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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Organ Shoes”

January 4, 2010


Dear Michael,

I have a silly question for you. Why should organist wear the organ shoes? Why is the organ shoes heel 1 1/4" high? Thank you so much

Mei-Mei

 

Mei-Mei,

The matter of ‘organ shoes’ may seem confusing to a non organist, as they are a relatively recent ‘invention’, insofar as I expect that Bach did not have ‘organ shoes’. They are by no means an absolute necessity; a friend of mine used to delight in playing the Duruflé Toccata (from Suite, Opus 5) in motorcycle boots(!), and he had flawless pedal technique.

The typical organ shoe is of light and flexible construction, with a thin leather sole that allows players to ‘feel’ where they are on the pedal board. The raised heel creates an arch that makes it easier to play two (or sometimes three) note chords with a single foot (as in the Sowerby “Pageant” or other pieces with a lot of complex pedal writing). The leather sole (and heel) slides smoothly over the wooden pedal keys, whereas a rubber sole or heel will sometimes bind or ‘stick’.

But now I am curious. Please tell me about the organ scene in Taipei.

 

jmb

 

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