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Weedon Wednesday: 5th July 2017

Penny at The Tower, Blackpool

TIME TO GET DIS-ORGANISED?

I've noticed that, if I tell people I'm a pianist, they say things like "How lovely - I do envy you!"  But I never get that response when I say I'm an organist. More often than not, eyes glaze over. I've even had remarks such as "Oh, church dirge music?", "You play The Birdie Song  in places with sticky floors, do you?" and "Regina Dixon, eh?" Now all of those reactions are accurate: I do play church organ, I have played 'entertainment organ' in sticky floored venues and I've even had the joy of playing at Blackpool Tower. But doesn't it just show how the word 'organ' covers so many different bases, and many of them misunderstood or even disliked. When I explain that I mainly play an instrument that can sound like an orchestra, a choir, any solo instrument you can name - even a piano or organ, I often get another puzzling response: "You mean one of those things that plays itself?"  Even the organ world has its own divisions. Many pipe organists eschew electronics and vice versa. 

The oddest thing is, when you play people a selection of clips on various types of 'organs', there's usually one clip amongst them that they like. One chap of my acquaintance who heard some orchestral music played on a modern electronic organ said "That's more like it - proper classical music. I'd much rather hear that than an organ. Don't like organs at all."

It seems that the organ world as a whole could have done a better job in the PR department. People are usually well informed about different makes of cars, computers, washing machines, even pianos, violins and guitars. But by all being under the one 'organ umbrella' we've ended up virtually out of sight. 

Maybe you're like me, and you simply enjoy any good music which is well played, irrespective of the instrument. I thought it would be fun over the coming weeks to share our favourite organ performances in whatever styles, so I'm setting the ball rolling today.

As a fan of classical orchestral music, I'm particularly bowled over by this one: 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pdsb94nvpNE
 
Or this one:    

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mibQV_iWU6g

Marco Cerbella can do no wrong in my book - lovely repertoire, beautifully selected sounds and heart-felt performances. People might ask why one would want to hear orchestral classics played by a 'mock' orchestra. My feelings are that Marco and his like are both orchestra and conductor, giving their own interpretation, and they can set up and play in venues where an orchestra would neither be expected nor even fit, bringing lovely music to a new audience. 

Next, a taste of pipe organ music but with a modern twist:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wr9SXtvunwk

Yes, the one and only Cameron Carpenter, sparkling his way through one of his virtuoso arrangements.

Tony has been greatly enjoying Mike Reed's daily offerings on Facebook, which capture what I like best about Hammond organ:

 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4BuHuVrEHp4

I think that should really be titled 'What a difference a sound makes' as Mike is constantly adding or subtracting footages and moving his hands around the keyboards to such good effect. A few mornings back he was struck by inspiration so early that he appeared on Facebook playing in his pyjamas!

Time for a dollop of theatre organ music I think:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JmLVY0fTZrM

George Wright playing one of my favourite melodies, only enhanced by the thick warbling tibias and exotic harmonies he uses. My romance with theatre organs is still in its infancy. I came to them later in life, which is a shame as my great uncle was organist at the New Gallery and I could have learned a lot at his side.

So there we are - a random scratching of the surface of some of my favourites. If I could only use one instrument , it would be the Yamaha we started with as it can pretty much make all the sounds. But what about you? I'd love to hear about your favourite tracks, especially if you can email me a link! Maybe by sharing the many different styles of organ music we can win over some new devotees?

Weedon Wednesday 3: 28th June 2017

Lovely violets

As each week comes around, I ponder on what I can write about come Wednesday. I realise now that planning is unnecessary - something always falls into my lap! This week it was a mention from my friend Shirley of the Fibonacci Sequence, as she gazed at a beautiful little violet. Perhaps this is as new to you as it is to me.  "The fibber what?" I asked. And so she told me...

There is a series of numbers which each add up to make the next number in the series, and which appear time and again in nature, art and music. As they appear in nature (especially in the number of petals on flowers) they obviously can't be contrived - they really do occur 'naturally'. You start with the number 0 and then 1. Add them together and you get another 1. Add both 1s together and you get 2.  Then you add 2 to 1 which gives 3.  Then you add 3 to 2 which gives 5.  Then add 5 to 3 which gives 8.  The start of the series reads:

0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 and so on, ad infinitum.

Shirley showed me how the violet we were admiring had 5 petals. I started examining the flora all around. Irises had 3 petals, buttercups 5, osteospurnums had 13, some daisy things (I'm no Monty Don) had 21. Every flower I looked at had petals that corresponded to Fibonacci numbers. How mysterious!

I felt impelled to look into Fibonacci and music. It's always fascinated me that music one has never heard before can sound predictable. And that certain combinations of notes can put across clear emotions, and reduce a whole audience to tears, or joy, or militance. Was this mysterious sequence behind it?

Well, it's turned out to be a much bigger subject than I imagined. There are lots of intriguing websites covering the subject, but as an appetite whetter here are a few facts:

 A whole octave of notes, say C to the C above including the black keys, contains 13 notes in total. The home note, known as the tonic (in this case C) is number 1 and 13. The next most important note is the dominant, in this case G, which is note number 8 of the 13. Looking at the 8 white keys which make up the actual scale of C (CDEFGABC), the first C is number 1, the upper C is number 8 and G, the dominant, is number 5. The home chord in the key of C is C chord (CEG) and C is note number 1 of the scale, E is number 3 and G is number 5.  Thinking back to the 13 notes including the black keys, C is 1, E is 5 and G is 8. 

