Ken Kavanaugh, Organ Technician (video)

A Good Friend

Here’s a video about Ken Kavanaugh. The organists, especially the ones called “performers” and “artists,” get most of the public’s attention. Rarely does anyone call attention to a technical person except at the dedication. I have had some exposure to the technical side of the organ, the best and the worst of building (garden hose), repair (duct tape), and rebuilding (new console specified because of profit). I helped in the rebuilding of an Aeolian-Skinner decades ago, and have admired the profession and the many skills required ever since. If you know the difference in chests and actions, then you know a little; if you know the difference between an Aeolian-Skinner magnet and an Austin magnet and why and when each should replaced, then you are on your way to understanding a little of these unsung workers do.

Kenneth B. Kavanaugh has been the serviceman for the Missouri United Methodist Church’s pipe organ since 1968. Kavanaugh learned the trade form assisting his father. He has been repairing and maintaining pipe organs for almost fifty years. “The organs themselves get to be your friends after a while,” Kavanaugh says. ” You know them upside down and backwards, just like you know your good friends. And who walks out on their good friends?”


There is generous article at The Missourian’s website, but it is behind a paywall. If you are reading the blog near April 2014, then Google’s cache will show you the text. Below the link is a sample.

If the pipe organ that needed looking after was in St. Louis or southern Illinois, Ken Kavanaugh would grab one set of keys. If the job was in the opposite direction or close to home in Columbia, he’d grab the other. There were days when he’d have to take both.

Over the years, some churches closed, some jobs dried up, and some keys stopped getting turned. Nowadays, east and west fit mostly on the same ring. The pipe organ business changes, like anything else. Kavanaugh was never in it to get rich, though. George B. Kavanaugh Pipe Organs and Belfry Service, the company his father built and which he eventually took over, has always been a family operation, and Ken Kavanaugh likes it that way.

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Trinity Lutheran’s New Old Organ (videos)

Trinity Lutheran’s New Old Organ

This is a local KSDK report on this organ recently installed in St Louis, Missouri. “After more than a month of preparation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard debuted its new pipe organ Sunday. Parts of the old pipes were held in place with string and duct tape. And some didn’t even work.”

There’s also a video of some of the installation at You will notice at the beginning of both of these videos is an advertisement; the trouble is that if you don’t live near St Louis, this local pizza place is really not an option. <g>

On the church’s website, you can see the video introducing the project. You can find information on the Schantz rebuild of Kilgen & Sons, Opus 4142 (1927) in this PDF.

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A Little Fun: La Rose Jaune (video)

Joby Bell Playing Dan Gawthrop’s La Rose Jaune

If you need a little humor in a small package, I’d like to recommend this recording by Joby Bell.  He played the third of Dan Gawthrop’s “Three Floral Preludes” at the 2013 East Texas Pipe Organ Festival on the Aeolian-Skinner organ, Op. 1175, in St Luke’s United Methodist Church, Kilgore, Texas. After the preparation and work of Easter, a little light music is appropriate, I think.

BTW, the photo above is from Neal Campbell’s blog where he has a lot more information and pictures from the Festival.

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Aria from Ptolemy or Tolomeo Is Refreshing Change

George Frideric Handel, Aria from Tolomeo, arr. Edwin Arthur Kraft. Michael’s Music Service, $7.00.

Originally published by Schuberth in 1947, this is a three-page transcription by Edwin Arthur Kraft (1883–1962) of “Non lo dirò col labbro,” from Handel’s 1728 Italian opera, Tolomeo. In 1928 the melody was adapted as the popular classic “Silent Worship” and was also used in the 1996 film of Jane Austen’s Emma.

The texture is solo/accompaniment throughout, so it would be easy to have a solo instrument play the melody. The pedal line is mostly eighth notes with an occasional double pedal, but Kraft has suggested pedaling for every note. A refreshing change from the same old Handel melodies.

