TEMC “Organ Tweet” for Sun 2 November

The Great Organ

Great OrganThis week we begin a series of ‘tweets’ about the physical parts of the TEMC organ.

Did you know that the TEMC organ is not one but seven organs? And no, this does not count the lightly-used electronic instruments you may have seen in the East Chapel and West Assembly Hall – the 6120 pipes of the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church organ are spread across seven “divisions”, by tradition also known as ‘organs’ unto themselves.

The names of these divisions are somewhat standard across all organs, although they appear in different languages, and because most organs in the world have fewer than ours, many are absent elsewhere.

The main division is called the Great Organ, and as its name suggests it holds the central set of voices in the organ’s symphony of sound. Its 17 stops live in the elevated chamber above the east side of the chancel; it is played from the second-lowest of the five manual keyboards of the console (Manual II), and its main function is to support congregational singing and to offer the fullest, and many of the loudest sounds of the complete instrument. The photo shows some of the current draw knobs for Great Stops, as well as the “Super” and “Sub” couplers that allow playing two or more octaves’ worth of pipes for each key press.

TEMC “Organ Tweet” for Sun October 26

10658941_709572839122969_2549348661117052086_oTEMC and the Toronto Concert Orchestra present ORGAN SYMPHONY
Sunday November 16 2014, 2:00pm

Unlike in the case of the organ it is not easy to point to the moment the orchestra was ‘invented’, but it is certain that the organ has been featured as solo and ensemble instrument within the orchestra more-or-less from the start. The organ’s now-rare role as solo instrument with orchestra was first established in the works of Mozart and Handel the mid-18th century, and grew into and throughout the 19th century along with the growth of orchestras and the interest in richer and greater sound possibilities.

In answer to Mozart’s famous title for the organ “King of Instruments” it has been suggested that the orchestra is “the Queen” – and TEMC’s November 16th Organ Century-celebrating performance of the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony is certainly an occasion fit for royalty.  This iconic work is among the most celebrated in the literature – yet performances of it are limited by the large forces called for (triple winds and brass, piano, organ, percussion and strings). Commissioned by the English Royal Philharmonic Society, the first performance was given in London on May 19th 1886 conducted by the composer, who shortly thereafter dedicated the work to the memory of his friend Franz Liszt. The work’s most outstanding features are the use of keyboard instruments (the organ, of course, but also piano for two- and four-hands), and a romantic composition device known as Cyclical Form, in which melodies introduced early in the symphony return and are developed throughout the movements of the work. As a kind of early Christmas present, the TEMC Sanctuary choir will contribute selections from another beautiful and seldom-heard Saint-Saëns work, the “Oratoire de Noël”, as well as other beautiful selections from the French choral literature.

Tickets for this special concert are $30 adult and $20 student and senior, available on the Internet at http://www.ticketweb.ca (search for the performance venue, Timothy Eaton Memorial Church), from the TEMC Volunteer Office at (416) 925-5977, 230 St. Clair Avenue West, and around Sunday services at the church.

Make sure to be at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on Sunday November 16th at 2:00pm for the Toronto Concert Orchestra and TEMC Sanctuary Choir and their conductors Kerry Stratton and Elaine Choi – a fitting start to our celebrations of our church’s musical birthday.

Chasing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

Cohen album-various-positionsA little under a year ago I treated myself to a book purchase (something I do only rarely because of my perpetual and monumental reading backlog): Alan Light’s “The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the unlikely ascent of “Hallelujah”.  But even having just read Light’s interesting book my attention piqued especially when my 12-year-old son was skimming my copy and asked of the foreword’s account of the 2012 inaugural PEN “Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence” awards, who was this ‘Berry’ guy who was being honoured along with Cohen?

I have sung, listened to, accompanied at various keyboards, considered, parodied (in the medieval sense implying more respect than humour or critique) this piece for only two of its four decades of life, whatever ‘life’ means to a song or for that matter, a poem. I even once re-wrote the lyrics for a wedding whose bride loved the song, but maintained a fierce disinterest in the song’s original content to the point that even my pragmatic theatre/church musicianship required of me lots of denial. But I must admit that I had until Light’s book no idea of the true ubiquity of the Canadian song and songwriter my 12-year-old knew while never having heard of Chuck Berry – just its musical perfection and the remarkable power of its intimate and vivid sentiments.

Two signposts in my own relationship with “Hallelujah” were accompanying a young Patricia O’Callaghan in a performance at St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto in the late 1990s, and then playing a minor role in the August 27 2011 state funeral of my distant acquaintance and political idol Jack Layton, when Steve Page’s version was deeply memorable to many, but confirmed that, in the words of Toronto critic Kevin Courrier, “[it] has lost its meaning and much of its sting. Sung now with a solemn reverence, as Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” often is, “Hallelujah” is about as misunderstood as Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” (to be fair to Page, in a conversation I had with him backstage he like the rest of us had not much notice before taking part in the Layton funeral, and agreed with many others that it was a challenging and bordering chlicheed request.)

