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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Pipedreams Live! - Rochester

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Featured in the following shows:

Audio PD Live! in Rochester (Part 1) #0942

Audio PD Live! in Rochester (Part 2) #1014


King-size Crowds for the King of Instruments

By Ruth Phinney, Program Director, WXXI-FM 91.5, Rochester, NY

When times get tough, the tough collaborate! Such was the case for the three-day, three-concert Pipedreams Live! weekend presented by WXXI-FM Classical 91.5, the Eastman School of Music, the Rochester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and the Rochester Theatre Organ Society.

Pipedreams producer Michael Barone came to Rochester to host and record three concerts featuring students and faculty of the Eastman School, two new organs…one installed in the Roman Catholic cathedral, the other created as part of the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI)…and the Mighty Wurlitzer at the Auditorium Theater.

"I go into these things hopeful but always nervous, said Barone. Will the publicity be effective and sufficient? Do people really listen to Pipedreams and, if so, why will they come out to hear a Pipedreams Live! event and not already be regulars at the organ activities in town? And can there be too much of a good thing? Particuarly after the huge success of Friday night, I worried that folks would be ‘all organed out’ for the remainder of the weekend, but audiences on Saturday and Sunday were equally impressive. I was astonished, and delighted!” Barone confessed.

The Friday night concert, on an elegant new organ by Paul Fritts, drew a standing-room only crowd of nearly 1000. Saturday’s featured Craighead-Saunders organ, a new-made replica of an organ from 1776 by Casparini in Lithuania, drew a fire-code-violating crowd of over 600 (the church holds 350). On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the multi-generational crowd swelled to 1200+ for a concert of popular music from Cole Porter to Andrew Lloyd Webber. Michael Barone reflected, "It really is a marvelous mystery, all of it, but I can’t help smile when good instruments, good players, and a good-sized audience converge for a great time with the King of Instruments."

Eastman School of Music senior Jon Ortloff, winner of the 2008 American Theatre Organ Society’s Young Theatre Organist Competition, and a principal planner of the weekend, stated, “All in all it was an unparalleled success for the many organizations involved. It really could not have been a more successful event.”

These three concerts confirmed what we believed to be true here in Rochester. There is a large and loyal audience for organ music, both on the air and in the community. Pipedreams airs on WXXI Classical 91.5 Sundays at 8 pm, with an average cume of 4400 and AQH of 2300 (higher numbers than Saturday, and better AQH then M-F). The station expanded from the 90 minute to the two hour version of the program when the option was presented in January 2009, with great response from our listeners.

As audience members left the concerts, coordinators from each collaborating organization were thanked and asked, “When can we do this again?” With the success each organization experienced, Michael and Pipedreams have an open invitation to return any time.


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