The air is solid
I was requested to write about music here. I have produced a pile of
such flotsam though on another site. They are aberrant pieces and are
allowed to endure due to the wise graces of the director of the ensemble
to which the site is attached, Thank You.
Often, on Saturdays, barring schedule interruptions, holidays,
functions or, my own equivalent conflicts, I attend what me thinks the
finest music intake event(s) I have ever known.
On Broadway, couple of blocks below the Strand(holy holy holy) is
a very large and very fine Church. Grace Church. Its cornerstone
(commencement date of construction) was laid in 1843. The building
is in the French Gothic Revival Style. The architect got thrown into
the real estate deal when his uncle sold the property to the congregation
looking to move uptown from Rector st.
The exterior is Sing Sing marble. Yes, that Sing Sing. The prisoners
who made this possible no doubt did so for the sake of both penance
and devotion. Okay. With upgrades and maintenance, it has held up
marvelously and is entirely deserving its landmark designation. They
really built stuff to last then and to that thought, the fate of Notre Dame
in Paris is just awful. That ladies and gentlemen, is the French Gothic
being revived here(in 1843).
So if I leave my home at 3:30, walking, I am safely parked in a nicely
cushioned pew a few minutes before 4:00. It is my habit to sit in the
same pew by a column on the right side facing forward and somewhat
up. Promptly, the church bells peel the “ding dong dong ding” tune
which is followed by 4 identical bells that announce “it is 4 o'clock.”
The organ inhales, Patrick inhales and then the music fills the air.
In some form or another, the organ has existed since say, how
would you like, the 3rd century B.C.E.. That is quite a while by my
estimation. I can't say too much about the history jazz as I could get
into a whole lot of trouble. Trust me.
However, safely can I posit, coming out of the Dark age,
( a cycle not yet complete) the evolution of the organ and architecture
and music, advanced in an intimate way. Not in lock step but
certainly, holding hands.
When someone, really anyone, for a span of centuries, parked their
posterior in a pew of a massive urban-central Church or Cathedral in
anywhere Europe, and the light was coming through the stained glass
windows and the ceiling as distant as the clouds and the familiar
iconography and all your friends and relations and the organ
just a goin' it so that the very air around you became thick,
indeed solid, you were sitting in the throne and at the crossroads of
apex technology. Add to that the cool quenching dram of spirituality
that brought you here in the first place. Quite a cocktail.
The music designed for these super spaces was composed by brilliant
brilliant Folks, not merely fine musicians and musical minds but they
understood the acoustics or sonic properties of these spaces which would
become their partners, in a sense their collaborators. Even bosses.
A personnel recollection -
I was playing in a Brahms symphony in a big old Church at the bottom
of Park ave. by the Pan Am building and Grand Central. The conductor
would have to pause in between movements (especially when those
mvmnts were in different keys)to allow for the closing notes of the
previous movement to leave the premises so as not to collide with the
opening notes of the movement to follow. Sometimes, it seemed 8 or 10
seconds were required to clear the deck.
Sometimes, if I looked up and squinted, I could see the flute and oboe
notes bouncing around in the vaults and arches. Were it bats, they
would've summoned an exterminator though bats squeak too. -
Back to the matter at hand; if you hear Opera on the radio, though
very nice (I listen to whole Operas on the radio fairly often),
it ain't Opera. Opera is as much, or more, a theater endeavor as it is
a musical one. It's Opera when you go to the Opera with all the costumes
and staging and live singing and orchestra and plenty of narrative arc
and sex and tragedy and sex and regret and treachery and sex. Opera.
You can listen to rock n' roll in your earth tone office but that ain't
rock n' roll. Rock n' roll is when everybody is a movin' and a groovin'
en masse. Sweatin'. Everybody's a little stoned and somewhere,
someone thinks what you're doing is wrong. Degenerate. In the office,
at sensible volume? - I don't think so.
When I hear organ music on the radio now, I think, “Man, that
sounds awful”. Kinda like putting the smells of Thanksgiving in a
Organ music need be heard in a big old Church as it is music
conceived in and for that environment. So I sit in Grace Church and it
is jammed to about, I figure, .05 capacity. The instrument is;
The Bicentennial Organ
Taylor and Boody
This credit is presented in the program along with the names and
dates of the composers. Also identified is Patrick Allen Organist,
the prism through which the energy of centuries passes into visual
Patrick is Virtuoso. Both for his hard earned tactile acquisitions
(this is what musicians calls CHOPS) and his Emotional, Intellectual
and Spiritual embrace and service to the Music He performs.
The instrument is magnificent. Sometimes my eyes wander to
distant corners of the Church and what do I see? Pipes. More pipes,
planted strategically by careful sonic gardeners. Geniuses really.
When Patrick lets that organ roar (pull the stops), pulse, breath
thought are now under the control of this building, this organ, this
humble musician and that composer. The very air becomes as a solid.
Refuge and Strength
A Mighty Fortress
A Very Present Help in Trouble
In closing, as musical experience goes, these Saturdays at 4:00
on Broadway, NYC, rank very high. Very. In fact they firmly hold
place at number two after playing anything in a living room with