Well, these ones especially. That magnificent magazine The Oldie runs weekly giveaway prizes, and you can land yourself some rewarding goodies by entering. (The Oldie magazine, by the way, is a kind of Punch meets Private Eye and spawns Huff Post for those who have no time for bullshit. Satire and irony are high on the ingredient list and old age is targeted by and for the contributors. A refreshing publication in a world of sycophancy. I recommend it.)
The point is, keep an eye on the page offering these giveaways over the next few weeks as several items from our Pipeline Press shelves are being dangled as prizes. At the moment, Organs and Organists: Their Inside Stories is one little offering (ends tomorrow Thursday, I think, but best go and do it now while you can) and others, which include Organ-isms: Anecdotes from the World of the King of Instruments and Martin Setchell's CD Cardboard Cathedral Organ Capers are coming along shortly. So bookmark the page and check back. Remember the old adage about mouths and gift horses...
They are rather like a continuo player on harpsichord or piano. They are not soloists, they don't stand out from the crowd, but blend in to support and provide basic harmony. Work like Trojans for most of whichever work they are playing for, but are the quiet, background heroes of any mass or major work where they play a vital role. A skilled continuo player is worth their weight in gold, often required to read from figured bass and have a highly honed musicianship.
So I bow in awe and admiration to the organist who was asked late last night to step in to fill the shoes (or bench?) of a sick continuo player for a Mozart Mass for a concert this afternoon in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Manchester Street. He still hasn't seen the music, and has not rehearsed with the other musicians (and will not be able to before the concert), but I am certain he will carry it off with his usual professional aplomb. This will be like jazz in frockcoats. If he does it well, no-one will notice; that's the rub. It will seem like business as usual. Just like one of those small but important gadgets from your kitchen drawer.
Long live the professional musician - and good luck mate!
It was an unusual transition on Monday - or was it Sunday? Time blurs when on the road. A frantic last weekend in Germany, with a concert in calm Rheda-Wiedenbrueck on Friday evening. Fast forward to early morning for quick escape via the Autobahn 2 hours up the road to Hildesheim to return hire car, check in Gasthof and be in time for Martin to play the concert in The Mariendom on Saturday morning. The almost guaranteed traffic jam never eventuated so everything went disappointingly smoothly (worst times make best stories later).
Although Martin had set up registrations on the Seifert organ in the Dom three days earlier, he was only able to walk in and start playing his concert with no warm up or chance to check that they had held - so a little stress on the old nervous system there. But again, all went well on this state-of-the-art instrument, and it sealed the organ's position as being one of the best to play that we know in Germany. Thanks, Hildesheim. We'll forgive you the cool temperatures. I still can't wait to return to Germany, in Schopfheim on July 26...
I am beginning to wonder if Interpol have been alerted about the 2 mad visitors who keep fleeing hotels far too early with bulging bags - in hands and under eyes - heading for train stations. It's us, chaps, so don't fret. This time it was to catch the train on Sunday morning to Frankfurt airport, fly to Manchester, hire a car, drive to Kendal in the lake District. Holidays! All 3 days! And the best weather that the UK has ever had to offer, in a sublime part of the country with a close friend. Scores 120% on my happiness chart.
But first the airport brouhaha. Security is one thing but chaos and treating travellers like so many headless chickens or bales of hay is another. Anyone who has flown will know this of course, and Frankfurt has never been an easy place to leave from, but Sunday was worse than usual. Chaos, lack of signage, clear instructions, and duplication of queues for queues for queues. Strange and extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable. Can it really not be better organised?
But we got there. And unlike unfortunate refugees and asylum seekers elsewhere, we had a place to go to, and were by contrast treated with kid gloves by comparison. Something to remember.
And now, our 4-week UK tour begins, after having been revived by the charms of Lake Windermere, Chapel Stile and Wray Castle. Have a look at Martin's concert schedule for June/July and come and join us; if nothing else we can always chat afterwards over a beer in the local pub. Ah, England!
Meanwhile here are some fond memories of beloved Germany:
* Ar'reet? : my translation of a northern greeting. Love it.
