NEWS: Pasadena Symphony offers 1-day, 65% off ticket sale

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
The Los Angeles News Group
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

If you’re looking for an early Christmas-present idea, consider the Pasadena Symphony’s one-day ticket offer. On Monday, Dec. 1 beginning at 12 a.m. and running for 24 hours you can get 65% off of all single tickets for the four remaining concerts in PSO’s 2014-2015 season.

The offer — which doesn’t apply to the Dec. 13 holiday concert nor to Pops tickets — is only available to clicking online at www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org and using the promo code CYBER when checking out.

The concerts are January 17, February 14, March 21 and May 7. Each has performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena.

For more information, click HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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“Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart”

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles News Group
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

“Have you ever thought … what the world would be like without music? … We would all be humans and life would go on, but it would be much more difficult to mourn our losses and celebrate our loves. God gave us music, I think, so that we would have some hint of what She is like. God sings to our hearts with music, telling us of love about which we would know much less if it were not for music.”

This quote from a gem of a little book, Star Bright, by one of my favorite authors, Father Andrew Greeley, rings especially true as we approach the season of Thanksgiving. “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” wrote the songwriter Henry Luke, and there are, of course, many things for which I like to give thanks, among them, classical music.

First, of course, I give thanks for the magical, mystical medium of music, which speaks to us in ways that mere words cannot. So today I give thanks for those who continue to compose music, often battling significant odds. Every week it seems that wonderful new compositions appear, sometimes when we least expect it. I find this particularly true in choral music, but perhaps that’s because my heart resonates especially to music that can be sung.

Let us never forget that music is not just notes on a page. It comes alive when musicians perform it. So I give thanks for instrumentalists, conductors, choristers and soloists who make the music. As a critic my job is to report on what I saw and heard at a program, but because I am also a performer I never forget how difficult is the art and craft of performance. Being a critic is almost always a juggling act.

Unfortunately, not every everything in music is a happy story. Once again this year we need to give special thanks for music educators in schools, conservatories and churches who struggle to keep the music candle shining in a society that finds it hard to believe that art is an indispensable part of the educational process.

Moreover, let us remember parents who know the value of music and the arts and who work hard to find the extra income necessary to give their children a music education. I believe there is a direct correlation between the decline in music education and society’s increase in violence, bigotry and mistrust. May we come to our senses before it is too late.

There are so many others — administrators, volunteers, boards of directors, financial supporters and others — who come together to enrich our lives through concerts, recitals, opera productions and other events. We need to remember, support and give thanks to all of them, especially at this time of the year.

The best way of saying thanks is, of course, to attend concerts and, fortunately, there will be plenty of musical cheer offered during the holiday season. December will be EXTREMELY busy and you will read about them in upcoming posts on the Los Angeles News Group Web sites. Take time from the hectic commercial season and spend an hour or two in a concert. Consider it a present to yourself. And give thanks with a grateful heart.
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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COMPENDIUM: Happy Birthday “Hurricane Mama!”

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles News Group
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
hurricanemama_head
This weekend marks the official celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ, dubbed “Hurricane Mama” by organist and composer Terry Riley after he first played it. The Los Angeles News Group has published several of my articles on the organ and upcoming concerts and following are the links:

• First, my review of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s concert on Nov. 20, one of the major events celebrating the organ, is HERE.
• My preview of organist Cameron Carpenter’s appearance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic is HERE. I have an additional article on Cameron at the bottom of this post HERE.
• My profile of composer Stephen Hartke, whose Symphony No. 4 is receiving its world premiere this weekend, is HERE.

• What’s behind the façade of the Disney Hall organ? Published online HERE. Additional notes on the WDCH organ stories are at the bottom of this post HERE.

• Timothy Mangan, music critic of the Orange County Register, has a sparkling interview with Cameron HERE.

Concert performance details:

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor.
Barber: Toccata Festiva; Cameron Carpenter, organist
Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”); Cameron Carpenter, organist
Hartke: Symphony No. 4; Joanne Pearce Martin, organist, Heidi Stober, soprano
• Nov. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. Nov. 22 at 2 p.m.
NOTE: In place of a preconcert recital, Cameron Carpenter will play a recital at 6:45 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com
• Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa
Same program; Rich Capparella will give a preconcert lecture at 1 p.m.
Information: 949/553-2422; www.philharmonicsociety.org

Happy Birthday “Hurricane Mama”: Pulling Out all the Stops
Organ recital by eight different organists; hosted by Michael Barrone of “Pipedreams”
Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Information: 323/850-2000; www.laphil.com
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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What’s behind the Disney Hall Organ makes it special

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News
Los Angeles Newspaper Group


Disney Hall organLR
The Walt Disney Concert Hall pipe organ celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend with a series of concerts. (Photo from Los Angeles Philharmonic)
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My article and photos on the Walt Disney Concert Hall pipe organ, published online in Los Angeles News Group Web sites today, is HERE.

