Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who said the organ wasn't exciting?

Who, indeed.

It's been an inspiring couple of weeks - I was a participant in the McGill Summer Organ Academy, which is now arguably one of the top summer organ festivals in the world. The quality of performance and teaching on offer in the various masterclasses was, as always, superb, and after my week at the RCCO convention, I have a long list of repertoire to tackle for the fall. I also return with a few battle scars; whatever your organ playing horror story is, I doubt it can top the following:

- cutting your finger on a broken key (a tenor F, I think) while making a manual change

. . . in the Guillou toccata

. . . in a public masterclass

. . . with Olivier Latry.

There was nothing to do, of course, but keep playing, wondering occasionally if I was bleeding all over the keyboard. (Thankfully, I wasn't.)

The best, however, was yet to come, as I returned to my temporary church home in Toronto to practice, and found the organ almost unusable - it was hopelessly out of tune, and the Swell division seemed to have more dead notes than working ones. What was going on?

A thorough investigation turned up a nest of baby squirrels in the bell tower, inside a box marked - I kid you not - "Nativity Set". Inside the organ was a scene of untold carnage, with pipes strewn across the floor and the telltale marks of teeth on the toe boards. Squirrels, of course, are notorious for their dislike of twentieth-century French music, and might have planned this act of vandalism to stop me from playing Messiaen and Guillou, but the people at pest control suggest that they were only after the felt from the valves, which they use to build their nest.

In the meantime, it seems that we are in for an expensive repair job, and that I need to start making friends with the piano again (horrors!)

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