Sinking of Titanic in Organ Music

Sinking of Titanic in Organ Music

After a recent organ concert which contained music by Sigfrid Karg-Elert, John Apple was talking with Stefan Engels, and he related a short story about the Titanic, “Nearer My God to Thee,” and a friend of Karg-Elert. I had not heard this, and so I thought a post would be an interesting project to share this with you. The story is that Karg-Elert had a close friend who played in the orchestra on board the ship. This was part of the motivation for the composition. Of course, the choice of tune and the very many different versions of the music written soon after the sinking was made to increase sales, but there was also the motive of remembering his friend.

Here is a brief version from the excellent Karg-Elert Newsletter, Issue 69, January 2012:

And among the human remains lying at that enormous depth was someone Karg-Elert knew well: Alfred Jochade. He was an oboist with whom Sigfrid had become friendly when he joined the town band of Markranstädt near Leipzig, when in his 20s. They had both left the town after a disagreement with the band’s directors, intending to emigrate to North America. While Sigfrid remained in Magdeburg, Jochade went to Kiel and was then hired as a member of the Titanic’s orchestra. No doubt he took part in that final performance on the Titanic’s deck of a hymn popularly supposed to have been ‘Nearer, my God, to Thee’. Researches since then indicate that the music played was actually that of the less familiar tune Autumn which, at one point, sets the words ‘Hold me up in mighty waters, keep my eyes on things above’. (The Titanic: End of a Dream – Wyn Craig Wade p210)

Read the entire issue:

Just for fun, here is a less-than-positive extract from the column, “Church and Organ Music,” by Harvey Grace in The Musical Times from July 1, 1918, entitled “Programme Music for the Organ.”

Of course, I offer restorations of both Karg-Elert’s and Bonnet’s compositions:

Also, I offer for free a restored online version of an article by Grace from The Musical Quarterly which comments on Karg-Elert.

Last, I’d like to share with you the tune that many believe was the tune that was played and heard as “Nearer My God to Thee.” Archibald Joyce’s “Songe d’Automne” was included in the White Star Line Songbook and was known by the musicians. Playing on deck with a steep angle would have meant that the musicians needed to rely on their memories, and Lowell Mason’s tune was just not well known by the musicians of the orchestra. Listen to “Songe d’Automne” on an Edison cylinder from 1912. This music was a perfect fit for a dance band aboard ship because it was a waltz (terribly popular then) and had no lyrics, so the listener could make of “Dream of Autumn” what they desired — including a familiar text of comfort, “Nearer, my God, to Thee.” Below is a modern rendition of it.

Somewhere along the line, it was suggested that the hymntune, Autumn, by François Hippolyte Barthélemon was what was played. Well, no. Visit and see if you think a group of musicians could play this from memory in the last minutes of their lives.

Posted in Concert, Education/Information | Leave a comment

Churches Struggling to Find Organists

Churches Struggling to Find Organists

Some of us are looking for a good church organist position and some churches are looking for a good church organist. Here is an article and video from The Baltimore Sun that addresses the current situation.

When the longtime organist at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Havre de Grace announced her retirement last fall, the leaders of the small 200-year-old congregation faced a bigger challenge than they knew.

Music — particularly the music of the organ — is central to the life of the church. Members say the instrument’s rich sounds complement their liturgy, inspire congregational singing and even seem to invite the Holy Spirit into their presence.

Posted in Education/Information | 2 Comments

Nathan Laube First Organ Concert in North Carolina

Nathan Laube First Organ Concert in North Carolina

April 2, 2017 , 7:00 PM, Providence United Methodist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina. III/64 Parkey, Op 14 (Aeolian-Skinner, Op 1472, 1971, formerly in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC).

This concert was the last of the first season of the David Bashor Memorial Organ Concert Series, in honor of a 30 year choir member and chair of the organ committee for over a decade. Nathan Laube performed the following program:

  • Bach/Toccata in E
  • Cabanilles/Corrente Italiana
  • Roger-Ducasse/Pastorale
  • Widor/Allegro vivace from 5th Symphony
  • Duruflé/Suite

Considering the notoriety of this young artist (under 30) who has attracted great attention in the music world with a recent Grammy award and is an assistant professor at the Eastman School of Music, I fully expected a full house of several hundred people to hear this musician. I made the effort to arrive 20 minutes early, so as to get a seat near the front. Unfortunately, I did not need to be concerned. But, the fewer than 200 people who did attend were able to hear this organist who made music in an incredible manner, especially considering his age.

