Today is the day that I have been saving up to talk about for some days now but I wanted to delay until today. My little story started a few days ago when our domestic help sent me a photo of a Technics Electric Organ (c. 1983) which she had spotted in a charity shop in Cannock, Staffs. When I asked her about the selling price, she replied that it was £70 which I could scarcely believe. But then I got bitten by the bug and wondered if any were for sale locally on eBay and, quite by chance, I found one in an auction that had a starting price of £15.99. I wrote off to the seller to make some enquiries about the machine and it transpired that the seller lived in Derby and was willing to transport within reason to addresses in the Midlands. Accordingly, I entered the auction last Saturday about two or three minutes before the auction was due to end and I knew that there no other publically announced bidders – but who knows how many people like myself might be lurking in the wings. To cut a long story story short, having entered the auction and at a price higher than the initial bid price, it turned out that I was the only bidder and so secured the instrument for the bid price of £15.99 (although, I did find out,indirectly, that the seller had tried at a higher price without success the month previously) After some more email consultations and a telephone call, the seller told me that he and his father could deliver the organ in their VW Passat on Sunday morning for a petrol charge of £25.00. So the pair turned up and ‘installed’ the organ and we entertained them with tea, biscuits and a chat. They turned out to be a fascinating and interesting pair – the father played the organ and his father had been a local preacher whilst the son played the guitar. But as well as supplying the organ, they also let me have a whole series of some 17 songbooks designed for young learners to play simplified versions of various tunes (usually only with the right hand). Naturally, I was absolutely delighted with my purchase. Most people would not have the space (floorspace, noise volume) or the time for such an instrument and the organ itself was probably manufactured by Technics some time shortly after 1983, when it would have had a new selling price of about £1450. Now it happens that Meg and I have plenty of space in our new ‘music room’ and the noise would not inconvenience any neighbours. Whether we have the time or not is a moot question but at least we can do things in small snatches rather than hours at a time. So far, about from one hymn tune, I have just about mastered one tune which is the ‘largo’ from the 2nd movement of Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ which is very well known to many listeners. Once I consult my various books, I hope to be able to master about one new tune a week – and then in one year I should have fifty under my belt.
What I had not fully appreciated until the last few days is that I had always thought of the piano and the organ as basically very related instruments with one being very much the younger brother of the other. But I now know that it is not as simple as this. For start, the piano is a percussive instrument in that the key strikes a string and a note is emitted which then dies away. The organ, though, is essentially a woodwind instrument (or electronically simulated) in which air is blown through a pipe. When you press a key, the note is sustained for as long you keep a finger pressed upon it. Also a full scale piano has some 77 keys but the modern keyboard instruments (and the one which Mozart composed upon) only have 61 keys. But organs typically have two or more manuals, each of about 44 keys (three and two-thirds octaves) plus an octave supplied by foot pedals. Hence the Technics instrument I have just acquired has the equivalent of 61 keys or five octaves but the lower octave is supplied by foot pedals and the upper one is supplied by one manual being offset about one octave higher than the other. The reason for this arrangement is that organs have two or more ‘voices’ for example with one manual sounding like a trombone or other wind instruments such as a clarinet whilst the other may well have flutes of various sizes and strings. Typically, the upper manual provides the melody and the lower the accompaniment but this is not invariable. So evidently, I have a lot to learn but tonight I have moved onto a simplified version of ‘La Donna è Mobile’ from Don Giovanni by Mozart.
Today we were pleased to meet with our University of Birmingham friend in Waitrose after he had a bout of illness. Hopefully, we will be sharing a Sunday lunch together and are helping him on the road to recovery but we had rather missed him whilst he was out of action and are especially pleased to be back in contact with him.