Sunday, November 18, 2012

The most well-attended organ concert to which I have ever been...

There's the old joke in organ circles, that you can invite the most famous organist to give a concert, and you'll still only have about 40 people attend; 100 people is a huge concert! Well, today we saw what happens when you have a musical pastor who is onboard 110% with the organ program.

We went to a formal organ blessing ceremony of a new/refurbished organ by the bishop (I've never been to one,) followed immediately by an organ concert at a large church in the diocese. And the church was FULL. I'm terrible with numbers, but there was at least 500 people there! How does that happen? It was apparent that this project had the full support of their musically inclined pastor (also an organist- no surprise! Good things happen when organists become priests, this isn't the first time that's happened!)

As for the ceremony/concert itself, I thought that it was so well-done, that I'm going to keep the program to remind myself of it, on the off-chance that I'm ever in such a situation myself. (HA!)

It was a wonderful mix of choral pieces, hymns arranged for congregation and choir (all conveniently placed to give the congregation a standing-breather!), and of course organ music.
The organ was silent and only the choir and handbells were utilized up until the formal blessing by the bishop, at which time Karg-Elert's Nun Danket was performed. I enjoyed the R.V. Williams version of All People that on Earth, (as it reminded me of 6 years ago when I used that exact same arrangement for my parish's 175th anniversary Mass when the bishop attended, and it was totally botched b/c it hadn't occurred to me that the people would keep singing during the interludes! Oops... Wow, I've learned a lot since then... I'm glad to see that it was successfully pulled off today!) Among other pieces, there was also a Concerto by Handel, Mozart's Lacrymosa (yay!), Messiaen's Apparition de l'Eglise eternelle, and some movements of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with which I'm not at all familiar, but I greatly enjoyed. And it was closed with the Hallelujah Chorus. Overall, a very enjoyable 2-hour event. As the battles rage about electronic vs. authentic pipe organs*, it was lovely to see a parish and pastor supporting this organ project, and through it, music for future generations!

(*and on that controversy, allow me to add two points:
Sacrosanctum Concilium, the primary Vatican II document on the Sacred Liturgy, explicitly says in paragraph 120,
"In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things." Ahem. Pipe organ.
Secondly, when was the last time that you had a regularly-used electronic device that lasted even longer than, oh, 15 years? If properly maintained, this new pipe organ has the potential to last hundreds of years! The "cost savings" of an electronic instrument is not quite as direct as it seems at first glance...)

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