Lyon, in east-central France, contains, among its many artistic treasures, an almost forgotten, yet quite significant, musical instrument—namely, the organ of the Maurice Ravel Auditorium. This article will give a brief history of this marvelous instrument, along with its current and original specifications.
For the Paris World Exposition of 1878, the renowned French organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, was commissioned to build a concert organ for the new Trocadéro concert hall, under the supervision of renowned organist and composer Alexandre Guilmant. Because he could not build the organ from scratch in the short time allowed by the contract, he was compelled to use an uncompleted three-manual organ originally intended for the Church of Notre Dame in Auteuil, a district in the northwestern area of Paris, as the basis for the new instrument. A fourth manual and more pedal stops were added. The now-completed instrument was enclosed in what by modern standards would be an incredibly ugly case in imitation Classical style, including towers and turrets. The new organ was inaugurated by a roster of France’s greatest organists, including not only Guilmant, but also César Franck, who wrote his “Three Pieces for Organ,” and particularly the “Pièce héroïque,” especially for the occasion. In addition, Guilmant performed a series of solo recitals on the Trocadéro organ, which brought his enormous talent to the notice of an international public.
Please read Tom’s entire article, complete with more history, photos, specifications, and links to online media. Get the PDF here.
This post is just for fun. Below is an extract from a newspaper article about an organist and his concert. Try to guess who played. Hints are “St Luke’s” and “London.” When you’ve made your guess, visit the link above and read the entire text to see if you got it right!
Considerable curiosity and interest were excited on Wednesday last, in some of our music-loving circles, by the circulation of a report that this organist would perform upon St Luke’s organ. He had given a promise to this effect some time since, and had also written a second letter, which did not reach the party addressed until Wednesday, owing to some post-office delay. An interview was obtained, and in the kindest and most courteous manner he expressed his willingness to play, but at the same time said, “I am very fatigued; I hope it will be private, as I would rather hear the organ. In London the church was quite filled.”
The question of publicity was pressed upon him as far as was consistent with the slightest deference to his wishes, but he requested there should be the smallest possible number of auditors. Some of the doctor’s immediate friends, it appears, communicated the matter, and this produced a number of “strict confidences,” and these produced a large audience.
This Compton of 800 pipes is planned to sell at auction up for sale — “but the buyer will need to put it together, as auctioneer Nigel Kirk reports.” This need for assembly is the “angle” of the article, and it seems to the writer an insurmountable task. I’m sure we all know organ technicians who could easily put this Compton in a theatre that needs an organ. The sale will be on June 15 of this year.
One man who helped bring about this revolution was John Compton. He was a brilliant innovator and businessman who created the iconic Compton Cinema Organ, and whose path to success began in Nottingham.With its 800 pipes and umpteen thousands of parts, this amazing 1930s organ is now laid out in a Mellors & Kirk warehouse.
With the recent interest in Dawes’ Melody in A and the pop song derived from it, I thought it was a good time to post the article that Bob Moody wrote for the restoration (back in 2009) of Marie Edwards Von Ritter’s organ arrangement. Bob explains a bit about the life of Charles Dawes, a multi-faceted man who served in divergent capacities from officer of the Army to US Budget Director to Ambassador to Vice-president. And, yes, like Thomas Jefferson, he played the violin!
From February 1922 comes this review of the Dawes’ Melody in A. I found it in The American Organist in the “News and Notes” Section. You will learn what this writer thought of the popular melody in the year after the organ arrangement was published, and you will find fun ideas and words that you hadn’t thought of in exactly the way they were used. My page for this restoration is Dawes-Ritter.Melody.html.
First, I offer the image of the article and below then the text.
Gen. Dawes’ “Melody”
CHARLES G. DAWES
MELODY IN A
THAT Brigadier General Dawes should have composed a piece of music undoubtedly came as a great surprise to those who have had an eye on the General ever since he went to Washington in obedience to a Senatorial investigation committee which was hysterically doing its utmost to find fault with the way the Democratic administration had won the War; the string of explosives, not all of them learned in Sunday School, that poured forth in answer to the supercilious pryings of empty-minded Senators rather startled and greatly amused the world, with the result that from that moment General Charles G. Dawes was marked by millions of Americans as a man after their own heart. The present administration used Gen. Dawes as Director of Budget, and one of his first acts was to call entire official Washington together and lay down the law of the economical budget to them in no timid terms. So much for the composer. MELODY is a beautiful violin solo, as its composer intended it to be, and it is equally good as an orchestral number; as an organ solo it is effective, though it can never successfully masquerade as anything other than a violin solo, so well has its composer done his original moulding. It is excellent music of a high type, nothing commonplace or trivial from beginning to end; it is easy to play, though requiring an artist for its proper interpretation. The middle section is more musical and superficially interesting than the main theme, and its contrast is genuine; altogether the piece is a complete whole, with both contrast and unity.
