Wednesday, August 18, 2021

One More Organ

No More Chickens: Abq Jew is extremely happy to report that he has, indeed, completed 71 revolutions around our Sun, his favorite star in the Milky Way! 

Thank God

Which brings us back to the subject of organs. Look - if we're going to talk about organs (even chord organs, as we did last week in Grandma Had Secrets), we're just gonna have to talk about the real thing.

Castro Theatre Organ    Photo: David Hegarty

You know - the the big boys.

Like the organ that may or may not have been installed at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Built in 1922 by pioneer entrepreneurs, the Nasser brothers. Designed by Timothy L Pflueger, the theater has been designated San Francisco landmark status. Temporarily closed.

Destined to be the largest pipe-digital hybrid organ in the world, this colossus is stacked with:

1,800 Pipes       7 Keyboards

800 "Stop Tab” Keys       120 Speakers

Castro Theatre

GREAT NEWS! Jay Barmann reported on Hoodline in January that 

The new hybrid digital/pipe organ that has been in the works for the grand Castro Theatre for about six years is finally about to become a reality, and depending on how long it takes to ship from Pennsylvania and how long it takes for movie theaters to safely reopen in San Francisco, it may arrive just time for the Castro's next public screenings.

Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 "Organ" - Finale (Auckland Symphony Orchestra)

Historically, The Jews and The Organ have had a ... complicated ...relationship. And yet. Benjamin Ivry wrote in The Forward in 2012 a piece titled

Why The Organ Is The Most Jewish Instrument

Which begins: 

To some lovers of classical sounds, organ music seems irremediably goyish, despite outstanding achievements by such Jewish composers as Aaron Copland and Arnold Schoenberg in writing for the so-called “king of instruments.” 

And points out that: 

musicologist Tina Frühauf, notes that “until the Middle Ages, the organ was not officially permitted in any Christian liturgy inasmuch as instrumental music was associated… with the Jewish services once held in the temple at Jerusalem.”

Even after organs appeared in churches and became taboo for synagogues, there remained some Jewish fans of organ music ....

That's right! The organ was originally TOO JEWISH for churches. Then it flipped. Now the organ is TOO CHRISTIAN for synagogues. Go figure.

As they say - there's organ music, and then there's Organ Music. And the Best Organ Music is, of course (really, there's no competition) the Organ Symphony written by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886. Wikipedia tells us:

The Symphony No. 3 in C minorOp. 78, was completed by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886 at what was probably the artistic peak of his career. It is also popularly known as the Organ Symphony, even though it is not a true symphony for organ, but simply an orchestral symphony where two sections out of four use the pipe organ. The composer inscribed it as: Symphonie No. 3 "avec orgue" (with organ).

Of composing the work Saint-Saëns said "I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again." The composer seemed to know it would be his last attempt at the symphonic form, and he wrote the work almost as a type of "history" of his own career: virtuoso piano passages, brilliant orchestral writing characteristic of the Romantic period, and the sound of a cathedral-sized pipe organ.

The symphony was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society in England, and the first performance was given in London on 19 May 1886, at St James's Hall, conducted by the composer. After the death of his friend Franz Liszt on 31 July 1886, Saint-Saëns dedicated the work to Liszt's memory. The composer also conducted the symphony's French premiere in January 1887.


If you have never heard this piece - and especially, the Finale - performed LIVE IN CONCERT, well, you must (MUST!) add it to your Bucket List. In the meantime - here is the Auckland Symphony Orchestra's performance of (just) the Finale. 

TURN UP THE VOLUME and stand back!

OK ... and now you're thinking -
I've heard that tune before.
Now, where was it?


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