If the music was lyrical, there was no unmusical phrase. If it was meant to be dramatic or playful, it definitely was. Nathan was obviously comfortable at the console and performed his music without effort and almost all from memory, even in the most difficult passages of the Duruflé Toccata.  He was clearly enjoying himself as he communicated with his audience in words and music. After a standing ovation of an appreciative audience with three curtain calls, Nathan gave an encore of the Cabanilles.

After the concert, there was a line to greet the artist. Having a friendly personality, I found him to be good conversationalist as we talked about the Eastman program and its revival of the theatre organ program there.

If you are able to hear Nathan Laube, go hear him! Maybe you will also get to hear one of the many transcriptions that he performs with equal dexterity and musicality.

D. John Apple


Posted in Education/Information | Leave a comment

A Princely Toccata, a Harp Solo, a New World Largo, and More Belgium Gems

April’s pieces begin with the only published organ piece of the late Bruce Prince-Joseph. There is a lovely solo for harp and the most recognizable Largo your audience will know, “Goin’ Home.” The last is another volume of the music by the great Belgian organist, Joseph Callaerts.


1. TOCCATA GIOVANE, by Bruce Prince-Joseph. The title means “Youthful Toccata” and you will enjoy playing it with lots of youthful energy. I offer recordings and a link to Lucas Fletcher’s Honors Paper on the Toccata and Bruce’s life as well as other links that will give you more information on the life of this beloved organist.

2. ARPA NOTTURNA, by Pietro Yon. Yon’s “Evening Harp” is a calm piece to put between your dramatic music and show off your harp. Yon had a harp on his Kilgen in Carnegie Hall, and your organ might have one, too. It’s not too hard and it’s effective, even if you have to substitute for a harp stop.

3. LARGO FROM THE SYMPHONY, “FROM THE NEW WORLD,” by Antonin Dvorak, transcribed by Caspar Koch. Koch’s transcription is unusual because, unlike others such as that from Edwin H Lemare, it contains every measure of the orchestral score. It is especially effective due to the inclusion of the entire middle section, making the reprise of the opening chords truly moving.

4. PIECES POUR ORGUE, OPUS 20, by Joseph Callaerts. The second volume of his pieces I chose to restore contains three titles surely useful to everyone. I was originally inspired by emails from organists who wanted more music from Belgian composers. Callaerts (1830–1901) was born in Antwerp and studied with Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, where he won first prize in organ in 1856. He served as organist of the Cathedral in Antwerp and taught organ and harmony at the Antwerpse Muziekschool from 1867 until his death in 1901. He wrote around 60 pieces of organ music. Opus *20* contains the “Marche Solennelle” for which I offer a recording. Give it a listen!

MONTHLY DISCOUNT BUNDLE. To get the four pieces mentioned above, I offer a special price so you can buy all of the pieces above with one click and save money in the deal. I welcome your support, and if you don’t want to play a particular piece in the group, consider giving it to a student or another organist.

Thank you for your interest in this music. Please encourage your favorite organist to play some of this “decadent” music. 🙂


Posted in Church, Concert | Leave a comment

Adeste Fideles: O Come, All Ye Willing

Variations on Adeste Fideles

I hope I will get a taker for this request. I am working on restoring two of Eugene Thayer’s pieces that have not been as widely known as his others. Neither of these is on one of the free music sites and I am not aware that they have been recorded. So, when I finish the restoration, later in 2017, I will refund the cost of the purchased music upon receipt of a good recording of the entire “Variations on Adeste Fideles,” or “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” This piece deserves to be known!

