top of page

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 

     bathroom deodorizer.

          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

                                                  Opus 65

                                          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 

                                              my Daughter.

bottom of page