Worth a Thousand Words

January 31, 2012

Tip of the hat to Christopher Russell

If you (or someone you know) has an interest in making music in the context of liturgy, here’s an opportunity: beginning February 1, I will be assuming the duties of Director of Music at the Church of Notre Dame, on Morningside Drive at West 114th Street (one block from the Columbia University campus, around the corner from St. John the Divine, and next door to St. Luke’s Hospital) and the Columbia University Catholic Ministry.

Both the church and the chapel have enviable music histories. The church has some of the most thrilling acoustics for singing that I’ve ever encountered, a distinguished 1924 organ by Casavant Frères, and a music library of over 1,400 items. The library and the musical tradition of the parish are especially rich in Renaissance polyphony, but the repertory will also be inclusive of earlier and later eras, as well. There is a polyphonic choir that sings on Sundays at 11:30 a.m., but there are also schola opportunities at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays as well as at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. That’s at the church itself. I’ll also be providing music for the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass in St. Paul’s Chapel of Columbia University. That has equally fabulous acoustics and one of New York’s most important organs.

The choir of Notre Dame is a chamber group that meets for rehearsal on Wednesday evenings. The choir at St. Paul’s Chapel rehearses at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons.

The clergy there are remarkable. We’re lucky to have three brilliant, and very different, priests who will give us support in creating beautiful music and who have already made amazing — and, frankly, unexpected — contributions to my own life. (I’ve been helping out with the music there for some time and have become very attached to the popular — and intense! — meditation sessions held on Monday evenings in the grotto chapel.)

There are also creative opportunities for instrumentalists. These includes organists, but other instruments will be used in imaginative ways, as well, so share with me any ideas or ambitions you may have. And, as I said, tell your friends who are looking for this kind of outlet as well. (One guy who has been helping out lately, and is a chant enthusiast and adept, is also a major lute-player. That’s going to sound great under the dome of Notre Dame!)

So feel free to be in touch: roger@aya.yale.edu or 202-577-5758!


The Staff Meeting

January 26, 2012

Leonhardt playing the organ in the film, THE CHRONICLE OF ANNA MAGDALENA BACH (available on Netflix)

Though I had hoped to hear or see the proceedings online, I heartily admire the fact that cameras and recording equipment were not allowed at the funeral. Too often one-of-a-kind occasions like this one are treated primarily as something to be preserved and publicized rather than lived in the moment. I should have known that Mr. Leonhardt would have arranged things as they were.

A reader who was at the obsequies has very kindly sent me a link to his own description of what must have been an unforgettable event. Bert Shudi has also posted these valuable reflections on the master’s career.

UPDATE: The blogger who had provided the account of the funeral has seen fit to remove it. I apologize for any inconvenience. Herewith, however, the link to a stupendous video of a live performance of Bach’s funeral cantata by Leonhardt, with other star performers that you may recognize, in Amsterdam’s Waalsekerk. The German text and English translation can be found here. This inspiring music, lovingly recreated at the hands of Gustav Leonhardt seems as fitting memorial as any musician could hope for.

There has naturally been curiosity about the funeral arrangements for the great Dutch musician who died last week — and certainly about what music will be included. The service will be on Tuesday the 24th. Many people had, like me, assumed that it would take place where he has been the titular organist for many years, the nearest Dutch equivalent to Westminster Abbey, the Nieuwekerk, which is also very near his house. But the Nieuwekerk now has divine service only on royal and other state occasions (including coronations) and at the moment is occupied by an exhibition on Judaism that, by contract, may not be interrupted.

The other church with which Mr. Leonhardt was long associated (and where he gave me my organ lessons) is the Waalsekerk, which is on the other side of the Dam from his house and the Nieuwekerk,

and the Waalsekerk has a magnificent organ.

But it is too small for the crowd that is surely anticipated and, besides, holds its services in French. Presumably the funeral will be in Dutch, though I wonder how many people ever heard the man utter a single Dutch word besides Sweelinck! (He was content to teach in English, French, German, or Italian, but an American friend who took pains to learn Dutch was told that lessons were not to be in Dutch. Even the notice on the doorbell of his house to “speak distinctly” into in the intercom was in English.)

Thus, the funeral will be conducted in Mr. Leonhardt’s own parish church, the Westerkerk, pictured at the top of this post (which has also pinch-hitted for the Nieuwekerk for royal occasions when the latter was under restoration). It has generous proportions,

contains two organs,

is centrally located,

and is even said to have been designed by the same architect who built the Leonhardts’ great palace on the Herengracht:

We can hope that there will be a way of hearing the funeral on the Web. If it is available, I’ll post an update here (and will of course be grateful to hear from anyone who has early news of such a Webcast).

Looking up at the larger organ in the Westerkerk

William Rieder

With this post four years ago, RogerEvansOnline was born. Many thanks to all of you who have followed it all that time or any part thereof. But I want to do something far more important than to congratulate myself on the anniversary of the site or of my own birth.

The first week or so of posts during that January were typed at the beach house of my dear friend of long standing, William Rieder. At that point he had already been battling — no, warring with — cancer. There had been so many battles won and many more to come. Bill died a few weeks ago, just before Christmas, to the great grief of his many friends, and every anniversary of this blog, so long as it lasts, will be for me a day of thanksgiving for a man of many gifts and accomplishments, a legendary curator of the period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum, and an incomparable friend.

My all-time favorite of his hundred-plus recordings:

That it happens to be Bach’s great funeral cantata seems heartbreaking today.

“Ja, komm, Herr Jesu!”

I’m a sucker for communal musical cooperation, and this one is pretty remarkable:

(The black shirts are a nice touch.)