If you're familiar with the Circle of Fifths, you'll realise this is also based on the same pattern. All in all, it is just too perfect to be pure chance. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The point where a piece of music climaxes fits mathematically. The relative frequencies of the notes obey the rule too. Having read all this, my head was spinning, so I put on the television to watch The Autistic Gardener. And what was he discussing? Using the Fibonacci sequence to design a garden layout, based on the Fibonacci spiral found in all pine cones!!!

If you find this as interesting as I did, you may care to visit:

 http://www.maths.surrey.ac.uk/hosted-sites/R.Knott/Fibonacci/fibnat.html...

https://www.goldennumber.net/music/

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2pbEarwdusc

and finally this spine-tinglingly wonderful documentary:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4ToUaU4vPks

 

Weedon Wednesday 2: 21st June 2017

Used by kind permission of copyright owner, Steve Bulgin.

This beautiful picture by Steve Bulgin sets the scene for today's thought. By the time you receive this I'll be enjoying a day out on the water. And today's interesting fact is that music about boats and the sea is very often in 6-time.  If you're not familiar with this, it's a rhythm where you can count up to six in every bar, divided into two groups of three, with the stress on the first and fourth counts like this: ONE two three FOUR five six, ONE two three FOUR five six. You can try counting along with Ebb Tide and Blow the Man Down to put this theory to the test.

But why should music in 6-time be so appropriate for watery songs? I believe the answer is in the motion it suggests. Music with 2 beats in each bar corresponds to having two legs. So it's appropriate for marches (1 2, 1 2, left right, left right). But 6-time has a rocking feel to it, just like a boat on a gentle swell. In fact, on a keyboard a 6-time rhythm style is called 'Slow Rock'.  It's also used in many lullabies (Golden Slumbers for example). 

Taking this thought one step further, if you double up 6-time you get, of course, 12-time. And that's the rhythm used for Rock and Roll!

Weedon Wednesday No 1: 14th June 2017

Picture of Elsie

Welcome to the first edition of Weedon Wednesday, a weekly miscellany of musical thoughts which I hope prove interesting.

INTRODUCING ELSIE

First, I promised to bring you news of my latest acquisition, a Yamaha Stagea ELC-02, or "Elsie" for short. I ordered it as soon as I had seen the one owned by Richard Monks. Whatever sound or facility I imagined, it did it or had it.

This dinky 'keyboard orchestra' is as light to carry as its name is cumbersome. I can carry it by myself, with the keyboards in a shoulder bag and the pedals in a hand bag, and set it up in about 5 minutes.

If you're a fan of 'the technicalities', you'll be interested to know it has a massive spec, almost as big as the ginormously heavy and much more expensive Stagea 2. The sounds it offers would seem to be from the very latest flagship Yamaha keyboard (Tyros 5) and piano (CVP709), and then plus some! But it also happily loads registrations from disks or memory sticks which I made on my ancient EL organs and early Yamaha keyboards.

The sounds are sweet and mind-blowingly gorgeous! And it all costs not a lot more than a single keyboard. However, before you dash into town to order one, you won't find it for sale in any music stores in the UK (or even Europe or the US). The only way to obtain it currently is to buy it over the Internet from Japan. This may sound very scary, but I (and countless others) have used the excellent Taro Trade who crate it all up and send it very promptly, with everything including delivery and import duty easily sorted for you. Once it arrives, you can even plug it straight into a UK socket with a clear mind.

Why Yamaha are not selling this game-changing little beauty outside Japan I don't know. I'm not officially meant to plug it, nor am I permitted to appear with it at any Yamaha events. I wonder if this air of mystery is actually part of some subtle marketing plan? Suffice it to say, it's my dream instrument and I shall be recording a new album on it very shortly. You can obtain more details of the ELC-02 from here.

YOU'VE VOTED...

You may notice that the facility to buy individual tracks or complete albums as downloads from my website has been withdrawn. We were excited to offer this service but you, our customers, have voted - by continuing to purchase the actual CDs by mail order from our distributor, Organ1st. Only a handful switched to downloads.

The free downloads and streaming of A Keyboard at Your Fingertips - our course for learners with a visual impairment - are not affected, and will continue to be available, having proved extremely popular.

As for my easy listening albums and talking tuition books, you will still be able to listen to snippets of each track, so you can sample before you buy. You can purchase CDs via the website by clicking on the links provided.

FUTURE WWs

Well, I have lots of ideas I want to share with you, but I'm out of space for now. Please let me know what's on your mind musically and in future Weedon Wednesdays I will include as many of your comments as I can.

We're back!

An interesting parcel

And everything's new at Weedon Music, including a new home in Gloucestershire, and a fantastic new instrument. We have lots of new concert dates lined up too - watch our diary for details - and various new products and ideas on the drawing board. And the first new idea, starting next week, is Weedon Wednesdays - a weekly mini-post direct to your mailbox containing some nugget of musical interest. So if you haven't done so already, subscribe to our newsletter! And in the meantime, here's a picture of an exciting parcel leaving the Far East on it's way to us just a few short weeks ago. We'll unwrap it for you this coming Wednesday!

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