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Friday, November 29 edition              
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Upcoming events:

Dec. 14, 7 p.m.  candlelight worship/concert  First UMC
                         Pittsburgh, PA

Dec. 24, 8 p.m.   Christmas Eve service
                         Third Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh PA
                          5701 Fifth Ave.

this week's featured recording (11.29.19) 

Now Thank We All our God

by Marteau (b. 20th c.)

 This week on the blog:    Friday, November 29, 2019

That was some year

The Thanksgiving holiday seems an appropriate time to be thankful for the year that was, and since Christmas and New Year's will give me plenty to write about I'm going to do the traditional year in review now. I'm too tired to think ahead at the moment anyway!

2019 distinguished itself by the number of unique concert programs I gave--16 by my count, which does not include appearances when I played the same music (I'm guessing total stage appearances to be around two dozen) and by the number of new organs I visited. After teaching a series of lecture recitals about Beethoven in the spring, I was off to Ohio in June for some piano recitals.

If you've been on pianonoise this month you've noticed it atop the home page. It is a church near Cincinnati where I played a concert which consisted mostly of the music of Marteau. 

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classic blog: from November 24, 2014

We Gather Together

I'm continuing my miniature crusade to make Thanksgiving a more significant holiday and rescue it from the shadow of its louder and more commercial cousin, the 250 days of the X-mas season.

Maybe that's the problem with my campaign: just like the holiday, it's too modest. And I don't have any corporate sponsors. 

You might be wondering how I could get corporations to sponsor diatribes against commercialism and against materialistic excess. Well, here's something I've learned by observing the Christmas season come and go these many years. Corporations have no problem at all putting their names to television shows with the message that there is more to life than buying stuff. They aren't worried that we'll take that too seriously. As long as you've trampled your quota of people at BestBuy getting what you think is a great deal on a plasma television and THEN come home in a foul mood from circling the mall trying to find a parking spot for four hours to put your feet up and watch a feel good special about how it's really all about that special feeling you get from the season or whatever muck it's about, that's all good. Capitalism first, rhetoric later. It's actually a pretty cozy relationship.

Sooooooo, anyway......

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Potatoes and Anvils

Pardon me while I ignore the holiday season for one more week.

In this installment, I finally get around to playing a rather famous piece by Handel which, for some reason, despite being in my 40s and having absorbed gobs of piano literature for a quarter of a century, hadn't been on my radar. Fortunately, it only took a couple of days to rectify the omission.

The piece in question bears the laconic title "Air" (with variations), but it has since, courtesy of the Department of Posthumous Publicity, earned a nickname, and now goes forth under the title "The Harmonious Blacksmith."

There are people, of course, who believe that the entire purpose of music is to be pleasurable and/or relaxing. In which case, it is hard to beat one of these sets of Handel variations.

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The Beginning is Near!


Last Friday I mentioned that this weekend is the start of another church year, and if you are a church organist or pianist that might affect your choice of music. The curious thing about the first week of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is that the scripture readings chosen for that Sunday are usually pretty gloomy. Much gets written by church folks about being out of step with the surrounding culture (often but not always that is viewed positively) and this time of the year illustrates that pretty well. While the culture at large is looking for good vibes and happiness during the entirety of the Christmas Season, which has been underway for quite a while already, the church is under the impression that Christmas won't arrive until, well, Christmas Day, and that the season beforehand is actually a rather bleak time. Time for reflection, penitence, giving up things, self-examination--much like Lent, actually, which gets more press. People not from a liturgical church tradition must find this rather odd.

The readings for this first week are particularly dire; signs of the end of days, stars falling from the sky, earthquakes, wars, dogs and cats living with each other (or was that from Ghostbusters?)--so, given the liturgical emphasis of the day, I chose a piece for the organ that is less warm and fuzzy and more apocalyptic.

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