Additional notes on the organ:
• With 128 stops, the Disney Hall organ is unusually flexible, especially given its size. The word “stop” is ironic since to create sound organists draw the stop knobs toward them, whereas when they push the knob and the sound “stops.” There are 80 manual thumb pistons and 28 pedal toe-pistons that function like push buttons on a car radio, allowing the organist to set combinations of pipes (often called registering the organ). A computer provides 300 memory levels for the organist’s preset registrations, which gives an organist more than 32,000 different registrations.
• The main keyboard uses mechanical (aka “tracker”) action, with wooden rods connecting the 61 keys on four keyboards (manuals) to their pipes. The stage console uses electro-pneumatic lines to connect the keyboards to the keys. There’s quite a difference both the action of the keys and how the organist hears the sound, depending on whether they’re on the stage floor or enveloped in the pipes surrounding the main keyboard.
• The main keyboard and the stage console are each equipped with digital recorders for playback and archival purposes. Using that facility, the organist can record a piece and then sit in the hall to hear how it sounds to an audience member.
• Manuel Rosales and his company, Rosales Organ Builders, collaborated with the German firm Glatter-Götz Orgelbau on the mechanical design, tuning and voicing of the organ more than a decade ago. It was Rosales’ firm that did the voicing and tuning of the instrument once it was shipped from Germany and he continues to maintain it today.

Other concert hall organs:
• At 6,134 pipes in 109 ranks (or sets), the Disney Hall organ is one of the largest concert hall instruments in the world but not the largest. Others larger are:
— Davies Hall, San Francisco: 147 ranks, more than 8,000 pipes; built by Fratelli Ruffatti Co. of Padua, Italy and installed in 1984.
— Verizon Hall (Kimmel Center), Philadelphia: 125 ranks, 6,938 pipes; built by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa and installed in 2006.
• Locally the Disney Hall organ is roughly the same size as the Royce Hall, UCLA instrument, built in 1930 by the E.M. Skinner Co. and restored after the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. The Royce Hall organ has more pipes (6,600+) but less ranks (104) than the Disney Hall instrument.

E.M. Skinner was active during the first 1/3 of the 20th century. It merged in 1932 with the pipe organ division of the Æolian company to become the Æolian-Skinner Pipe Organ Co., one of America’s most significant organ-building companies until it closed in 1972.
• The Disney Hall organ is slightly smaller than the new organ (6,489 pipes, 116 ranks) built last year by Casavant Freres of St-Hyacinthe, Quebec for the Maison symphonique de Montréal, home to Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.
• OTHERS: The Kennedy Center has a 5,000-pipe organ built by Casavant Freres. Dallas’ Meyerson Symphony Center’s organ, by C.B. Fisk, Inc. of Gloucester, Mass. with 4,535 pipes, which is somewhat larger than the William J. Gillespie Organ (also a Fisk) at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa (4,322 pipes). The Chicago Symphony Hall has a Casavant organ with 3,414 pipes (59 ranks).

Large church organs:
Many churches and cathedrals around the world have pipe organs larger than Disney Hall.
• First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, has a combination of pipe organs that add up 20,417 pipes (346 ranks). The main organs are an E.M. Skinner model built in 1937 in the chancel and a Schlicker model installed three decades later in the West Gallery. There are other divisions spread around the sanctuary. Everything can be played from either the Skinner or Schlicker keyboard.
• Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove (formerly the Crystal Cathedral) has a Ruffatti instrument that was designed for The Rev. Robert Schuller’s original church and then reinstalled in the Crystal Cathedral in 1962. There it was combined with the 1962 Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ once housed at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center. The organ, currently under restoration by Ruffatti, has nearly 16,000 pipes (273 ranks).
• Lake Ave. Church in Pasadena has a Casavant organ with more than 7,000 pipes (125 ranks).

World’s largest pipe organs:
The world’s largest pipe organ is in the seven-story-high court at Macy’s Department Store (formerly Wanamaker’s) in Philadelphia. This instrument was originally built in in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair by the Los Angeles Art Organ Company, which was formed after the Murray M. Harris Co. folded. (Harris was one of the notable organ builders at the turn of the 20th century — the organ at the First Church of Christ Science, Pasadena, is a Harris, as is the organ at Stanford University’s Memorial Church). After the St. Louis World’s Fair, John Wanamaker bought the organ for his department store.

The second-largest organ is in the Cadet Chapel at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. Designed in 1911 by another legendary 20th century organ builder, M.P. Moeller, and later enlarged it has 23,236 pipes in 380 ranks.
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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PREVIEW: Peninsula Symphony to open its 48th season Sunday

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
The Los Angeles News Group

My preview of the Peninsula Symphony’s opening concert of its 48th season in Redondo Beach is posted online HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2014, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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