I was in Indiana in April and had a great trip. For one thing, spring had actually arrived there, four hours south of us, and it was warm and flowery!
I was invited by the Indianapolis American Guild of Organist chapter to perform a recital on an instrument by organ builder Charles Ruggles.
The organ was a joy to play, and the requested program, 17th century Germany music, fit it like a glove. It was fun to see old friends from my grad school days, including Trevor Person, a colleague from my studio,
Larry Smith, my organ teacher, (and others of you, who know who you are, but I forgot to take pictures of you…)
Following the concert, I drove down to Bloomington, where I attended Indiana University back in the 90’s, and having not been back since graduation, this was a bit surreal. (also, I felt old). Bloomington and the IU campus were beautiful as always. I enjoyed meeting the new organ faculty Janette and David, and seeing Bruce and Chris again. My presentation about my time in Germany – the benefits of study abroad, and how I changed as a musician because of it – followed by a masterclass with the students, wasn’t as intimidating as I’d expected, once I started talking, and the students were great, very responsive!
Afterwards, David showed me the newest instrument on campus, a Fisk recently acquired for Alumni Hall from a private residence- this is definitely my kind of organ building! To paraphrase one of the IU students, “nothing says you’re filthy rich like a custon-designed house organ like this one” – obviously not built for someone who earns their money in the music profession…
My other trip of the spring was a crazy cross-New England tour in May, seeing old friends, checking out some great instruments, and playing concerts.
I started out in New Hampshire, where old pal Ernie let me practice in Hanover, on the Letourneau at his church. The next day, I traveled a bit south, to Claremont, NH. Union Episcopal church is located in the midst of beautiful countryside, with a huge cemetery across the street.
It is the oldest standing Episcopal church in New Hampshire!, and in the cemetery stands the first Catholic church in New Hampshire, as well as many ancient gravestones. A great place for a practice-break walk.
The old pipe organ at Union had recently undergone renovations – being rebuilt and expanded. This is a lovely old building, with pews unlike any I’d seen before – apparently so that a group of folks could crowd around a heater in the cold winter months!
The next day, I drove south all the way to the tip of Connecticut, the lovely costal town of Madison.
The First Congregational Church is located by the town green (very New England),
and houses an original 1929 Moeller, with both a set of chimes AND a harp!
Director of music Nathan Beureyther was a great host, setting me up in a fabulous B and B owned by a parishioner (the Tidewater Inn – great breakfasts!).
I couldn’t resist visiting the huge independent bookstore downtown during a practice break, and am starting to believe there is a vast conspiracy going on – every concert tour I take to a small town seems to include a wonderful independent bookstore! I was amazed when I stepped into the post office downtown – it looked like a museum, with all the historic fixtures and original woodwork still in place.
I also availed myself of the opportunity to travel to New Haven, not far away, both to visit my friend Andy Kotylo and his wife Andrea, and to see the Taylor and Boody at a certain large university in town. Andy showed me the instrument at his church, an original Aeolian-Skinner at Trinity on the Green, and we enjoyed lunch together.
Then I was thrilled to finally hear and play an instrument I’d heard about for years – an exact copy of an organ I’ve played in Germany! Here is the keyboard of the Wilde/ Schnitger (1599/ 1683) organ of the St. Jacobi church, in the small village of Lüdingworth.
And here is the Taylor and Boody instrument modeled after it! It was great fun to play Scheidemann, Tunder, and Lübeck here, sounding just amazing.
I could play here all day…
The original instrument looks VERY different, but sounds very much the same! For one thing, the room is not high, light, and airy, as in this seminary chapel, though it is one of the most ornate of the historic churches in Northern Germany, with amazing artwork.
Friday evening was my first concert, in Madison. An enthusiastic crowd responded well to a program of organ music written since 1950. I’d waffled about the title of this program. Should it be Modern Music for Modern Ears (emphasizing the ways listeners can identify with music written during their lifetimes), or Everybody Dance! (focusing on the approachable and appealing nature of much of this music). Whichever it was, it seemed to work.
Saturday afternoon I was back in Claremont with a shortened version of the same program, and an appreciative crowd stayed afterwards for a Q & A I did about pipe organs, and organ playing. It was great to have my friends Oni and Jon show up for the program. Oni and I are pictured with Melissa Richmond, organizer of the concert series, as well as Peter Walker, local organ builder who had done the rebuild of the instrument.
One story about Claremont – I wandered downtown for dinner one evening while practicing, and ended up at a small local Southern comfort food diner, where I spied a poster for my concert hanging, as I ate. I imagined modestly pointing out to my friendly, drawling host that I was the one pictured there, but couldn’t quite bring myself to this level of self-promotion. Their brush with fame was to go unnoticed…
Sunday afternoon I performed back in Hanover, with a slightly different program – contrasting modern works by women composers with those by 17th century Germans. “Something old, something new” was the title. The audience found the combination effective, and the Letourneau was responsive, clean and clear. Afterwards I had a surprise, realizing a couple from the audience I had met in Toulouse, France, on an organ tour! The Beardsleys are pictured here with Ernie and I.
Home again now – whew! Ready for a big dose of normal life again. Like tulips in May.