Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments
1992 C.B. Fisk organ, at Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas Texas
RICHARD STRAUSS: Solemn Entry, Feierlicher Einzug
GIOVANNI GABRIELI: Canzon primi toni, from Sacrae symphonie
ALEXANDRE GUILMANT: Finale, from Organ Sonata Number 1 in d
HENRI TOMASI: Procession du Vendredi-Saint, from Fanfares Liturgiques
WILLIAM WALTON: Crown Imperial
MICHAEL DAUGHERTY: Niagara Falls
PAUL HINDEMITH: Kammermusik Number 7, Concerto for Organ and Chamber Ensemble, Opus 46, number 2
RICHARD WAGNER (arranged by Bourgeois): Elksa’s Procession to the Cathedral, from Lohengrin
This repertoire appears on a newly-issued compact disc from Reference Recordings RR-112.
Professor Carol Reynolds teaches a Music Appreciation class at Meadows School of the Arts of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Several of her students from outlying areas who were attending their first real concert in a real concert hall, were guests of the Dallas Wind Symphony for the Pipedreams Live! performance at the Meyerson Symphony Center on April 17, 2007. These are their unvarnished reports:
May 8, 2007
Dallas Wind Symphony
Since 1985 the Dallas Wind Symphony has built a music library containing approximately 1,000 titles. Through its live concerts, radio broadcasts, and other media coverage, the Dallas Wind Symphony has become the benchmark for bands and wind ensembles around the world.
The Dallas Wind Symphony’s Artistic Director and Conductor is Jerry Junkin. He conducted the “Pipedreams Live!” event that I attended, has conducted many other ensembles all around the country, and is a very enthusiastic leader of his Dallas Wind Symphony.
Mary Preston was the organist for the concert. She did a wonderful job. Her movements was just awesome. I could not believe someone could move at an organ like she did. You could tell that she loved what she does.
Michael Barone was an interesting man. Mr. Barone was telling stories in between musical numbers; some were funny and some were more serious. I did think he did a wonderful job though.
When walking into the Meyerson Symphony Center, I was just amazed by how huge this building was. On the outside it did not look so big. As I walked up the stairs into the concert hall, I thought I was on a cruise ship. The concert hall is three stories high, and looks like an indoor football field with many seats around. After finding our seats, which were close to the front, I just sat in amazed looking at the beautiful building.
The men and women in the Wind Symphony were just great. To start off, twenty-two people played in the first piece, all men except one female. I could not believe that there were so many overweight men. That was just the beginning, since by the end of the concert there were at least seventy-five men and women onstage.
Michael Barone talked about the pipe organ as being just a collection of big and little whistles. These whistles, the ones we could see, were pretty impressive. The large ones were at least thirty-two feet long. Some were called principals, but there were flutes and reeds and strings, too, more than I could remember.
The organ in this auditorium had five keyboards, four for the hands, one for the feet and numerous knobs that Ms. Preston pushed or pulled on to make different sound combinations. She showed the audience some demo sounds, and even played a segment from “Pink Panther”, which was funny. Also the brass people showed examples of what they call “noodling,” which is just a warm-up for the orchestra.
The prelude music was a Fanfare for Freedom, dedicated to the men and women of the United States armed forces. The program started out officially with Solemn Entry, Feierlicher Einzug by Richard Strauss, which represented the culmination and the end of the nineteenth-century German Romanticism in music. This musical piece was full, rich and brilliant.
“Canzon primi toni” from Sacrae symphonie was composed for multiple choirs of instruments and the organ, a mixture featuring cornets and trombones, with some bassoons.
Next came the Finale from Sonata in d minor by Guilmant, who is known as one the greatest organists of the late nineteenth century. The movement is with a swirling energy, with a hymn like second subject. Mary Preston played this as a solo on the organ, and demonstrated her skill and the organ’s power. Her playing movements were outstanding. You could just see that she loved what she was doing.
In the Fanfares Liturgiques by Tomasi, we heard only the forth, which was “Procession du Vendredi-Saint”, which was remarkable.
