This week we had visits from two of Canada’s more highly recognized organists. In both cases they spent a few minutes exploring the organ, trying out some tunes and made some initial positive comments on the (tonal) quality of the music. Then I spent a few minutes showing the other features (as best a non-keyboard instrumentalist can) and how to change many of the parameters, including the overall voicing specification.
But then they spent the remainder of their visits taking up the challenge of how they could best express themselves musically using the many features of the organ. For instance, one ended up playing Bach’s Air on a G string using the orchestral strings instrumentation, an instrumental flute stop and, for a bass, a Principal stop on the Pedal division. It was a stellar performance. Switching from the English to Baroque voicing, reviewing the use of memories to create unique stop combinations for the thumb and toe pistons, invoking the instrumentation stops and even the variation of parameters such as volume, reverberation level and temperament were amongst the many variables they tried out.
Both went away, not discussing whether it had a genuine pipe organ sound (that was a given from the first few minutes of playing), but rather how could they creatively express themselves in new ways through this instrument.