First stop, Wiesbaden
Apart from the obvious joys of touring in the northern hemisphere during our winter, reunions with friends and family, and the fun of concerts and music always somewhere, is the variety and spice of life.
Even in the short week which we have been on the road in Germany again, we have met various organs which have been so diverse they almost seem totally different instruments - which they are, I suppose.
Trying to shake off jetlag, Martin and I called in to watch an organ open day in the Wiesbaden Kurhaus. It was a chance for all comers to drop in and play, so we happily sat in as audience for a change. The Friedrich von Thiersch-Saal is gorgeous, and the instrument itself, a Steinmeyer from 1954, comes with a bright red detached console.
But there is little time to relax. Barely 5 hours later, with only 2 hours in which to explore the tonal resources, Martin is thrust back on the organ bench to play the second concert of the day - this time in Schlangenbad, about 20 minutes drive from Wiesbaden. Set in a beautiful forested area (and near the Wambacher Muehle - a famous mill museum), Schlangenbad means snake bath. Hmmm. I kept toes firmly out of any water. In contrast to the 4-manual Marktkirche, this little tracker organ has only 2 manuals and no sequencer (which means I have to keep awake and alert to help pull stops). The church is neatly and delicately decorated after recent restoration, and the audience almost seems to have had the same treatment. All very warm, friendly and well-behaved. (Trust me, this is not always guaranteed). The post-concert meal at the Mill by 10pm was hard-earned.
Moving right along, our next stop was down south; en route we called in to get some respite from the heat (no - not complaining. Just sayin') at the World Heritage UNESCO site of Speyer Cathedral. If you ever want a perfect example of Romanesque architecture, this is it. No chance to play the organ but it was simply enough to wander around the historic site and soak in the history. Besides, look at the climb necessary to get to the console.
Discovering little hidden charms between concerts is part of the fun, and Bretten was one such town, where we stayed en route to Bavaria (and snared a nice little warning from the authorities about parking - ouch). Half-timbered houses line the streets, and the town has an enchanting legend about a little dog (the Bretten Hundle) which was fattened on scraps when the town was under siege, then sent out to convince the enemy that the township still had plenty of food. Courageous dog, although I don't think it had much choice in the matter.
Then a welcome return to Muhlacker for the 5th time; such a welcome and a warm audience. It really does make a difference, so think about this when you are next listening to a live concert. It isn't like watching TV; the performer can hear (and sometimes see) you, and knows when you are paying attention and they know when you are getting restless, and they know when you are having a good time. That is the biggest buzz - when an audience leaves with smiles, chats, and even better, they want to know when you can come back again. To some, the word entertainment is an embarrassment, but we love the idea that people have enjoyed their time with Martin's music. To us, this is what it's all about, and if the audience have spent time and money to get to a concert, then we have a responsibility to make sure they are well rewarded. Seems they were. Thanks for having us back, and see you again in a couple of years, Muhlacker.
And on, amid the lightning and pouring rain, to Hanau, discovering the gem that is Aschaffenburg on the way ...
Every organist will know about ciphers (for those of you who spell everything the awkward way, cyphers). Ciphers strike fear into your heart and can turn you crazy. Ciphers are so smart they know when to happen, and that is always at the least convenient and most embarrassing time possible.
Ciphers are what happens when a note (or two) in an organ refuse to stop sounding, even when you are no longer playing a note and when the stop is pushed in. The causes can be many and varied, such as objects wedged in the wrong places, sliders sticking from heat or cold. I firmly believe organs are capable of having a cipher for the hell of it.
You can imagine how disastrous this can be. If a single note stubbornly squeals away, what chance does the organist have to play the programme, or the audience to hear the intended piece. In short, all you can do is try removing the offending pipe, stuff a jersey into the speaking pipe mouth to muffle the sound. Or shut off the organ, and crawl away into a corner to die. It really feels that bad.Since you can't beat them, join them, and with that in mind I have created a special design called "How to make an organist happy - de-cipher this!".
The music score shows an eternally sounding single note, and if you look closely at the name of the composer, you will see that it is written by Anon, anon, anon, anon, anon... (Say that out loud and you'll get the idea)
Click the thumbnails above to see these products or to browse through the collection of many more products (ties, ipad cases, clock, bathmats, cards, bags etc) go here.
