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The shocking news has emerged of the death of Carlo Curley at around 5pm to-day; apparently a sudden and unexpected death at his home in Melton Mowbray.

I'm sure there will be many who will pay tribute and share special memories of him.

RIP Carlo




A continuation from,1427.msg6833.html#msg6833 worthy of a new thread of its own:

MM wrote:
as early as the 9th century, the Islamic scholar Al Kindi was proposing the theology of Aristotle, in which God was not a “being” but a “creative force.” In fact,his religious philosophy was at odds with creationism, and brought him into conflict with Christians as well as Muslims...not that it ever got terribly nasty or violent, even though his library was temporarily confiscated at one point.The real danger is fundamentalist belief of whatever faith: the attempt to order all things within the confines of narrow, unchanging faith. Christians have been just as guilty over the centuries, and quite recently, in Northern Ireland. Fundamentalism is usually connected with the politics of nationalism.

Dear David,

Just as a slight teaser, it's interesting to note that even before the first millenium, Islamic scholars realised that the universe existed, but mainstream Islam insisted that it was created by "a being" in what we would call the creationist process. Where Al Kindl and others diversified, was in their understanding of a universe which had always existed, to all intents and purposes, and placed them at odds with those who saw God as big daddy; both in the Christian and the Islamic faiths.

It's absolutely fascinating to think that astronomy was quite advanced in the Islamic world long before it got going in Europe and the west, and the organ, as a musical instrument, didn't go into Christian places of worship when the Roman Empire collapsed. Instead, it went east, and I believe turned up in the home of the Emperor Suleman (Sp?)  The books and libraries of the Moors in Spain were also far in advance of anything in the Christian part of Spain, and there is no doubt but that the greatest religious philosophy, science and academic pursuits (including medicine and chemistry) were in the east; especially in and around Baghdad and Damascus, long before the Christian world developed fully. I do know that in Granada during the rule of the Moors, there were pavements, street lamps, hospitals and free education for all....utterly remarkable, and the evidence of a great civilisation is still there for us to see to this day.

Prior to Galileo and Copernicus, and I think Ptolomy, the western scholars thought the earth flat and the centre of the universe, while theologians explained the stars as holes through which God observed earth from heaven; situated just above the dome which covered the earth.

How things and fortunes change!



Performance technique, style and practice / Looney tunes
« on: July 01, 2012, 11:43:44 PM »

Certain things are set to try us, aren't they?

There's that tricky moment at the end of the D major P & F by Bach, when bottom D is often played as bottom C, resulting in a compositional, improvised circle of fifths to get back to the same place. Woe betides the organist who manages to play a second bottom C... or a third..... or a fourth.

At Mass this morning, one of the servers strolled across to have a word while I was playing a highly improbable Boellman Toccata; improbable because the baroque organ ay which I preside has about as much affinity to the music of France as Yorkshire Puddings have to Crepe Soufflees au citron vert. 

Still, we have a Terzchor and a Pedal reed.

The aforementioned server carelessly propped himself up on the organ-bench while addressing my left ear, and in the process, managed to dislodge the hymn-book, which fell onto the pedalboard.

I feel sure that Leon Boellman would have drawn a veil over the odd indiscretion; including the strange pedal tone clusters around middle C, but my problem, (apart from the original location of the hymn-book), was further compounded by the server grovelling around at ground level, trying to grab at the hymn-book. The fact that the only way of doing this is to lean over the organ-bench; first to my left and then to my right, must have made an interesting spectacle and even raised a few questions about the nature of our relationship.  However, each time he grabbed, I would play a tone-cluster and kick the book somewhere else, and he would scrabble around like rat after a piece of cheese. The end result was utter musical mayhem, and with the benefit of hindsight, it may have been better to stop.

My regular and loyal admirers grimaced and left without comment, obviously unaware of my predicament. I fear that restoring any sort of credibility will require a special effort next week. In the meantime, I’ve banished the server from the organ-console.



From our local DJ / "Pop" music - no apology needed
« on: June 25, 2012, 01:40:28 PM »
Sometimes....just sometimes....something rocks us on our heels, irrespective of genre, and this is one of those rare moments.

I know next to nothing about "pop" music in Russia and China, yet I stumbled across something and someone so remarkable on YouTube, I felt I had to share this discovery.

By way of background to this extraordinary discovery, I often trawl around YouTube listening to past classics from the likes of The King's Singers, Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Astaire, the BeeGees etc etc.

As someone who enjoys listening to choral music and good vocalists, I came across a young man from Russia, who not only has an agreeable voice, but THE most extraordinary falsetto I have ever come across. Not only that, he controls that falsetto with an absolutely flawless technique and a real sense of style. Equally extraordinary, is the fact that I had never heard of him, simply because he represents a "pop" world which never travels outside Russia, unless it travels into China.

