With 24 registered participants, members of the Tacoma AGO Chapter entertained and educated prospective organists in a 3-hour, 2-venue Pizza, Pedals, and Pipes event.
At the Fritts Shop
The event began at the Paul Fritts organ shop in Parkland, with introductions, pizza, drinks, and homemade brownies.
Paul Fritts introduced Opus 41, a work in progress slated for delivery this Fall to the First Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana. Surrounded by engaged piano students, Paul explained the construction process, mechanical action, and demonstrated how a pipe works.
Students got to observe the movement of the trackers in response to keys being depressed. Several students tried the keyboard as Paul explained the difference between the feel of a piano and the feel of a mechanical action organ.
Paul then led the group on a tour of the shop, starting with pipe making. Students got to see lead sheets on a sand table, and learned about how the metal is melted and formed into pipes. The group proceeded into the woodworking shop to learn how raw wood is transformed into an organ case.
Following the tour, Paul Tegels demonstrated the organ, showing how pipes of different lengths make sounds in different octaves, using musical examples. At this stage in its construction, only a few complete stops are working, but it was enough to get the idea across.
Over the next several weeks, the organ will be completed, but still not in its final form. It will be disassembled, put onto a moving van, then reassembled in the church that is to be its home. At that time, the organ will be voiced and tuned, each pipe being optimized for the acoustical environment of First Presbyterian Church.
At Lagerquist Hall
Arriving at Lagerquist Hall, the group received an introduction to the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Organ, a large 3-manual mechanical action organ built by the Fritts Company in 1998. The introduction began with a description of Lagerquist Hall, with its variable acoustical environment. and continued with the layout of the organ, including its several divisions.
Paul Tegels then opened a brief recital with Toccata in D Minor of J. S. Bach–sure to appeal to aspiring organists! The recital continued with pieces chosen (or written) for the occasion, including Cheryl Drewes and Curt Sather playing transcriptions of pieces known to all teenagers–themes from Harry Potter and Star Wars. Paul Tegels then concluded the recital with a very exciting rendition of Grand Choeur Dialogue of Eugène Gigout.
Students Play Two Organs
The group split into two smaller groups, led by Satya Jaech and Cheryl Drewes, so that each could have some hands-on time on two different organs.
Curt Sather gave a brief introduction to the key desk in the Lagerquist organ gallery, and then assisted each student who wanted to play, providing registration assistance and even accompaniments to their pieces.
Paul Tegels made a small portable organ available in a classroom. This organ has a single keyboard, with three stops, and no pedal board. It was built by John Brombaugh and Co in 1979. The three stops are an 8’ Gedeckt (wood), 4’ Flute (wood), 2’ Principal (metal). It has a transposing keyboard, so it can play at A=440 Hz, or A=415 Hz. It has elaborate carvings, and has traveled to Europe and China. Such organs are typically used for playing continuo in musical groups or choral performances, but today it provided an excellent transition for piano students playing organ for the first time.
Two World Premiere Transcriptions
It should be noted and recognized that two of our chapter members transcribed pieces for this occasion in order to demonstrate organ literature in a way that would appeal to a wide audience.
Cheryl Drewes spent several weeks working on a transcription of Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, resulting in a work not unlike some of the standard symphonic organ works. Concerning her work, Cheryl says ” It is always important to make the orchestral score into a true organ piece; keyboard logistics, registration and style all have to be considered. As an orchestral piece, the tempo is furiously fast- string players can do that. As an organ piece, the tempo is a bit slower, about a Baroque allegro, which works fine because that tempo is idiomatic to the organ. I was lucky that Williams’ orchestration fit in the hands and feet just fine. It felt like a chorale followed by a trio sonata followed by a fantasia- a Buxtehude Preludium and Vierne Pièces de fantaisie mash-up.”
Curt Sather chose a medley of themes from Star Wars, including the film’s opening theme, Princes Leia’s theme, and the Darth Vader theme. and filled Lagerquist with images of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Curt was playing from a lead sheet he created–a musical blueprint to be filled in while playing. The lead sheet describes very basic melody and indications of harmony. The musical voices themselves are improvised by the player during the performance. There is nothing like a 32-foot reed to send Darth Vader scurrying.
This album contains additional photographs from the event.
This event would not have been possible without the interest and enthusiasm of a number of members of our chapter. In particular, we acknowledge
- Paul Fritts for his generosity and hospitality, opening his shop on a Saturday, giving a talk and a tour, and answering lots of questions.
- The staff of the Fritts Organ Shop for working extra hours to get the organ playable for this event, and especially to Stevie Jett for helping with pizza baking and other logistics.
- Paul Tegels, University Organist at pacific Lutheran University, for hosting the Lagerquist portion of the day, making two organs available, playing at both venues, and helping students play their pieces on a continuo organ.
- Cheryl Drewes for many hours transcribing and performing a piece that the participants would recognize and enjoy, for acting as host, and patiently answering questions.
- Curt Sather for his own transcription and performance of a difficult piece, for hosting, answering questions, and providing accompaniment and registration as students played their pieces.
- Satya Jaech for acting as host, helping to plan the content of the instructional sessions, obtaining booklets for each student to take home, and being a moving force in the planning.
- Karen Bredberg for participating in event planning, and planning and preparing the food.
- Sandy Tietjen for participating in event planning, and planning and preparing the food.
- Don Rumsfeld for participation in the planning and preparing a color handout for each participant.
- David Dahl for participating in the planning, and for providing guidance and encouragement to the group.
- Una Hwang, Sub-dean and Program Chair, for the vision, leadership, and tenacity to make this event work, and for recognizing the importance of community outreach and education.