Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I am in awe of musicians. How wonderful it must be to pick up an instrument and make music. Those who can do it probably won’t understand how envious we are, those who, like me, are musically inept. But I guess someone has to be the audience.
It’s amazing the way the members of an orchestra make such complex and interesting sounds and then combine those sounds with all the others at just the right time, all blending together into something grand.
But it’s not just orchestras. Just to play the piano nicely would be great, or the church organ, or a guitar, a sax, an accordion… well, maybe not so much the accordion.

The choirs I have seen and heard use a wonderfully wide variety of music.
I know I’ve mentioned it before but I like it when a big pipe organ, like the one at King’s College, is played loud on a stereo with a good sub-woofer, one that can shake the walls. On their Heavenly Voices CD there is the final number by Karg-Elart that takes the bass notes down into a subsonic range and vibrates through me and makes the neighbors dogs bark. It feels good.

Libera’s DVD from their Leiden concert features a small but gorgeous orchestra along with, of course, Fiona Pears in that slinky black gown, and her beautiful violin.

The orchestra in Les Choristes en Concert is larger and they do some fancy things I’ve never seen like plucking the violin strings with their fingers. The percussionist uses some odd instruments and in one song he keeps time with a couple of smooth palm-sized river stones (a type of rock music I guess).

Saint Johns’ College Ave Verum DVD features their really talented organist, but the choir also does a couple of numbers with just a cello and a harp, a nice combination.

I have a version of Amazing Grace by the Vienna Boy’s Choir that incorporates a surprising electric guitar and a guitar also plays a large role in some of the American Boychoir songs.

When I saw the Vienna Boy’s Choir last fall I was a little surprised that most of the songs were a cappella while only a few were accompanied by the piano. Those kids are great with or without music.

The thing is, I am grateful to all of the musicians of the world for what they give us. What would the world be like without music?


  1. I'd say the world would be awfully boring without music... I love listening to music and making music, and without it I'd lack a certain peace. I've played piano and violin for just about my whole life, but its never to late to learn. Passion is, in part, what creates beautiful music. Someone without a passion for music would never play music as well as someone who truly loved it.

  2. King's College has a "live" (I think it really is live, too) CD called Choral Evensong: it's the whole nine yards, too--music, readings from the Book of Common Prayer, &c. As an Anglican/Episcopalian personally, I highly value this CD...your discussion on that large pipe organ brought this one to mind: it spotlights both the choir and the large bass pipes of the instrument--I listened to it recently on a system with a subwoofer and was shocked at the fidelity of the bass (especially since the recording is a little old). It's a cheapie, too: $7.99 via Amazon.com, I think...

  3. Oh, and as an organist, may I say: Karg-Elert is REALLY HARD--if you like his style, check out Max Reger or Wilhelm Middelschulte...both were heavily influenced by Bach (and it really shows in Reger) and both wrote stuff that's well-nigh impossible for mere mortals to pound out!

  4. Thanks Kelsie. I'll look for those. Sounds like just the thing I like.

  5. Speaking of organs, I have an old LP of the Las Piñas Boys Choir and The Historic Bamboo Organ of Las Piñas (Philippines). All the pipes for the organ are made of bamboo and it has quite unique sound.

  6. That's amazing, Buck. I'd like to hear that. I wonder how they get the different pitches.