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jwg

One minute of fame?

Kimmel Center Organ I had my debut playing the new organ at the Kimmel Center (the somewhat new and very elegant concert hall) in Philadelphia on Saturday.

OK, not exactly; this wasn't a version of American Idol and I wasn't an invited guest auditioning for the Philadelphia Orchestra. As part of the inauguration of the new organ they had a Pay to Play session where could sign up for a minute for $25 or 5 minutes for $75. rsc, his brother Dan, and I each signed up for a minute. What ensued was a 4 hour event (we were at about 2 hours) with a variety of players. There were some little kids, some serious organists who signed up for 10 minutes and a mixture of other people. It was kind of fun, like a student recital; the audience was small, and everyone got applause, no matter how good or not good they were.

They had a real organist there helping out with stops etc. Dan played a jazz improvisation of some sort even though he'd brought some Schoenberg and Bach Well Tempered Clavier Vol II, Robert played the opening minute of the Bach Cminor Partita, and I played an improvisation mostly based on a A minor chord. It was fun making lots of noise and trying out the pedals. I've never touched an organ before (oh, perhaps a little pedal organ once) and it was fun. If I had to do it again I'd sign up for 5 minutes so I could play around with the gazillion stops as well. I wish I'd asked for some trumpets.

When asked what I was going to play I said something like; I don't know, I was thinking of playing John Cage's 4'33" (4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence) but since I only signed up for 1 minute....

The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, Dobson organ Op. 76, ranks as the largest concert hall organ in the United States. With its nearly 7,000 pipes, four blowers, 300 levels of memory, 111 stops, pipe sizes ranging from about the size of a drinking straw up to two feet square by 32 feet high, this is truly the King of Instruments!


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> I've never touched an organ before ...

I find that very hard, indeed impossible to believe. Perhaps you want to clarify "pipe organ" lest rsc (among others) chime in?

First rule of the internet: There's no such concept as "too obvious".

So how was the experiece, and how well could y'all handle the pipe organ?

This is jwg's journal, but I'll assume that you're asking both of us.

The experience was great fun. The fragment I played is not technically difficult (I had run through it on the piano at my brother's house), and I would have had no difficulty if I hadn't decided that I wanted the extra boost in the bass provided by the pedals; the principal result of this was to distract me briefly from what my hands were doing, causing a bar or so of mess. The assisting organist, after brief consultation, had provided me with a nice big registration, and it was very enjoyable to be able to produce this huge noise.

Since I chose an improvisation with little planning it was OK and as far as I remember I didn't make any major harmonic mistakes (a byproduct of keeping it simple). The console had 4 keyboards, I used the second one and an occasional dabble on the 3rd. I don't know to what they were coupled. I didn't do much with the pedals, using just a couple of them, since it was completely unfamiliar territory to me.

I was quite nervous for a while when awaiting my turn - could hear/feel my heart beating but I calmed down by the time I went up to the stage and wasn't particularly fazed by the experience. Dan said it sounded like real organ stuff.

Sometime in the future he will be posting an article about the whole event in Broad Street Review since he is one of the regular authors of this emag.

The Queen of Instruments

A quote from Happy End

"Major, have you ever rejoiced in an organ?"

(said by a gangster addressing a Salvation Army officer; he had a stolen Wurlitzer he was trying to unload at a profit)

Sounds like you had fun, playing with such a large one, and with FOUR blowers yet! ;-)

mmmm, additive synthesis.


(What, you were expecting cheap organ jokes?)

Wandered over from vaneramos's journal.

I am SO jealous! I'd pay for a minute (or 5) without having to think about it. I LOVE that fundraising idea too. Brilliant.

The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, Dobson organ Op. 76, ranks as the largest concert hall organ in the United States. With its nearly 7,000 pipes, four blowers, 300 levels of memory, 111 stops, pipe sizes ranging from about the size of a drinking straw up to two feet square by 32 feet high, this is truly the King of Instruments!"

This was excerpted from the Wikipedia page about Davies Symphony Hall. Obviously, the standard to which these instruments is not very well defined. In any case, I hope the Cooper organ is played more than the one at Davies. It is used mainly as a background instrument for the orchestra, a crying shame.

Now as far as King of instruments goes, you still have the undisputed Wannamaker's Organ and Lord & Taylor's.


The Fratelli Ruffatti electro-pneumatic pipe organ was added in 1984. It features five manuals, 147 ranks, and 9,235 pipes, making it the largest concert hall organ in North America, and is designed to accommodate repertory from the pre-baroque to the present. The console can be electronically reprogrammed to correspond to the two major schools of organ keyboard organization - the German and the French. The console can be placed where appropriate to the program - in the center for an organ concert, at either side for orchestral works, or in a side-hall when a large orchestra occupies the entire stage.

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