Here’s a short review from 1873:

No. 14. From the Organ Repertoire, with pedalling and registration by Eugene Thayer, whose “Art of Organ Playing” we have previously reviewed. The very title, “Adeste Fideles,” to Catholic ears suggests the nativity. The frequent recurring hymn in the varied services through the Christmas holidays, it is, probably, more • familiar to young and old throughout Christendom than even Old Hundred. Its sweet stateliness was too precious for Protestants to lose, who love it, and sing it as the Portuguese Hymn. We have the theme, three variations, and a majestic finale. Effective on the organ, good practice for the student, and not too difficult for one who has acquired some little facility with the pedals.

Old and New, “Musical Review,” Vol VII, May 1873

Posted in Education/Information | 2 Comments

Popular, Classic Music – Not Church

Popular, Classic Music – Not Church

I received a terrific note from a German organist who feels as I do that we should play and promote all organ music, not just that with a religious relation. So, after reading his post, please visit his website,

Good Morning, Michael. I am pleased today in the post to have received my order of your sheet music. Thank you. Thank you also to John for the surprise Meditation by Kinder.

I organize the  concerts with the historical organ at the Studio Norddeutscher Rundfunk Hamburg twice a year. I always invite good organ players from Europe, USA, and Russia to introduce you to the musical wishes. For this, I always need the music – if possible in a organ version – to fulfill the desired titles for the program. You have a lot of it. This will not be my last order.

If you know good organ players – popular, classic music – not church – then send it to me for a co-operation. Concerts are always in March and October each year. We will find a good way for the fee and travel expenses.

Take a look at the homepage, and you will get know the organ and the 32 concerts with many artists, including those from Arizona and Kansas.

My best regards.

Dieter Bartels

Note: I am in the process of restoring the Kinder Meditation that Dieter referenced above. Watch for my announcement later this year.

For a short video of the organ, visit

Posted in Customer Service, Education/Information | 1 Comment

World Water Day 2017

World Water Day 2017

In honor or World Water Day, March 22, 2017, I would like to offer some of the pieces I’ve restored that relate to water.

Posted in Concert, Education/Information | Leave a comment

David Rumsey Died Last February

David Rumsey Died Last February

David Rumsey died from cancer on the 12th of February this year. His website,, will be maintained as a resource.

David was supportive of John and my efforts in restoring worthy organ music. There was no greater champion for the organ than David. Read my post from November 2011. And when I announced in February 2012 the Clarence Eddy ‘Old Hundred,’ I wrote this in the announcement:

2. FESTIVAL PRELUDE AND FUGUE ON “OLD HUNDRED,” by Clarence Eddy (1851-1937). While preparing the article for this piece, John Apple told me that Eddy recorded an organ roll of it. Of course, I contacted the expert in Welte organ rolls, David Rumsey; you may remember reading his work in The Diapason. David stepped forward and worked his magic, producing a recording — the only one — of Welte Roll #1654 on the “Britannic” organ in Switzerland. His stunning recording of this piece played frequently by Eddy is on the web page as are links to the player organ and museum. You really should hear this!

He will be missed by us in the greater organ world as a source of knowledge and as a friend and supporter. Please post any stories and memories below.

Posted in Education/Information | 1 Comment

Albert Ketèlbey and Reginald Foort

Albert Ketèlbey and Reginald Foort

If you were to ask for two iconic British composers who were organists, the top answer might well be these two giants. I am pleased to offer a recording by Foort from 1929 of Ketèlbey’s “The Sacred Hour” on a small Wurlitzer in London, England. This Style F played by Foort was the same model we had in our Carolina Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sadly, the group attempting to rebuild our theatre has no interest in replacing the organ. I offer several recordings of this Ketèlbey classic, and I hope you enjoy them.


Posted in Education/Information, Recordings | Leave a comment

One of the Best

One of the Best

I received a wonderful new recording of the A L Barnes Triple Fugue in G Minor to share with you. It’s by Jillian Gardner on the big Petty-Madden at Baylor University in Texas. You can visit the page for the restoration via the link below and look, read, and listen there, or you can watch Jillian in action in the video below. Barnes never had it so good! Thank you, Jillian, and thanks to our researcher for Barnes and your teacher, Steve Best!


Posted in Concert, Recordings | Leave a comment