Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Baptist Church of Washington DC: new organ installed, in use in services; I get to try it

Today, I finally heard the new Austin organ at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.
Organist Lawrence P. Schreiber chose works by Dale Wood.  The Prelude was a setting of Slane's “Be Thou My Vision”, and the Postlude (excerpted below to demo the sound) was the piece “Pisgah”, a somewhat impressionistic piece sounding like Vaughn Williams, loud and virile toward the end, with a repeating note theme.
The anthem was “Go Out Into the World in Peace”, by K. Lee Scott, with a clarinet solo part played by Ron Aldridge, as well as choir and organ.

After the service, I got to try the organ.  I started out by playing from memory the opening theme of the last slow movement from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #3.  I had actually played this during Army Basic Training on a Sunday morning chapel service in May 1968, toward the end of my training (after the spell in Special Training Company).  It works on the organ, if you can get the shifting harmonies (centering around D Major) right.  I’ve  heard the whole symphony once in performance, in 2002 by the Minnesota Orchestra.
I then experimented.  I froze on trying to play the opening of “How Can I Live in Your World of Ideas?” from Timo Andres’s “Shy and Mighty” (May 20, 2010), but could have tried “Antennae”.  Instead, I pieced together “In the Moonlight” from “Modern Family” by Reid Ewing.  It sounds solemn on a church organ, although I stumbled on the “Do Me” part.  If done right, this amazing little piece works on an organ.  I had a little fun with the opening of  “Imagine Me Naked”.  (Ok, for people who know the words and video – is the double entendre inappropriate for “after church?”)   The I turned to my own music, the opening piano clatter theme (C Major) from my third Sonata (1962).  I should have tried the “Applause” theme from the finale, which moves from F#-Major back to C in minor-third steps. 

As for Jaron Lanier – I’m not a gadget – but, sorry, I couldn’t remember any of your “Consciousness” themes or motifs (June 19) except maybe the Ives Concord setting. 

The church service order preparation had an interesting quote: “Fear of God is that reverence for God which leads to obedience because of the realization of His power as well as His live.”   I remember this came up in Sunday school about two years ago, sort of out of place.  I’m not to much for “obedience’ (I remember Arvin Vohra’s comments about that in his recent book on education – Books blog  April 19, 2013.  Debra Cochrane preached an unusually dark sermon, “Faith and Fear”, based on some passages (1 Kings 19:1-15; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39).  She mentioned demons, and although there was no explicit mention of Holmes and Lanza and similar others, there seemed to be a political context that people who amass weapons gratuitously may be led by evil.  This can obviously feed the political debate so familiar with Piers Morgan.  It actually sounds relevant also to the NSA metadata snooping scandal, which is erupting in the news again today.   

There is some history, by the way, of the the old Moeller organ.  It had been built in 1929 for the old Church, before the new sanctuary building opened on Christmas Day, 1955.  Because of budget reasons, a new organ was not bought, but the old one was moved.  

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