"Vitas" is the stage name of this remarkable young man, and he is apparently something of a superstar in his native Russia and also in China.

I shall say no more, but ask those who may be interested to listen to this phenomenon.


Inspirational instruments / Inspired by quality?
« on: May 10, 2012, 01:36:31 PM »
I was musing again, and considering the subject of "inspirational organs," and something clicked in my brain.

It seems to me that we place a certain over-emphasis on how an organ sounds, (quite rightly), but oten at the expense of other factors such as suitability, build-quality and reliability.
I further mused on the fact that a lot of neo-classical organs built by certain builders in the 1960's and 1970's, have been re-built expensively, and even thrown out due to ongoing problems; especially with electro-pneumatic actions and solid-state switching.  That has opened the door to electronic substitutes, and skewed the market to some extent, by leading church authorities towards the false belief that pipe-organs are more expensive in the long-term than modern electronic organs. This is not surprising, considering the cost of a new pipe-organ, which must realistically last 50 or more years to be economically viable and even competitive.

Not all modern organs are poor by any means, and the organ I play, (all mechanical), whilst having had a few small problems recently, (slider seals and one stop-knob with a badly calculated length of travel; both now put right), it is generally reliable, stays in tune and, as a bonus, sounds wonderful.

However, I was thinking about some of the old organs I have played in various churches over the years, both as resident organist and as a visiting recitalist from time to time, and certain instruments stand out for their build-quality and outstanding reliability. For instance, a fine Fr Willis organ which was functioning well after 90 years, a superb pneumatic-action  Binns organ which was still functioning, (a little noisily), after almost a century, an old tracker Isaac Abbot organ in good playing condition after a similar length of time, Arthur Harrison instruments which soldier on long after everything should have crumbled to dust, and others, (far too many to mention) by such builders as Compton, Forster & Andrews, William Hill etc etc.

Is it a fair proposition to make, that build-quality and action-reliability are the two most important factors in the long-term viability of pipe-organs and pipe-organ building?

If a new organ is going to expire within 30 years, (as some indeed have and continue to do), is this not the best advertisment for the makers of digital-organs, who only have to sit back and wait for disillusioned customers to knock on the door?



Don't miss last Tuesday's programme on the "listen again" facility of Radio 2.

It was devoted entirely to the ever delightful Prof Ian Tracey and the organ of Liverpool Cathedral.

The programme will test your speakers, you can be sure of that!



I once tried to learn the piano version of the piece heard in the link below, and eventually abandoned the idea.

When any degree of piano virtuosity is transcribed to the organ, we can expect the sparks to fly, but when the Prokofiev Toccata is transcribed to the organ, the demands are truly frightening.

Not only does Vincent Dubois get to grips with the notes, (which he plays at a very brisk tempo), the musicianship and console control are just wonderful.

Fasten your seat belts!


A friend of mine used to go, (as a senior toy-buyer for Woolworths), to Japan and China. Fairly fluent in far-eastern languages,he thoroughly enjoyed going there; describing the Chinese as "rather giggly people with a great sense of fun, who love to play games."

Obviously, the "far east" is a rather big area, and although dominated by the sheer scale of China, it would seem that the organ, (in various guises), has quite a following in various countries.

Although we naturally link Japan to Yamaha, (and the electronic and acoustic instruments they produce when they're not making motor-bikes), it would seem that the electronic-organ still has quite a following in various places in the far east; especially the entertainment organ/synthesiser type of instrument.

Browsing around on YouTube, I came across some very interesting videos, which range for the funny to the awesome to the world-class, and crossing several genres in the process.

Without much of an organ and church culture, except in the former colonial centres such as Hong-Kong, China could be forgiven for neglecting the organ, but not a bit of it, as the first video demonstrates. Here we hear a documentary about the newish concert organ in Shanghai, which is the largest in China. Clearly, this is the start of something interesting for the Chinese people, who seem to gravitate towards all that is best in western music.  Shanghai organ (Rieger)
The Chinese sense of fun seems to bubble up in the following two videos.  Super Mario Theme

Why not organ and percussion? Mr.Lemmens wouldn't have minded, surely?  Lemmens Fanfare

Of course, Japan is the home of the synthesiser style of organ, and although the British market seems to have nose-dived, there is no doubt that in other parts of the world, these instruments not only have a following, they have some remarkable exponents associated with them.

Take a small Malaysian boy, feed him, wash him, send him to the best teacher in town, buy him a keyboard or two, then sit back and wait a short while.

Irrespective of genre, has anyone ever seen or heard of a more confident, (arrogant?) 8 year-old boy than this, who not only gets to grips with a very complex instrument, but also succeeds in winning a major competition. The stage-presence of this little boy is just astounding.