During the intermission, we went behind stage with Mrs. Reynolds and were able to see what the orchestra did in between. They never stopped practicing with their instruments. If they did, he or she would get cold and not able to perform properly later. I have never been to a symphony so I did not know what to expect backstage. These people were very nice and polite. We also talked to the conductor, which was fun.
After the intermission, we sat upstairs behind the orchestra. This was good to see what they were doing from a different angle and be able to see the players close up. This way we also could see the conductor from the front and not just his back. His facial expressions were funny, but we knew he was really into what he was doing. When people were not using their instruments they would spray something in them to keep them moist and keep from sticking.
One of the funniest things I did see was this man in red socks. These men and women had black tuxes, and this one man had red socks.
I could see musicians were counting beats when waiting for his or her turn. Also between numbers there were men exchanging chairs for the next number, depending on how many people were on to the next number.
Crown Imperial: A Coronation March by Walton was written for a ceremony investing a monarch with those emblems of royalty. Niagara Falls by Michael Daugherty was inspired many aspects of American popular culture. Niagara Falls was an interesting piece.
I personally did not care for the Kammermusk Number 7 Opus 46, number 2 by Hindemith. This had three parts to it. First was ‘Nicht zu shnell’, second was ‘Sehr langsam und ganz rugig’ and third was ‘Eighth note = 184’. This was just boring for me, but the audience seemed to like it a lot.
In “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” from Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, the orchestra had the youth orchestra join in with them and this was neat, seeing young men in this, and projecting their possible future in the orchestra was neat to experience.
At the end, as an encore extra, they played a March by Sousa, which was very powerful.
I believe that I would go back with my husband to hear the Dallas Wind Symphony again. This was a very good experience for me. I really enjoyed it.
May 3, 2007
I had not been looking forward to going to another musical performance, I had actually started dreading this one since I watched “Radio Gals,” mainly because I knew that there would no people to watch, only the music. But the conductor, Jerry Junkin, provided plenty of character to his performances during the Dallas Wind Symphony’s “Pipedreams Live” event on the Meyerson Concert Series.
Being as I am more of an architectural person, I was amazed at the building itself. They say “first impressions last a lifetime,” and this evening will definitely last in my mind for many years to come. From the moment I walked toward the glass doors, I noticed the rounded staircases in the foyer and I was hooked. My eyes didn’t stop there, as there was so much to see…the lighting, the floor pattern, the staircase, and all of the glass; it was amazing. Then when I got into the concert hall it hit me, almost instantly. I felt as though I had shrunk down to the size of an ant with the huge organ pipes reaching up to the ceiling. The walls of the hall seemed to wrap around me as I entered. I felt like a kid again, giddy and excited but at the same time deeply intimidated by the size of the pipes. Then I took in the deep richness of the woods in the hall and the warm, inviting colors of the paint scheme, and as I sank down into my chair I started taking in more of the many details. Like the way the ceiling in a horseshoe or magnet shape with the brilliant lighting scheme recessed into it, and the red, yellow and black paint that made the lights look so brilliant. Then as I looked at it longer, the shape of the hall made me wonder how the builders managed it so that from every angle I looked I could not find where the walls connected to the ceiling, making it even more mesmerizing.
Then as my eyes were coming down from the ceiling I noticed the two large pillars just off the stage that lead your eyes all the way up again, as if to say take another look at the majestic horseshoe. Then the pipes, set proudly in the wall; I could not take my eyes off them. I was in awe, they were like a painting of perfection. Everywhere I looked it seemed that each pipe was strategically placed to make a perfect masterpiece. The way the dark woods surrounded the bass pipes and the black paint outlining the edges is just another amazing aspect of the thought that must have been put into the overall design of the Meyerson. I still cannot believe that the hall was built in the ’80s, the way it stirs up the imagination to make everyone respect the genius of it, and I think anyone who has gone into the hall has left with a greater appreciation for architecture.
