Sunday, November 22, 2015

My love of pipe organ music....


 I do not expect anyone, except for a very few, to understand why I love to listen to pipe organ music...especially Bach...and especially played by the late Virgil Fox. But for now, listen if you like, to Mr. Fox's arrangement of Now Thank We All Our God written by Bach. Our organist played it today at church and it brought me to tears.

You see, my first memories of church...First Methodist in New Castle, Pa...of the Greer organ played by Mr. Edwin Lewis who also was my voice instructor when I turned 14. Edwin was a showman...not like Virgil Fox, but if you got to know him...and I did when I was taking voice from him...you realized he was an eccentric master musician. Sunday after Sunday he would make the walls of that church tremble with the vibrant sounds of that great music. So, today when I hear great music played on a grand organ it runs shivers up and down...and I weep.
Listen to this, if you want to experience some Christmas music written by George Fredrick Handel.

This will keep you going for a while, if you like, no love, as I do the sound of the Wannamaker organ in the big store in Philadelphia. We were there at Christmas time in the late 1960s and early 1970s...not every year, but several of those holiday seasons and we generally took the train over to Philly from our home in New Jersey to see and hear this great organ. We did not get to experience Virgil Fox, but it rocked, none the less. The Wannamaker organ is the largest in the world, I understand.

Being tuned in and turned on to organ...church organ music...in the 1940s and 1950s...I happened to be in New York City during the spring of 1962 for a concert tour of the Penn State Glee Club (at Town Hall) and a friend of mine...Art Mauer (now deceased) and I went to Radio City Music Hall to see a movie and as the movie was ending the Mighty Wurlitzer rolled out and began playing the closing credit music of the film and then burst into a short concert before the Rockettes performed. Notice the difference here between the show organ at Radio City and the Wannamaker organ above playing Bach. I realized that while I liked the heavier sounds of Bach versus the show sounds of the Wurlitzer it was still a pipe organ and it gave me chills. I was back again at Radio City when the ship was in New York and off to Radio City again...not for the Rockettes, but for the Wurlitzer.

Fast forward a few years and a pizza place opened in Grand Rapids known as 20th Century Pizzeria that had a Wurlitzer theater organ...boy did we make plans to go there for a listen...again...the rich full sounds of a pipe organ, but alas playing contemporary music, not Bach. Ok, but not fulfilling.

One more personal note...my church experience after New Castle was always electronic so I began buying recordings of Bach played by Virgil Fox. But my experience with live pipe organ music drifted off...that is until Newberg First United Methodist  popped onto our radar. Bam. I was hooked. Jane Mendenhall was organist then and I literally cried when she played. Now Janet Lyda is our organist and she can still bring me to tears as she did today.

But if you want to hear my favorite...listen again to Mr. Fox and you will get a glimpse of why I love pipe organ music and love to dance the gigue (or jig.)




1 comment:

patrick price said...

Never enjoyed Bach as much as this! and.....the feet doing a seated Irish Jig......:)