Kenneth Udy
The Diapason, April 2014

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A Few Recordings by Robert Elmore (videos)

A Few Recordings by Robert Elmore

There has been discussion recently about the music of Robert Elmore, shown above at the console of the Wanamaker Organ. There are a few of his recordings available to hear on the Bronzeagleye Channel on Youtube. For more information on Elmore, see You will also find several other fascinating organ videos there!

Here’s a sample from this Channel of Elmore playing the Concert Study by Pietro Yon, one of his teachers. I have restored this and the Second Concert Study.

And in case you wondered, nearly all of Elmore’s published music is unavailable. I would like to restore it and make it available, but the license fees are high enough as to make this infeasible.

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Beethoven on the Organ Makes Fine Recital Piece

“[Merckel’s Variations on a Theme of Beethoven] is not as well known as his nine organ sonatas, but makes a fine recital piece, or individual variations can stand on their own as service pieces.” —Kenneth Udy, The Diapason, April 2014 (read the review)

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145 Year Old Hewitt Organ Played in New Home

St Mary’s in Castletown to Showcase Its First Pipe Organ

What do you get a church that has never had a pipe organ? St Mary’s Catholic Church in the Isle of Man got a venerable organ, small and sweet, and with stenciled pipes. See above photo! Dr Peter Litman recently played a concert there.

The organ itself is small, with only five stops, but has an interesting history, said Peter Jones, who along with his team, carried out the pipe-organ’s renovation.

‘A date of 1869 on part of the mechanism could be, either the date when it was made, or the date of a significant repair, making it at least 145 years old,’ he said. It was previously installed in the chapel at The Nunnery, in Douglas, by H. W. Hewitt, an organ-builder from Leicester, who was responsible for a number of small instruments on the island, many of which are still in use.

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Jimmy Smith Honored in New WordPress Release

WordPress 3.9 “Smith”

“Version 3.9 of WordPress, named “Smith” in honor of jazz organist Jimmy Smith, is available for download or update in your WordPress dashboard. This release features a number of refinements that we hope you’ll love.” If you follow the link, you can watch a short video explaining the new version with some organ music in the background.

I, and several of my blog readers, use WordPress for their blogs. It’s a terrific surprise that the folks at WordPress honored the great jazz organist in this way. Just this month, I asked a competent black organist if he admired Jimmy Smith, and he had never even heard of him. What a shame. Maybe this will help a little.

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Bible Poems Used in Services

Bible Poems Used in Services

You may know that Bob Moody has a blog where he posts his organ playing. In his post for April 6, I found where he had used The Last Supper from “Bible Poems” in the service. They’re not just for concert use! Here is Bob’s note for the composer:

“Jaromír Weinberger  was born in Prague and emigrated to the United States in 1921. He started piano study at age five and was composing and conducting by age 10. For a while he taught composition at the Ithica Conservatory in New York State. He returned to Czechoslovakia in 1926 where he was appointed director of the National Theater. He fled the Nazis and came to the United States in 1939 and became a citizen in 1948. He is best known for his opera “Schwanda the Bagpiper.” His dramatic “Bible Poems” were written in 1939 and reflect the gathering war clouds over Europe. The Last Supper, foreshadowing the events of Good Friday, is one of the movements of this suite for organ.”

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The Women in Bach’s Life: A Review

Bach Comes Alive at Organ Performance

Here’s an unusual story about presenting the music of Bach in Hillsboro, Oregon. How many mention Bach’s daughter and his two wives in relation to his music?

“Organist Jeannine Jordan breathed life into the women in composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s life March 30 in Hillsboro. Lincoln City resident Jeannine Jordan, who accompanies the St. Bedes Episcopal Church choir in Forest Grove, performed an organ concert in Hillsboro last Sunday.”

“Using her acting skills and her musical talent to present ‘Bach and Sons,’ a multimedia organ concert at Rodgers Instruments Corp., Jordan opened her performance with the labored strains of Toccata in D Minor, transporting her audience to the 18th century to meet Bach’s benefactor, his two wives and his daughter.”

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