The day of the organist♦
Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful article on "Pay to Play" at the Kimmel Center. Instead of the usual type of review found in many types of media, Dan Coren turned out a playful, interesting and informative chronicle of the day. Pay to Play was a fabulous opportunity for those of us who have studied the organ seriously for years to get the chance to play that marvelous instrument. Thank you for showing others that it indeed was a "big event" in Philadelphia.
Best wishes and congratulations on a superb website
June 5, 2006
As a younger organist, it’s nice to see a small Arts News place such as BSR make full awareness that organists, organs and organ music are often the least respected among music.
I am artistic director and founder of a new organization that is organ-centric, the Organ Renaissance Project. My organization seeks to renew widespread interest in the Organ by creating collaborative, organ-centric events with other areas of the performing arts.
So many organists are purists who were trained on screechy, neo-baroque instruments, inspired by E Power Biggs. I myself am a young black woman of 27 who fell inlove with the organ at 14. If it can happen to me, it can surely happen to other young people who are interested in more secular music.
At the Pay-to-Play recitaI, I offered a performance of the Widor Toccata prior to Paula Dollarhide’s wonderful performance of the Buxtehude. Interestingly, later that afternoon another person offered a Buxtehude Preludium. These people played the Cooper Organ with such bravura, and in a fashion that would make E. Power Biggs sick but the late and great Virgil Fox glow with joy. These people took liberties to play with emotion and body language that was often discouraged by teachers in the late 1960s.
Paula Dollarhide mentioned that her organ teacher was Mildred Andrews, one of the greatest organ professors during the mid-20th Century. Mildred Andrews also taught Diane Bish, the "first lady of the organ." She and similar teachers taught their students how to please people who don’t normally listen to the organ. So it was certainly no suprise that Paula Dollarhide’s playing was full of life.
The organ culture in Philadelphia is almost like no other place. It’s so good that I am about to move here, with good chances of becoming an organist at a local church. However, it is my hope that the Kimmel Center will start to reach out to the generation of 20 to 40 with the organ, because it’s an instrument they think does not exist any more.
Thanks for writing about the good things going on in the organ world. Everyone else paints such a grim picture.
Organ Renaissance Project
June 5, 2006
Kimmel Center’s new organ
Re "The Kimmel organ’s debut," by Dan Coren—
The Kimmel Center Organ is simply the finest concert organ now available. I actually played the organ in the "pay to play" event, with bravos after finishing the Widor Toccata.
However, i was most dissappointed in the organ/Orchestra dedication. None of the music really showed the capabilities of this wonderful Organ.
Bottom line is this: Orchestral Conductors just don’t know about organ-and-orchestra repertoire and have little interest in it. The music schools do not use music history textbooks that talk about the organ. Their professors of conducting are not usually interested in the organ. Also, recordings of organ and orchestra repertoire are not abundant.
Therefore, one tends to program works that are boring and staid.
Because concert halls have lacked organs for more than 40 years (until the Dallas Meyerson Fisk), conductors have not been interested in that genre. What they don’t know is that there are more than 850 organ concerti. Many of the pieces are out of print, sitting in European libraries/archives, or property of estates. This means that securing them is almost impossible. Almost. I myself am in conversation with a gentleman in Germany to secure scores for pieces that haven’t been performed live in the U.S. for 80 years.
The Philadelphia Orchestra woudl have made a more tremendous mark by getting an organist who is not a purist, such as Dianne Bish, Cameron Carpenter, Hector Olivera, or low-profile yet talented organists . They would have made a much strong impact if they had performed the Jongen Symphonie Concertante and the Khachaturian Symphony No. 3. The Saint-Saëns is wonderful, but it should have been put in a trio with the other two, especially since they are all in the key of C major or minor.
The Saint-Saëns does have potential to showcase talented organists at a variety of levels. The organ part is very simple and can be played by almost anyone. If the person can play a hymn in an uplifting fashion, then they can play the Saint-Saëns Symphony 3.
Organ Renaissance Project
June 2, 2006
The Inquirer’s new owners
Re "The Inquirer’s new owners," by Dan Rottenberg—
The only problem with your argument is that we now have to look at things in the context of the times. With the exception of the Times and Post companies, and maybe Dow-Jones and Tribune—none of whom came even close to bidding on the Philly papers, there are no savior chains out there. I hate to be in the lesser-of-evils category here, but I must.
I don’t think Brian Tierney is equal to Annenberg for several reasons. First, there was no watchdog press in Annenberg’s day--as you, the City Paper, Philadelphia Weekly and even Philadelphia Magazine will be. Second, Tierney himself doesn’t have unlimited money, and his investors are at least somewhat diverse in their interests. Third, he and the others have at least mouthed the words of fairness. Annenberg never even came close to that.
It’s not as if Knight-Ridder didn’t have its own agenda, which was ruinous to the papers in recent years. It may not have been personal or political, but it undermined the papers nonetheless-- ironically less so at the Daily News, which had been accustomed to tight budgets, than at the Inquirer.
I know you are an interloper from New York City-- only here 30-40 years or so-- but I’m sure you would agree that part of the problem of the paper is that it wants to go local but has no idea what local means here. If you would read the Jersey section, as I do, you’d find that out in a hurry. For one thing, the Inquirer stopped running Jersey obits and now only publishes suburban Pennsylvania ones. That is the small measure of their obliviousness.
So I would prefer to think that at least it is possible that things will get better and probably won’t get worse. The problem is more that there aren’t Gil Spencers and Gene Robertses at the papers--inspirational folks who both enjoyed fun and good journalism.
May 31, 2006
Editor’s comment: Contrary to popular perceptions, Walter Annenberg wasn’t a deliberately meddlesome owner at the Inquirer. He desperately wanted to do the right thing and elevate the paper’s reputation. But he was clueless about how to do it (much, I suspect, like Tierney and his partners), and plagued by personal insecurities that caused him to feel perpetually threatened by enemies, notwithstanding his immense wealth, power and talent. See especially The Annenbergs, by John Cooney.
Let’s test the bona fides of the Inquirer and Daily News "pledges" of independence for the papers by requiring them to establish ombudsmen or reader advocates at both papers to monitor these pledges both on the news and editorial sides, and to write regular columns on what they find. As an initial test of the editorial page’s independence, let’s see if they will support this idea now.
May 30, 2006
Editor’s comment: Neither pledges nor ombudsmen nor any other device will achieve your goal. It takes a community of seasoned and dedicated journalists and publishers endowed with courage, wisdom and boundless energy.
Great piece, Dan. You nailed it exactly.
May 31, 2006
Editor’s note: The writer is a former assistant managing editor of the Inquirer.
I enjoyed your thoughtful piece on the new Inquirer ownership. A bullying ad man and a luxury developer who thinks of Gettysburg as prime real estate is not my personal prescription for rebuilding a national paper.
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