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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Appreciation for the Little Things.”

October 22, 2009

Dear Michael,

Thank you for you wonderful program! I began listening over 10 years ago when I was in high school. Back then I could still get your program Sunday evening - (I believe) on WILL radio. The accessibility to your program via the internet now allows me to listen anytime. In fact, the music helped me get through an MBA and the rollercoaster ride the stock market has provided recently.
If you will indulge me, I have a suggestion for a program. Many of us organists, trained and otherwise, play on modest sized instruments of 2 manuals and less than 30 ranks. I would love to hear a program featuring organ works written for, and performed on, organs of small size. You could call it Around the world in under 30 ranks. Better yet, title it Limited Resources - which is the way I feel some days! hahaha. Perhaps you have done this before, but I have not heard it. I, and I assume other organists, get ideas from listening to your program. The scope of some works, however, presents a challenge with a pipe organ of limited capacity. I am sure that with your knowledge and resources you could present an inspiring program of organ works from around the world which are accessable to most instruments.

Just an idea.

Thanks again for your program. God bless!




Thanks for writing, and for listening through all this time (well, 10 years is just a few pages in the Book of Pipe Dreams...).

Interesting that your communication comes on the same day that I wrote to Paul Jacobs questioning a press release that I'd received concerning a recital he is schedule to play in Anchorage, Alaska...which indicated that his program would include the Liszt "Ad nos" Fantasy and Sowerby's Pageant to be played on a 14-stop Kenneth Jones tracker (with no swell). I was kind of looking forward to a report on that (particularly since the Jones does not have the high "g" in the pedals, which Sowerby requires). Turns out it was a mistake (the repertoire, not Paul's appearance in Alaska).
Indeed, I have been accumulating materials for a program featuring modest 2-manual instruments (which, evenso, need not be all that modest...they can have forty stops, sometimes!), and that likely will find a place in the schedule in the coming year.

I have done a program a few years ago featuring single-manual organs (even more limited? Not at all!), which you can find in the online archive:

One at a Time #0733

As for works composed specifically for limited instruments...hmm. Don’t many organ composers imagine the broad range of instruments, large and small, and mostly create works that can be adapted accordingly?

In the proper room, a modest instrument can reveal magic...though that same instrument in a dry, negative space might not be quite so lovely.

Stay attuned...we’ll see what comes along in line with your request.



Jonathan responds,

Thank you for your kind reply. I fully agree with you assessment of modest sized instruments and their ability to amaze. In fact, I think that the individual colors and characters of the organ must shine even more brightly on limited instruments. Organists, too, must be most creative in their adaptation and registration. It is for these reasons that I will be looking to you program. You always do such a nice job.



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