I went in thinking that classical music for an hour and a half would be completely boring without people to watch. But I learned that the orchestra is more fun to watch than actors on stage. The faces they make to get their instruments to hit that certain note are quite entertaining. Then there was the conductor Jerry Junkin, who in himself was more enjoyable to watch than the entire “Radio Gals” crew, yes even the two guys that dressed as ladies, he had them all beat. It was like he had thousands of personalities. He would be smiling and laughing at the musicians, then shift to a serious, energized face seconds later. It was a wild and crazy experience that made for an entertaining evening, seeing how certain people in the orchestra would respond to certain faces Jerry made.
Then there was Michael Barone, even if he was not introduced as a radio announcer, it would have been obvious through his personality. He had witty jokes, some that anyone could understand and laugh at, and others that were definitely for people who understood music on a higher level. Even though most of those I did not get, I still appreciated his way of making the evening more of a casual outing with friends. I did appreciate being in a room with so many people with such musical talent and knowledge. It was definitely not anything I have ever experienced before. Without some of Michael’s introductions, I would have been completely lost.
Then there was Mary Preston, the organist. I could tell she love playing the organ and showing others just what the organ is capable of. It radiates off of her and into everyone in the audience. I was impressed at her ability to play the organ’s manuals, the knobs to her right and left and the foot pedals, and still be able to read the music and watch the screen to her right with Jerry on it. It was extremely enjoyable watching Jerry cueing Mary with his facial features and looking at the camera in a way that Mary would know he was cueing her. Then, we were lucky enough to go backstage and talk to Michael and Jerry. It was very neat to see them up close and get a sense of what they are normally like off stage. I was grateful to go back stage because I’m sure there are many people that have never had the pleasure.
I was taken aback by the music that a full wind orchestra could create; it is nothing like the videos we have watched in class. The organ was amazing with the ability to make the room sound and feel as if the whole building was going to collapse around it. Then how the trombone and trumpets used a plunger and another prop to change the sound for a different effect. But sitting beside the drummer and so close to the organ near the end of the performance was awesome. I felt every vibration, although it was a little harder to hear what the rest of the orchestra was doing. It was fun to be able to watch the drummer change mallets and tune his drums. Then to watch the man playing the cymbals was the second best part of the whole performance. He was entertaining and amazing to watch. He looked like one of the wind up dolls that walk across the floor banging cymbals together. I had never seen anyone play the cymbals before, and to actually see the vibration was really amazing.
All in all it was an amazing experience and a lot more entertaining than I had ever imagined would be possible when going to a symphony hall. Though I probably will not go back for a while, I will definitely have to take my wife whenever I get married.
April 24, 2007
A Great Experience
I had the opportunity to go to the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas to see the Dallas Wind Symphony on April 17, 2007. It was an experience I will never forget. The center was beautiful and the music was great.
The Meyerson Symphony Center opened in September 1989. It is known for its great acoustic sound. As I walked into the lobby, I was very impressed by the beauty and atmosphere. The auditorium is even more impressive. There is seating on the main floor and in four balconies. There is a choir loft behind the orchestra where guests may sit when there is no choir. The most impressive item in the auditorium is the organ, which sits directly behind the choir loft on a balcony about half way between the floor and the ceiling with the large pipes on both sides and the smaller pipes above and below the organ. It is a very elegant place from top to bottom—even the banister rails, which had velvet on them.
Michael Barone was the host for the evening. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in Music History from the Oberlin Conservatory. For 25 years he served as the Minnesota Public Radio Music Director. He has earned many awards during his career, such as the President’s Award from the American Guild of Organists in 1996, the Deems Taylor Broadcast Award for Excellence from ASCAP in 2001, and he also was an advisor for the organ project at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. During the program at the Meyerson, Barone gave information about the musicians, the music and the instrument. He was very knowledgeable and he also has a great voice.
Jerry Junkin is the Conductor of the Dallas Wind Symphony, and has been the Artistic Director since the fall of 1993. Before that he led The University of Texas Wind Ensemble in Austin. He has received many awards. He was elected to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at UT, and has been a guest conductor in forty-eight states and on five continents.
