As much as he likes to help people sing and pray, Jared Jacobsen also likes to make people laugh.
“This week is just a gift for me,” said Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “I went to the corner of my music files to see what I could come up with for the program, where we could have some fun.”
At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 30 in the Hall of Christ, Jacobsen will present “ROTBLOL! (Rolling Off the Bench Laughing Out Loud!),” on the Tallman Tracker Organ.
One piece to be played is “Pop! Goes the Weasel” by American organist Fred Feibel.
“Fred Feibel wrote a lot of music for movie theaters because he was one of the best American cinema organists,” Jacobsen said. “You used to play the organ in the theater to reflect what was going on on the screen, and you shamelessly manipulated people’s emotions. If you can make people cry, or be worried when the girl’s tied to the railroad tracks, you can also make them laugh.”
Because of Feibel’s history as a movie organist, Jacobsen said playing one of his tunes is “a very good way to begin this program.”
But not all the music to be performed today is comedic in nature.
“This song isn’t rolling-off-the-bench funny, but it’s an interesting little corner of the organ world,” Jacobsen said. “It’s called ‘Fireside Fancies,’ and it’s an attempt by a very well-known and very straightlaced church musician named Joseph Clokey to write music that tells stories in acoustical pictures.”
According to Jacobsen, the first song from “Fireside Fancies” involves “people just sitting around near a fire and listening to the crackling.”
The third piece on Jacobsen’s setlist is “Shall We Gather at the River?” which, according to Jacobsen, “never fails to get a laugh at Chautauqua.”
“It’s by Virgil Thomson, one of the great teachers of music and music composition in the mid-part of the 20th century,” he said. “He had this funny side to him that most people don’t know. ‘Shall We Gather at the River? for organ (Variations on Sunday School Tunes, No. 4),’ was written by him to imitate what it would sound like for a very old lady who is very much past her prime to play the tune on the organ.”
The song starts normally, according to Jacobsen, but very quickly goes awry as the “old lady” in question begins to make mistakes with the music.
“She gets lost, and then picks up the thread of the tune and sort of keeps on going,” he said. “And then she abruptly changes keys, as though she’s kind of browsing. She clearly gets totally lost at the end, and she begins to play one tune in the right hand and one tune in the left hand.”
The best part of performing music like Thomson’s “Shall We Gather at the River?” are the stories behind each piece, according to Jacobsen.
“These songs are like vignette pictures with sound,” he said.