Thursday, May 20, 2010


My review of Saturday's Masterworks concert ran in Monday's Times-Dispatch. To be honest, it was not a concert I looked forward to. "Chorus" and "organ" just aren't appealing words to me on a beautiful May evening. But as I listened to the opening work, "Rainbow Body," (which uses neither chorus nor organ), I could feel the day's tension leaving my  body; when "Gesang der Parzen" began, I thought, "Oh, that's right, I like Brahms!" And by the time the organ began playing in the Saint-Saens, I was completely relaxed and happy.

Mr. Van Pelt (see the comments below the review on the RTD site) contacted me personally to make sure I understood the location of the organ's pipes, which is pretty much directly behind the loudspeakers in the Carpenter Theater, hidden behind paneling, as pipes sometimes are. His correction clears up my confusion, and I was able to get more fascinating information from him about the Carpenter's organ-- for one thing, it's apparently made from parts of the organ that was originally in the building in the late 1920s.

I'm happy enough to blame Saint-Saens for writing an organ into an orchestral work; I think organs are best left to their own devices, of which they have many-- sort of the point, no? And I'm not going to spend the next 25 years grousing about the acoustics in the Carpenter Theater. It may not be the Schermerhorn, but it's no Dogwood Dell, either. (Plus, I've been to a concert in the Schermerhorn, in the balcony, and it was like watching a very good television. I'm fine with the middle ground between perfect acoustics and extreme intimacy that the Carpenter gives.)

The image, by the way, is of the only organ I've ever truly, truly appreciated. It's 25 years old this year and is installed in the chapel of Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.

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