Peragallo III, the latest generation of a family renowned in the tight knit pipe organ community.

 As might be expected, Bach (Prelude in G Major BWV 568) opened the recital, which featured various works of organ specific composition. I particularly liked Carillon, which had a splendidly eerie feel – it’s hard to escape the Cabinet of Dr. Calgari/Phantom of the Opera connotations one has with the pipe organ's inherently spooky sound.

My favorite though was A Grand Instrumental Procession by George Frideric Handel – within a context of a march-type, steady rhythm this folk melody appeared, dancing around the other notes and it was echoed. You see the pipe organ has these things called stop, that create an accent to the sound so the it mimics say a French horn and here the melody would be repeated by a different instrumental mimic, it was almost a dissonance, this strange melody echo, separate but also contained by the main musical theme. Amazing this orchestral fullness was made by one instrument as well as the fact the musician the keyboard was not an octopus.

As the notes to the performance said, the pipe organ envelopes you. You become encompassed by the sound, enhanced by the fact that you are not seeing any performer. The sound was loud, but warm and while electronics are used in some of the keyboard wiring, the amplification is all acoustic, through the touring flutes that align the nave of the church. Hidden behind the organ of course are huge bellows that create the wind for the flutes.

This being an organ in a church, the  program's intermission – between the opening and closing musical performances – featured Bishop Thomas Donato, who blessed the organ and the fluteswith holy water form an aspergillum and incense from a censer. The bishop is a downtown Jersey City native, who graduated from the now closed St. Michael’s High School. At the reception after I saw him talking to another born and bred JCite about growing up on 7th near Division Street.

After the blessing was a hymn, which was sung with organ accompaniment, When in Our Music God is Glorified. The song had this striking couplet: “And did not Jesus Sing a Psalm that night/when utmost Evil strove against the light?”, referencing the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion. Hey, the concert was in a church, blessing and prayers were part of the program. The finale was a truly grand performance of a Toccata in b minor. According to my dictionary, a Toccata is a composition for a keyboard instrument written in a free style that includes full chords and elaborate runs and is intended to show off the player's technique.

In addition to the reception, you were able to see the organ up-close and I got a chance to ask some questions of one of the Peragallos about the organ, it’s quite a contraption, as much a musical machine as a musical instrument. It has a real steam punk feel because the technology is old fashioned, real vintage yet the sound it makes fills an entire church.

What a unique musical experience. The sound wasn’t just magnificent, it was an aural embodiment of magnificence.

Posted by Mr. Tim Hrk at 8:44 AM
Labels: inspirational, Jersey City, music

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