Organists are sensitive to the suggestion that their instruments aren’t musical ones.
“Because it’s basically a machine,” said Jared Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “Even the little Tallman Organ — a snooty musician who picks up his oboe, or picks up her piccolo, or picks up their saxophone, says, ‘Well, this is what I can do on mine, and you can’t do that on yours.’ ”
Since organs can’t change the shape of their embouchure, their tone or the amount of air that they’re providing to the instrument, they’re often looked down upon by musicians.
At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 in the Hall of Christ, Jacobsen will try and combat these musical prejudices with his final Tallman Tracker Organ Mini-Recital of the season, “A musical instrument? Really??”
“I will be the first one to say that everything musicians do on their instruments, I have to give the illusion of doing it, using smoke and mirrors,” Jacobsen said. “All I have to play with is time — the length of notes, the relationship of notes to other notes.”
But even within that rigid framework, Jacobsen said he can be sophisticated with his playing.
“The title for this program leads me to something that I like to do at the beginning and end of the summer, which is to do a kind of ‘Organs for Dummies’ program, or Organ 101,” he said. “I get to show people, from scratch, how this works. I pull some pipes out of the organ and play them, and show them the difference between the flutes and reeds.”
For this Tallman Organ concert, Jacobsen said one piece to be included in the program was found in the dustbin at a garage sale: “Indian-Summer Sketch.”
“It’s by a very obscure composer, John Hyatt Brewer,” he said. “It seems to me, that at the end of the summer, it’s a nice thing to play here.”
Indian summer, according to Jacobsen, occurs around September, after a cold snap turns hot and balmy.
“The second piece I chose was ‘Variations on My Old Kentucky Home,’ by Mary Gifford,” he said. “This woman was asked to do a concert at the 1993 National Convention of the Organ Historical Society, which is a group that celebrates instruments like the Tallman that have history to them. She decided to write a set of variations on ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ by Stephen Foster.”
The songs to be performed at today’s Tallman Organ recital are the kind of music that Jacobsen said makes for the best ending to the summer.
“It seems like a nice way to end a whole season of music on that little organ,” he said.