Some versions, like the John Cale’s from 1991, famously used in the 2001 movie Shrek!, and the late Jeff Buckley’s backing video of the World Trade Centre attacks later that year became holy writ in the “Hallelujah” canon while others, like Bono’s and Sandra Boyle’s, fell more into a continuum ranging from missed opportunity to outright embarrassment. But in the end words and music make this obscure (and at the time rejected outright by Columbia Records in perhaps one of music industry’s most legendary missteps) 1984 masterpiece into something timeless, transfixing, and endlessly vital.  When in 2004 k.d. Lang contributed a beautiful symphonic-scale arrangement into the repertoire, its most poignant attribute IMHO was its album title, “Hymns of the 49th Parallel” – reclaiming the work not just for the country she, Cohen and I share, but also for Cohen’s deeply nuanced and often tortured faith journey.

Perhaps Salman Rushdie, an author of mythic power in his own right and presenter of Cohen’s award in 2012, said it best: “(it’s) joyous and despondent, a celebration and a lament, a juxtaposition of dark Old Testament imagery with an irresistibly uplifting chorus, ‘Hallelujah’ is an open-ended meditation on love and faith.”

“There is a religious hallelujah, but there are many other ones,” Cohen once said. “When one looks at the world, there’s only one thing to say, and it’s hallelujah. That’s the way it is.”

Posted in IAM.

TEMC Organ Tweet for Sun 19 October



“Organ playing is the manifestation of a will filled with the vision of eternity.” 
– Charles Marie Widor

“To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art.”
– Jean Langlais

“The monster that never breathes.”
– Igor Stravinsky

“Listen, and for organ music thou wilt ever, as of old, hear the Morning Stars sing together.”
– Thomas Carlyle

Follow TEMC’s Organ Century Season online:

Facebook Timothy Eaton Memorial Church Music
Twitter @TEMCMusic
Web     http://www.ideasaboutmusic.ca

The History of the King of Instruments


The origins of the pipe organ can be traced back to the hydraulis in Ancient Greece in the 3rd century BC, in which the wind supply was created with water pressure. By the 6th or 7th century AD, bellows were used to supply organs with wind. Beginning in the 12th century, the organ began to evolve into a complex instrument capable of producing different timbres. By the 17th century, most of the sounds available on the modern classical organ had been developed. From that time, the pipe organ was the most complex man-made device, a distinction it retained until it was displaced by the telephone exchange in the late 19th century.

Pipe organs are installed in churches, synagogues, concert halls, and other public buildings and are used for the performance of classical music, sacred music, secular music and popular music. In the early 20th century, pipe organs were installed in theatres to accompany films during the silent movie era, in municipal auditoria, where orchestral transcriptions were popular, and in the homes of the wealthy, equipped with player mechanisms. The beginning of the 21st century has seen a resurgence in installations in concert halls. The organ boasts a substantial repertoire, which spans over 500 years.

– Wikipedia, accessed 2014-09-22

Kickscooting as Metaphor for the Musical Life

Human powered transport made to fit today's city

CD & Scooter

Like many musicians middle age has not financially empowered me to buy a sports car, even if I wanted to.  My new vehicle is human powered and has two wheels – but it is not a bike, I’m NOT wearing a stitch (if that’s the right micro-unit) of Lycra, and I was recently surprised to learn a remarkable lesson about music from my new wheels.

There are few reliable assumptions in the musician’s life.  Many in the mainstream workforce struggle in the ‘new economy’ to survive temporary contracts, lack of benefits, highly variable work conditions and constantly-changing colleagues and circumstances; musicians, who are mostly in effect hired and fired every day by individual project, who have never had access to anything resembling conventional job security or meaningful health benefits (even publicly mandated ones like maternity leave), and who must often adapt to new instruments, new mission-critical colleagues including soloists and conductors, new hall acoustics, new genres of music and other wide-ranging demands untranslatable to those outside of the field… well, we tend to yawn and politely support while whistling in our minds, or inaudibly through our teeth, “You can cry me a river.”

(As some of you will know, ‘cry me a river’ originated in the 1953 Arthur Hamilton song – NOT in the 2002 break-up between Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, a fact that neither Timberlake nor the proprietary Wikipedia entry on the song he included in that year’s “Justified” solo debut studio album seem very interested to share).

Middle age is traditionally a time for reflecting on one’s work and life, and my scooter has taught me that I have a three-part response to the challenges of a musician’s life, even as I continue to reap the rewards and savour the joys thirty-or-so- years in.

My account of Kickscooting: One leg (in my case, the right) takes on a role of support – it flexes, it locks, it releases as needed – but it provides no power.  The other leg (in my case, the left) provides the power, and the real response to the road (/sidewalk) surface and the pedestrians and their vehicles including strollers, grocery carts, and so on.  And beyond safely navigating what lies immediately ahead my hands are what keep me headed where I’m needing to go (and apply the brakes, if needed!)

So HERE’S THE IDEA:  Musical life requires all three – a supporting level of knowledge and discipline, like my RIGHT leg on the scooter; a degree of power able to push ourselves towards our limits and others around us to new understandings as needed – like my LEFT leg on the scooter, and critically also A PAIR OF HANDS to work on, and direct where all of this is going.  Nor is this such a bad model for creating and interpreting music.


Posted in IAM.