As someone who enjoys many genres of music, I recall a very special concert, when I went to hear the legendary Max Takano in London, playing Yamaha Electone. The following is his version of the classic Latin American number, "Tico Tico," but it is the percussion-riff in the middle which is just eye-wateringly brilliant.    Tico Tico   

Still with Max Takano, who now teaches in a Japanese University, he is here joined by Chiho Sunamoto in a truly beautiful performance of "The way we were."

Still in Japan, would you expect to hear a magnificent organ and orchestra together, in a performance of Guilmant's 1st Sonata?

Here is Olivier Vernet doing just that. Olivier Vernet in Japan - Guilmant

And finally, not only the superb Mascioni organ in St Mary's Cathedral, Tokyo, but possibly one of the finest performances of Bach I've ever come across, played by Lorenzo Ghielmi:-  Mascioni organ Tokyo


With great sadness, I have learned of the death of Heinz Wunderlich on March 10th, at the age of 92.

I'm sure more will follow, but briefly, Heinz Wunderlich ("Heinzy" to his friends and many pupils) was perhaps the greatest exponent of Reger's organ-music; having a direct link with Reger and Karl Straube, and the author of many definitive recordings of the master's works.

It is a personal loss to me, for Wunderlich was the organist who, along with Germani, inspired me to take an interest in the music of Max Reger, which led to a lifelong reverence and enjoyment of it; both from the playing and listening points of view.

Undoubtedly, all good and even great things must come to an end, and we may only rejoice in Heinz Wunderlich's life and art, which will live on through his many recordings.

A poignant moment indeed, and the loss of a supreme artist.

The following link gives details of his life and work, as well as a list of his many organ compositions:-

May he rest in peace.

Agnostics' line / The thinking man's Jesus
« on: March 11, 2012, 10:19:33 PM »
As this is a new category, I thought it best to quote the words of a very remarkable writer, poet and politician. Although actually talking about the business of politics in a fair, open and free democracy, the late President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Harvel, seems to have used words which could so equally apply to agnosticism. Below are a few comments lifted from a speech he gave in Budapest, on June 24th, 1999.

------------------------------------------------------------------- can we recognize the moment when a set of living ideas degenerates into an ideology?

How can we recognize when principles, opinions and hopes begin to petrify into a rigid mass of dogma, precepts and conceptual stereotypes?
Where should we look for guidance? How can we discern the dividing lines?

There are no exact directions. There are probably no directions at all. The only things that I am able to recommend at this moment are: a sense of humour; an ability to see the ridiculous and the absurd dimensions of things; an ability to laugh about others as well as about ourselves; a sense of irony; and, of everything that invites parody in this world. In other words: rising above things, or looking at them from a distance; sensibility to the hidden presence of all the more dangerous types of conceit in others, as well as in ourselves; good cheer; an unostentatious certainty of the meaning of things; gratitude for the gift of life and courage to assume responsibility for it; and, a vigilant mind.

Those who have not lost the ability to recognize that which is laughable in themselves, or their own nothingness, are not arrogant, nor are they enemies of an Open Society.

Its enemy is a person with a fiercely serious countenance and burning eyes.

Vaclav Havel


What marvellous and acute perception the late president posessed.

I wonder if agnosticism, rather than being neither one thing nor the other, isn't a creative process, which embraces belief, faith, science and progressive thinking?

It is a way of thinking which enables the Christian ethic to be inclusive rather than exclusive, but at the same time, very aware of the things the late President of the Czech Republic warned us of.

I think I like the idea of a thinking man's Jesus.

Atheists' Corner / Is God's house a urinal?
« on: March 08, 2012, 02:04:19 AM »
God may have many mansions, but it would seem that the "organmutterers" forum only has urinals; these being one of the few constructions possible with only two corners.

Why isn't there an agnostic corner, on the basis that a room has a minimum of three corners?

I feel deprived!

As a Christian Agnostic, I would immediately dispute the belief that the Bible is the word of God, which probably consigns me to hell where all the interesting people go.

However, be that as it may, a thought occured to me as I was eating a BLT sandwich in a lay-by the other day.

If people believe in God, they START from the point of view of awe, wonder and reverence and work their way down the food-chain, until they reach the tiniest specks of life, molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles.

If people do not believe in God and know something about the building-blocks of the universe, they may readily START where believers end, by studying the sub-atomic particles and the cosmic-dust whence we all came. Working up from this to the atomic, the molecular, the simple and complex life-forms, to the orbit of earth and moon, out to the stars and galaxies and arriving at the infinity of the universe, they must finally come face to face with the awe and wonder of creation, and  have reverence for the things that are beyond undertanding.

Thus, at the very least, it is our humanity which binds us together, whatever our beliefs or lack of belief.

I believe that the greatest obstacle to religion is not a lack of faith, (which is quite different to belief), but an absence of humility.

Surely, it is perfectly easy for an athesit, an agnostic and a believer to share FAITH in the person of Jesus?

Isn't this exactly what Diterich Boenhoffer was saying 60 years ago?

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