Organ concerts – behind the scenes

On May 3rd, 2015 I was one of two performers at a 2-organ concert. It is unusual these days to have a single organ concert, let alone one that features 2 organs. The location of the concert was a small church in the small town of Micanopy, FL (population 600). The building can hold a very uncomfortable 75, maybe 100. The following video was shot by an audience member and is not the greatest video, but it’s all I’ve got:

The 2nd organ was installed on Thursday and modifications were made to the existing organ as well. As of early Sunday morning there were serious doubts whether the existing organ would be working as it should for the concert.

To back up a bit, one should know something about the building itself. Due to the size of the building, a pipe organ of any size that would be practical for the needs of the church is out of the question, so there is an electronic organ in the building. It is a good sounding organ based on sampling technology. The organ also has 2 sound modules attached via MIDI.

The concert itself went very well, in spite of the problems you will read about below. We adjusted the pews (which are not attached to the floors) so that the front half of pews faced on another facing the center aisle. In the back, 3 pews on one side faced forward, the other 3 faced backwards and there was one pew against the wall allowing for a view of the console and feet of the installed organ. The temporary organ was placed across the center aisle as far forward as one could go without getting into the church’s altar area. The idea was that people could see both organists if seated up front and/or just one or the other organist when seated in the back seats.

Needless to say, a temporary organ will not be a pipe organ either.  In this case it was what I would call a modern theater organ. The available sounds were not sounds one would normally associate with church music. It was almost like having an orchestra at one’s fingertips. As you might imagine, setting it up and getting it to sound good would take some time.

The existing organ, only installed about 2 years ago, was working fine. However, the initial installation had been a bit of an experiment regarding the antiphonal speakers. The guest organist, the theater organist was also the person who installed the church’s existing organ. He decided, with my approval, to change what sounds go to which speakers.

The organ has 6-channel outputs and we also have two sound modules, one an organ sound module and the other a Korg orchestral sound module. All controlled by MIDI. The organ module had been modified from stereo out to a 3-channel (each stereo) output. We have two sets of speakers (separate channels) in the back near the organ and another set at the front of the church (opposite side from the organ, the antiphonal speakers). We changed the routing of the various outputs of the organ and the 2 modules to different speakers. All of the organ went to the speakers near the organ up on the wall. Some to the top speakers, some to the bottom speakers. (Prior to this, all of the swell went to the antiphonal speakers). The Korg module now comes out of the front (antiphonal) speakers as does the Division B of the organ module. Changing the outputs, which involved many changes to cables, mixers and software configurations ended up taking about 6 hours on Thursday. As we left that evening, everything sounded good, much better than before.

I came in on Friday to practice. I loaded up some presets/pistons and almost got blasted off the organ bench. The external organ module was not being heard from the correct channels and was much louder than it had been on Thursday. It was not useable as it was. On Saturday around 6pm the organ installer/technician is back. We discover that the modifications to the organ module were not working. (At least that’s our best guess right now). We had to re-do the output of it in order to get things the way we wanted. Then on Sunday morning nothing is coming out of the organ module. So, we determine the organ module’s modified outputs are bad and are affecting the original outputs. Fortunately we were able to get it to work for the concert. And it did. The last I’ve heard is he will take the module and repair it so at least the original outputs work. We set the different divisions to mono outputs and routed Division B to the right side that led to the antiphonal speakers. The rest of the outputs went to the left and the speakers by the organ.

As to the program itself, I played the first half and the guest organist did the next half (and then some). It was decided that I would do more traditional organ music. I did a variety of classical music and hymn arrangements. The guest organist did mostly orchestral transcriptions and popular music with a few hymn tunes thrown in, but with orchestral sounds.

For a town of 600, we were quite happy to have the 40 or so people come out to view the program. The audience seems to have really enjoyed it. The church is anticipating a concert series for the 2015/2016 season (Sep through May).

If you are in Micanopy, FL, – a great place to visit to see ‘old’ Florida & where the movie Doc Hollywood was filmed – stop by the Church of the Mediator, across from the Herlong mansion some Sunday morning and hear the organ.

 

Advertisements

About jamesgilbertmusic

JamesGilbertMusic is a web based publisher of sheet music and mp3 files. The founder, James Gilbert, is a pianist, organist composer/arranger and piano teacher. He offers piano lessons in Micanopy.
This entry was posted in Church Music, General, Organ Music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.