I had a seat on the floor during the first half of the program. The program started with the National Anthem played by the orchestra with the audience singing along. It was so tremendous to hear everyone bellowing out the words that it left goose bumps on my arms. The first piece the orchestra played was “Solemn Entry” by Richard Strauss. This piece consisted of only brass with organ and was very relaxed and smooth, though quite grand by its end. The second piece was “Canzon primi toni” from “Sacrae symphonie” by Giovanni Gabrieli, which had the sound of the renaissance period. The third piece was “Finale” from “Sonata in d minor” by Alexandre Guilmant, which was a solo played by Mary Preston on the organ.
Mary Preston is the Resident Organist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. She has performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe and Asia. Before her solo piece, Barone gave some information about the organ while Preston gave a demonstration of the organ’s various sounds. This organ was all hand-crafted and the longest pipe was thirty-two feet long. Each set of pipes has a particular tone. The knobs on the side of the organ control which pipes will be used. Preston demonstrated the different sounds of the instruments that the organ would make and how the pitches and colors blended together. The demonstration included the lowest note and highest note and also the difference between softest and loudest sounds. As far as I could tell, the organ had four manuals for the hands and one manual for the feet. Since the organist’s back was to the conductor, there was a video monitor screen attached to the organ so she could see him. It was amazing to watch Preston play the organ, as her hands and feet were continually moving over the keyboards. I was very impressed by the sound the organ made and by the energy it took to play it.
The last piece of the first half of the program was an excerpt from “Fanfares Liturgiques” by Henri Tomasi. It started with the tubas playing very slow, which sounded like a procession. The organ blended so well that I could not even tell that she was playing unless I was watching.
During the intermission I was able to go back stage where I met Michael Barone and the Jerry Junkin. It was very interesting to see all the musicians getting ready for the performance or resting. They had lockers which some of them personalized with photographs of their families and friends.
After the intermission, I sat in the choir loft for the second half of the program. That was very exciting because I was so close to the orchestra and could see things that I could not see on the floor. The musicians wore black clothing, but there were a few that had on red socks, which I thought was odd. Maybe there was some meaning behind the red sock, such as their being lead musicians. Another thing I noticed was that the trombonists had something that they put in the opening of their instrument which looked like a toilet plunger. The best part about sitting in the choir loft was that I could watch the conductor’s face. His love and enthusiasm for the music came out in his expressions and movements. It was as if he was pulling the music out of the instruments himself. After a musician played a solo, the conductor would smile and acknowledge him with his eyes. Sometimes he would mouth the notes as if he were actually singing. Usually at the end of a piece there is a climax that is very loud and strong; sitting in the choir loft I could actually feel the floor vibrate from the music.
The first piece after intermission was “Crown Imperial: A Coronation March” by William Walton. The conductor seemed to truly enjoy this piece. During one part there was a pause and then all the musicians started again. It was perfect and the conductor had a huge grin on his face. The second piece was “ Niagara Falls” by Michael Daugherty. I really enjoyed this piece. It had many different percussions playing very loud. The musicians playing the trumpets, saxophones and trombones would stand during their solos. At the end of this piece, I could definitely feel the floor vibrate. “Kammermusik Number 7 Opus 46, number 2” by Paul Hindemith was the third piece. This featured the smallest orchestra, using only 13 musicians plus the organist. It was my least favorite selection but was still quite interesting because the instruments and the organ blended so well that if one had one’s eyes closed you could not distinguish which was playing. The fourth piece was “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” from “Lohendrin” by Richard Wagner. This piece was andante and very peaceful and relaxed, though it did build up quite a bit in its final pages.
As the evening concluded, Barone mentioned the website http://pipedreams.org. This website offers information about upcoming broadcasts of his radio program. It has a mailbag to ask Barone questions, also information about the organ. One can also listen to the program online. The orchestra came back with an encore—a march by John Philip Sousa.
My evening was unforgettable. The Meyerson Symphony Center is a beautiful place, and the music was excellent. The program stated, “So much great music, you won’t be able to hear your jaw drop,” which is an accurate statement.