Pulling out all the Stops

When I was in high school, I dated an organist.

My friend Linda and I spent a couple of years while we were in high school, signing up for every possible voice competition we could find. We were both studying with the same voice teacher, and our teacher would help us find just the right pieces to do for which competition.  We would go into each competition feeling confident that we would win, and amazingly, we would. I won first, and Linda won second.  We discussed this in our adulthood, and I mentioned that I always felt badly about that, and she said she did not mind.  I hope that is true.  We raked in some serious cash, but we also had fun.

Well, while Linda and I were working the vocal circuit, my boyfriend Lance was doing the same thing as an organist. Thing is, there weren’t  too many organ competitions for  high school aged organists, so Lance competed with college students and young professionals. I would turn his pages for him.  I have since turned pages for the occasional organist who needs my help. I thank Lance for exposing me to the organ and to the composers who wrote for the instrument.

In another post, I mentioned that I had not heard the Newberry Organ in Woolsey Hall. I also promised that I would rectify that oversight, and I was able to do that this evening.  I was advised by Yale students of organ, that I should sit in the balcony to get the full effect of the Newberry, which is considered one of the best symphonic organs in the world.  It was a good tip. Before you, in all its ornate gold and black, is the massive Newberry Organ, and when it is played, you have an impressive sound coming from right in front of you.

Tonight, Martin Baker, an English organist of considerable talent and reputation, made my balcony seat vibrate, and caused my skin to hatch goose bumps. When I was in high school, I might have thought that reaction was based on volume and newness of sound.  But at my age, I know it is also about artistry, and impeccable technique.

The program for Mr. Baker’s concert, included a four page section on the organ itself written in organ-speak, and I have a feeling that at least 40% of the audience were fluent in that.

Mr. Baker gave us a wonderful program of Buxtehude, Widor, and Bach, and included an improvisation based upon Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite and the beloved English hymn, Jerusalem.





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