On Friday, I awoke very early in the morning to a small blizzard in western Michigan, making my drive across the state to the Detroit airport a little longer and more adventerous than originally planned. I made it with no major problems, but had a delay and missed my connecting flight. The tiny plane that I eventually took from Charlotte, NC to Charlottesville, VA, combined with more turbulence than I have ever experienced on any flight in any country, meant that I landed feeling much worse than I did taking off, with an empty stomach, looking as white as a sheet, and wondering if the life of a traveling musician was really going to be worth the effort.
However, I was met at the airport by the ever jovial John Boody (of Taylor and Boody Organbuilders), who had originally asked me about playing in Staunton, and he made up for the terrible trip with a walk around the campus of the University of Virginia, where we admired Thomas Jefferson’s architecture and the unseasonably warm evening,
followed by some time playing a very early Taylor and Boody (Op.3) at Westminster Presbyterian Church. The beautiful sounds and feel of the instrument reminded me why I’d gone all the trouble to travel across the country for this gig! (that’s the ever-jovial John Boody in this picture…)
John put me up in an apartment behind his house, above the sawmill they use to process wood for their instruments. Being a very nontechnical person myself, it was really interesting to see the machinery used to cut the wood, though I tended to spend more time gazing at the beautiful view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the window of my apartment. That night was extremely windy, and the metal roof of the sawmill made quite a racket while I fitfully slept!
The next day, we went to see the instrument I was to play for my recital on Sunday – the three manual, 32 stop Taylor and Boody organ at Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton.
It was a pleasure to play pieces I’d learned in Germany on an instrument that shared many of the characteristics and sounds with those organs, and I had no trouble finding wonderful sound combinations to use. That afternoon, after a tasty Mexican lunch, John showed me the shop, an old schoolhouse that they had converted into an organ building workshop in 1979, and the fascinating combination of high-tech and low-tech used there to build beautiful, hand-crafted organs.
Whenever I’m confronted with the complexity of the instruments that I play (usually without giving much thought to how the machine actually works), I’m always amazed. I got to see parts of Op. 65, currently being built for Grace Episcopal Church in New York City, being assembled in the shop. Later that afternoon, John showed me the 24-stop instrument at Christ Lutheran Church in Staunton, a very different organ than the one at the Episcopal church.
After more practice time, and tasty chicken and biscuits prepared for us by Janet Boody, I collapsed into bed and slept soundly.
Sunday morning I enjoyed participating in worship at Trinity Episcopal (it’s always a treat to be able to sit in the pews and sing along with the hymns!) After some more practicing, it was time for my 30 minute organ recital, where I played Bach, Sweelinck, Mendelssohn, Luebeck, and Buxtehude. This was followed by a Choral Evensong, which I also accompanied – playing for the congregation hymns, something I always enjoy, as well as accompanying the choir. As a postlude, I played Margaret Sandresky’s “And David danced before the Lord…” from her Five Sacred Dances, which worked remarkably well on an instrument which was undoubedly much different from the one which Ms. Sandresky envisioned as she composed this piece!
Many thanks to Randall Swanson, Director of Music at Trinity Episcopal, who arranged for me to come, and directed the choir and played organ beautifully during the services I heard while I was there. I’m looking forward to my next concert on March 29 in Beaufort, South Carolina, on a Taylor and Boody organ as well!