Monday, July 27, 2009

A New Organ Stop

July 27, 2009

Not really meaning to take a week off, nonetheless I did it. The principal reason was practicing Twelve Fugues by Gerald Shapiro! But it's time to catch up. I've been analyzing the fugues as well as practicing them, and I'll have a lot to say about them, starting tomorrow. This is just a short note about yesterday at South Congregational Church in Middletown.

Five years ago the baritone soloist at our church died. His name was Heyward M. Foreman, Jr., but everyone called him Woody. Woody was not a musician by profession, but he had a wonderful natural voice. He also had an uncanny resemblance to my father. We were friends for years. He beat two forms of cancer and died of a hospital infection. He was so popular that there was an outpouring of generosity from his family and friends towards the music program at South Church. We decided to build a new stop for our 1963 Schlicker organ in his memory.

These things take time, of course, but after five years of planning and the usual delays the stop was installed and presented to the public yesterday. Woody's widow Mary, his two sons, and his grandchildren were there, along with lots of other Foremans. (Mary said they would double the size of the congregation, and she was about right!)

The stop is an 8' trumpet, installed on the great. It has a real 16' extension and the lowest C is quite something. It is the work of the Austin Organ Company of Hartford. Its indefatigable president Mike Fazio was there to do the installation himself, with an able crew of course. The result is fabulous. This organ was always very good (it's the study organ for the Schlicker that used to be in the Wesleyan Chapel, now in St. Laurence Church in Killingworth) but it had three problems. First of all, it lacked color. Second, the only reed on the manuals is on the Swell, limiting the solo possibilites quite a bit. Most important, it's not an enormous instrument, though it's beautifully proportioned to the space—and while there was a nice kick to the top and a good full sound on the bottom, there wasn't a great deal in the middle.

The new trumpet takes care of all of these problems. It is very colorful (one young man in the congregation was amazed that it sounded "just like a trumpet"). It's on the Great. And it really fills in the middle register.

I will have more to say about this beautiful instrument in future blogs, when I start to write more about Tom Johnson's masterpiece, Organ and Silence. But for now—thanks, Mary, and all the Foremans, for your generosity. Thanks, South Church, for following through with an amibitious project in difficult times. And thanks to Mike and all the guys at Austin Organ Company for doing such a great job. We now have the best organ in Central Connecticut!

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