Hard to believe summer is almost over—I only have two weeks of work before I move in to the dorms (a week before school starts due to orientation leader training). I’ve had a busy summer so far, so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d prefer. Anyway, you’re probably not interested in this, but here is a rambling of my summer, with maybe some other thoughts that occur to me while typing (ignore if you want, it’s a release for me).
Most recently—a day ago, in fact—I bought a new computer: a refurbished 21.5″ Apple iMac (2.5 GHz i5 quad-core processor, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, OS X 10.7.4 Lion), to which I will be adding a 2 TB external FireWire/USB hard drive (for backups and video editing projects), 8 GB RAM and an Apple Pro Keyboard (early 2000s—I can’t stand the new slim Apple keyboards). I bought Final Cut Pro X via the App Store and will use it next semester in a broadcast media/digital production class; also, I installed the Adobe CS3 Master Collection (I don’t really want the new CS5/6, as I am most familiar with the CS3 interface; also, I need CS3 for backward compatibility).
As a result of the new computer, as well as school starting shortly, I hope to post more to this blog, including some class video projects and other things.
Basic Summer Status—Paint, Paint and More Paint
After last semester ended mid-May I moved to a friend’s house in nearby Pullman, Washington and began working for Phos Painting, a local painting business comprised of the college pastor at my church (Living Faith Fellowship) and several other of my church friends. This painting outfit is one of the largest in the Palouse area, with contracts to do most of the apartment painting (interior and exterior) for DABCO Property Management, as well as other projects around the region. It’s tiring work, but rewarding—I’ve lost about two inches of waistline since starting—and the people I’m working with are amazing and enjoyable (definitely one of the best work environments I’ve been in).
I typically work 40+ hours per week, doing everything from the 6″ roller (my main painting instrument) to carrying ladders and scraping/sanding/masking exterior surfaces in preparation for painting. We get things done; today I was part of a three-man interior crew that painted two apartments and a three-bedroom, two-story townhouse in Pullman while others worked on a myriad of diverse projects. Over the summer total, we collectively did more than 90 apartment interiors, stairwells and decks at a 23-building complex and the decks and stairwells at another complex.
This ends in two weeks as I prepare to move back into my dorm and attempt to transition to the school life. The only hard part about moving back to the dorms will be the lack of a fully-stocked kitchen available, in which I can cook anything anytime I want to. I love cooking, from cookies to entrées like my mom’s famous oven steak (recipe to follow in separate post) or the chuck roast I cooked this week. Over the summer, I’ve made peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles, chocolate-chip/peanut-butter-chip cookies and others, as well as the aforementioned oven steak and tonight’s scratch-made Sloppy Joes.
Highlight: Organ Historical Society Convention—In Chicago!
This summer I was extremely privileged to be named one of seven 2012 E. Power Biggs Fellows, an award by the Organ Historical Society to allow a young person to attend their first OHS convention, all expenses paid. The convention (July 8-13) was a six-day affair of back-to-back recitals in the Chicago area on a multitude of instruments in a plethora of styles. These included a late-1800s Hook and Hastings, several E.M. Skinner organs of various sizes(including the Schantz rebuild of the Rockefeller Chapel instrument), two theatre organs (a silent film and concert on the 3/10 Wurlitzer at the Tivoli Theatre, Downers Grove, and the mammoth 5/80 composite organ at the Sanfilippo residence in Barrington Hills), a Möller organ installed in the Carl Schurz High School and many others, 30 in total.
One feature of the convention that left me awestruck was the hymn singing, which reinforced why I love the pipe organ and prefer traditional styles of worship, even though I attend a contemporary church. Almost every one of the recitals featured a hymn, which was sung by the whole audience with only organ accompaniment (except one concert that featured a brass quartet as well). Most of the attendees were church musicians, choir directors or choir singers, so they knew the hymns well, including the last-verse descant lines and intricate harmonies. The sound of 40+ such people in a high-ceiling church with good acoustics singing their hearts out with the firm foundation of the pipe organ is an experience that can only be believed in person, and which is anything but boring or dull as modern church label it.
