October 13, 2004
Vol. IV, No. 26
"A Tale of Two Organs"
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair"
Larchmont Avenue Church in Larchmont, New York, has a new organ.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, has a new organ.
The folks at Larchmont are excited because they have been planning and building their new organ for the past seven years.
The Smithsonian refers to itself as the "nation's attic." The folks there are excited because their new organ isn't new at all.
Larchmont's organ is a pipe organ and they're so happy about having one that they're already using it even though only 6 of the planned 57 ranks are functional.
The Smithsonian's organ is an Allen organ. The first one ever built. In fact, the first digital organ ever built. In fact, the first digital musical instrument ever built. In 1971, it and the Sharp electronic calculator were the only digital products on the market. To wit:
There once was an organ named Allen,
With virtual ranks by the thousands,
But its pipe simulator,
Was a Sharp calculator,
So to add and subtract stops was no challenge!
The Larchmont folks have Luau Nights, Cabaret Nights and Arts & Crafts Showcases to raise money for their organ maintenance fund. They expect their new organ to last over a hundred years.
The Smithsonian's new organ used to live in a church. After 25 years of faithful service, it was replaced with a more "modern" instrument.
Larchmont's organ is a work of art.
The Smithsonian's organ is a work of disposability.
Hooray for Disposables!
Perhaps Allen #1 can be the centerpiece of a new Smithsonian exhibit: "Obsolescence: The Dark Underbelly of American Innovation." We live in an era when so little of what we value has any lasting value. It's not entirely our fault. Just try and get your VCR repaired. If you haven't heard already, it's cheaper to buy a new one than to fix the old one. While the Smithsonian celebrates the Allen as the successful introduction of digital technology to the world of music, I see it as the "successful" introduction of disposability to the world of music. Thanks in no small part to Allen, today we have not only disposable instruments but disposable music and disposable musical artists as well.
I applaud the members of Larchmont Avenue Church for embracing lasting values and tradition. In a hundred years, their children's children will still be listening to this monument to quality and self-sacrifice. They didn't set out by asking "What is sufficient?" or "What can we afford?" They set their sights high, gave themselves something to aspire to, as well as others, as the organ will serve not only their church but also their community.
I began this Rampage as Charles Dickens began "A Tale of Two Cities." There is a line at the end of the same book that could be attributed to anyone who helps bring a pipe organ into a community: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;"
But I'd like to end this Rampage with a different quote. It comes from an article on the organ at Larchmont Avenue Church. I think it says it all.
"Jane Hewson, who was part of the original organ planning group, as well as a long-time choir member, said that at choir practice, 'we burst into tears' on hearing the organ for the first time. 'It was magnificent.'"
Click this link to read comments and offer your own:
Composition Free Exchange:
Added is BACHorgan.com community member William Kistler's "Psalm of Praise" (Postlude in G Major).
Pipes Hall of Fame:
Newly inducted is the Larchmont Avenue Church in Larchmont, New York. This is the church that inspired me to create the Pipes HOF page. It is just now being added because I only recently obtained sufficient information about their project.
Added are the C.B. Fisk at Old West Church United Methodist in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Blancafort/Capella El Organo del Sol Mayor in the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation of Marbella in Marbella, Spain.
Added is an article on the new organ at Larchmont Avenue Church in Larchmont, New York.
WHAT I'M READING..."
"1876: A Novel" by Gore Vidal. In the election of 1876, Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York won the popular vote but his opponent Rutherford B. Hayes ascended to the presidency. "1876" is a novelization of the events surrounding this historical situation and, gee, it all sounds kind of familiar. Vidal's writing is superb and makes history come alive. Click the link below for more information on this book:
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:
WHAT I'M LISTENING TO..."
"Genius Loves Company" by Ray Charles. This is a very classy collection of duets. Most of the songs are good and almost all of the artists, too. I found Ray's duet with Elton John particularly poignant and his performance with B.B. King was the most fun. Ray Charles never disappoints. Click the links below for more information on this CD:
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's CD Club:
Have a great week!
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