For the church service it will be of use as a prelude, offertory, or postlude; and on the recital program it will be highly interesting because of its composer—though its music is of high quality and it will afford an artist something worthy of an artist’s skill.
Photoplayers will find it excellent for many uses; scenics, moderate dramatic moods of serious dramas, serenades, lake scenes, etc. The organist who fails to add General Dawes’ MELODY to his repertoire is dead to the world about him. (G. H. M. Co.).
News from the Isle of Man about an organ that Peter Jones praised as “one of the island’s finest instruments.”
St George’s church in Douglas houses the island’s newest church organ, built by Harrison and Harrison of Durham, which was one of the UK’s most prestigious firms. Isle of Man organ builder Peter Jones said the manufacturer was at one time known as the ‘cathedral organ builder’ because of the quality and quantity of instruments it produced. He said the St George’s organ is unusual in having display pipes of polished tin and is one of the island’s finest instruments.
One of the UK’s top organists will join forces with one of the Isle of Man’s finest organs on Saturday afternoon in what promises to be a treat for music lovers. The April 16 concert starts at 3.30pm and features Francesca Massey, resident sub-organist at Durham Cathedral, who will play a concert on the St George’s Church organ in Douglas.
If any of you UK residents attends, I would love you to post a review for us all to read.
To my knowledge, this is the first time Thayer’s “Offertoire for Vox Humana” has been recorded. John Apple recorded it in his current church on an organ which didn’t have a Vox so he used an 8′ Clarinet, a “free reed,” instead. Thayer was asked to write this music for a collection of eight pieces published in Brooklyn (now New York City) by D S Holmes in 1877. It’s not hard but it will show off your Vox or other nice reed stop.
For more on the free reed as used in organs, see The Free Reed Organ in England by R J Allan presented in his detailed web pages. I recommend his work; it is well organized and full of facts and explanation with many fine drawings and photos (such as this one at right).
Most of you have seen in my recent announcement this march with the composer listed only as “I Barton.” In this blog post, I am going to tell you a bit about him and share you with you this brief mention in The American Organist from 1922.
Barton’s Marche aux Flambeaux, it is not really a Palm Sunday march, but then there will be many who will think it is, and its spirit is fine—it is an excellent number of great originality.
The title, in other languages such as the English “Torchlight March,” was used before 1915 by other composers better known: Meyerbeer, Guilmant, Scotson Clark, Flagler, and others. As the reviewer above indicated, Dr Barton’s Marche can be used for several occasions. Isaac Barton was born in February 1856 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Isaac Barton (1810-1890), a wholesale grocer, and Elizabeth Barton. In 1877, he graduated from Jefferson Medical College. He married Amanda S Clark in April, 1888. He was an instructor and lecturer on laryngology at the Medico-Chirurgical College of Philadelphia. In addition to his medical practice that he continued until his death on April 2, 1938, Dr Barton was an organist in Philadelphia churches. I hope one of you will record his Marche for us all to hear.
This morning, I heard one of those pretty robins singing, and for some reason I couldn’t get the beautiful melody for “Robin Adair” out of my head. It’s funny how some things trigger a memory. Anyway, I thought it might make a nice post since I have three recordings of the song and one of Isaac van Vleck Flagler’s organ arrangement. You can hear all of them at the links below. I’ve included my other Flagler restorations as well, in case you’re interested.
Here is another series of organ concerts! It’s this kind of effort that will pave the way for wider acceptance and appreciation of the instrument and its music.
St John’s Episcopal Church is celebrating the ‘Year of the Organ’ with its 2016 Concerts on the Hill series of six Sunday concerts. In honor of the 15th birthday of the church’s main pipe organ and the 308th birthday of its smaller organ, the Concerts on the Hill performances will all feature the organ. The series kicks off Sunday, May 22 with “Musical Potpourri” featuring a variety of local talent to benefit arts education in Portsmouth. All concerts will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and will start at 4 p.m.
“The organ is an incredible instrument capable of expressing a broad spectrum of different emotions and it’s a versatile companion to many other instruments and sounds,” noted Margaret Harper, Director of Music and Liturgy, St. John’s Episcopal Church. “We have carefully crafted the 2016 Concerts on the Hill schedule to highlight our two organs and to allow our audiences to fully experience the range of these instruments. We are lucky at St. John’s to have the country’s oldest working pipe organ, the Brattle Organ. This and our more modern Létourneau organ demonstrate the unparalleled range of organ music throughout history.”