My favorite concert was Jonathan Ortloff’s concert at Sanfilippo’s Friday night, a popular program with a mix of humor and serious music-making, all under the auspices of Ortloff’s considerable dexterity and musicality. Songs included “An American in Paris”—not the actual Gershwin piece, but a medley of Gershwin songs, including “I’ve Got Rhythm” and “How Long Has this Been Going On?” played in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The former started as a typical jazzy theatre organ solo, then returned after the latter (which was played with the Hazleton “dirty” sound) in the guise of a Widor-esque Toccata! Also played were “Moon River,” a Stravinsky transcription and the Hymn “Earth and All Stars,” which the whole group sang. The hymn opened with the “Star Trek Fanfare”; Ortloff used the organ’s vast tonal resources to convey the items described in each stanza (boiling test tubes, pounding machinery, loud trumpets).
One of the more emotional recitals was Wednesday morning at Carl Schurz High School, a large Whitelegg-era Möller in a 2,500-seat live acoustic. John Sherer played a program to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The recital opened with Elgar’s “Empire March” and Edwin Bairstowe’s “Elegy,” both of which were written in 1912. Next were three short numbers heard aboard the ship that fateful day: Sousa’s “El Capitan” march, Offenbach’s “Barcarolle from ‘The Tales of Hoffman'” (played two hours before the iceberg collision on the ship’s orchestrion [player organ]), and Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” which was played by the ship’s band on the deck as the lifeboats were being launched. The first two were played quite well, but a bit more swinging feel could have made the Berlin pop a bit more. The best part of the program was entitled Music to Honor the Titanic Victims and featured Joseph Bonnet’s poignant piece “In Memoriam” as well as the concluding hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” This hymn, which speaks of protection in nautical endeavors, was especially suited to the occasion; between the words, the context and the beautiful harmony, I nearly choked up with tears on the last verse.
The trip had too many exciting things to recount here, but I will recall one last thing: I had the privilege of pumping the Hook and Hastings organ in Valparaiso, Ind., during James Russell Brown’s performance. The first piece (Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”) featured the organ’s electric blower; however, the remainder of the 45-minute recital was played using wind supplied by the old-fashioned pumping mechanism to the side of the organ. A long handle attached to feeder bellows provided air to the main reservoir, just like in the old day. It was hard work, but very fun and rewarding!
Well, this post rambled on longer than I meant and—at the same time—not long enough to cover everything. However, I’m tired, and you’ve probably given up reading, so I’ll stop here and wish you all a good night/morning/whatever time it is if/when you read this. I’ll post the recipe to oven steak in a day or two.
Thanks for reading this far in my uninteresting ramblings…
Thomas Dressler’s new CD, “Thomas Dressler Plays the Paul Fritts Organ, Princeton Theological Seminary,” on which I did all the design/typographic work, is now available on CD Baby as a physical CD—recommended because of the superb liner notes and package design, as well as the quality sound from Oasis‘ single-speed mastering—and as an MP3 download.
[EDIT: Apologies for the failed video preview and links in the earlier version. This one should be correct]
Here I play the Bach F Major Prelude (BWV 556), from the Eight Little Preludes & Fugues, on the University of Idaho’s completely original 1953, 3/26 Casavant Freres pipe organ, a wonderfully-sounding throwback instrument rooted in the 1930s and ’40s.
Thomas Dressler plays Georg Böhm’s ornamented setting of “Vater unser im Himmelreich,” a track from his new CD, “Thomas Dressler Plays the Paul Fritts Organ, Princeton Theological Seminary,” on which I did design work.
The Vater unser is an old Lutheran hymn tune setting of the Lord’s Prayer, played here on the beautifully expressive Swell Cornet and accompanied by the Great Principal 8′.
Tuesday, March 20, I finished design work on a classical pipe organ CD by Pennsylvania organist friend Thomas Dressler. Called “Thomas Dressler Plays the Paul Fritts Organ, Princeton Theological Seminary,” the CD features German organ works by J.S. Bach, Böhm, Scheidt, C.P.E. Bach and others, ranging from the Renaissance to the Baroque period and beyond.
We are offering the CD for $15 direct from the artist, and pre-orders are being accepted now. Email Tom@thomasdressler.com for instructions on how to pre-order, or send a letter with your name, address, payment and other order information to:Thomas Dressler Productions
P.O. Box 913
Albrightsville, PA 18210
will be is available directly from Thomas around Easter 2012 and will be available at CD Baby [EDIT: Available now at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thomasdressler], the Organ Historical Society, Amazon and other online venues shortly thereafter. MP3 downloads through iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby will be available within a month or so of their receiving the album.