Actually, the annual festival at Ballarat (only one and a half hours from Melbourne by car) was a mere 10 days short, so we have been home for a while now. But the memories haunt us still. In a good way.
I have described how the town and the people charmed the pants off us. That in itself was a wonderful reason to be part of it. Such stamina too! Can you imagine, 3 concerts a day in the Ballarat area, for 10 days? OK we were sustained at night by the mass pasta meals provided by festival founder Sergio de Pieri, but it was mainly the very fine performances of music that clearly keeps people going. Harp, flute, early music, harpsichord, choirs, cantatas - it all happened.
Given that the pipe organs are only a relatively small part of the festival is one of the whimsical aspects of this festival. The other is (and freely admitted by the organisers) that the organs themselves are less than perfect, to put it politely.
But welcome to the reality show of playing musical instruments. Whether natural instruments like the voice or man-made, they can all break down, and usually at the most inopportune moments.
The Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields is now half-way through its 23rd season. Don't be deceived - it is not all organs. So far, we have enjoyed an early music chamber group presenting Abendmusik, a harpist, operatic highlights, a wind ensemble, harpsichord, and yet to come includes a Chinese music programme).
The festival has a complex history but essentially it is a brainchild of the irrepressible Sergio de Pieri, who has nurtured it and supports it actively, along with the hoards of willing helpers. Sergio even cooks the post-concert suppers for performers and friends. It really is unique and exceedingly popular, as audiences for the 10-day event flock from all over (performers coming from Italy and New Zealand as well as Australia) to go to any of the events at locations in Ballarat or towns nearby - with 3 concerts a day, it is a music-lover's paradise.
And George the cricket? He's just popped out to lunch on a fly or whatever he fancies, I suppose. As far as the notorious Australian wildlife goes, he is the most ferocious I have met yet this time, but I suspect he is lonely. I must warn him not to go near the pigeons stuck in the wall/ceiling cavity above our room. At least, I hope they are pigeons.
More on the organs themselves to come, but first I must try to finish writing my talk for tomorrow's presentation. In 33 degree heat today, a snooze will probably intervene.
I can't believe I'm writing that (Last competition for 2017). So what rabbit hole did I fall down around the middle of the year. Have we had August and September? Perhaps I fell into a coma after drinking a vat of chocolate sauce.
It doesn't matter. The point is, December is already puffing along giddily, hurling us towards 2018, and for some reason time is getting away on me. What happened to all those goals and projects? Perhaps I am getting older and perception of time is skewed because of how many millennia I have been alive.
It reminds me of last Friday afternoon when I joyously threw myself down a mini-slide in the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch. Only 2 days earlier, I had giggled earthwards on a larger and longer slide, there so this was going to be a slide in the park.
Only there it was again: the time warp. Before I had even let go of the bar at the top I was down below with a foot wrapped up and under my leg - not sure how it got there and it felt none too pleased about it either. Limping pathetically almost a week later on a black appendage that had doubled in size, I ruefully realised that either I am slowing down (possible) or the world is speeding up (also possible) hence the awkward hiatus between real time and imagined time and how things can go woefully wrong.
So here we are, nearly at the end of 2017, somehow.
After 8 long years, my book is out, it has been reviewed by very kind people who have chosen not to broadcast (or simply not seen) the faults that I can see between the pages. I have badgered and bullied people into buying it. We have managed to hold several competitions which I am glad to say seem to have delighted those who took part. Already I have bought stock for prizes for next year, so please keep tuned. There is plenty planned and of course we are all looking forward to hearing more definite news about the re-opening of the Town Hall.
If you do not already get our Pipeline Press newsletter, sign up now - this is where I will tell you about competitions, discounts and snippets of news. Tell others to join!
Oh, and the last competition? Yes - go here for the details and to enter. But hurry as it finishes in a couple of days. A real quickie. Although you MAY think it will finish in a couple of weeks.
Watch out for that time thief...
After what seems an aeon and a half, I can at last poke my head up from my desk and rediscover the world. The cats too, have been hibernating with me, carefully checking every mouse print, every keystroke of my new book for the past several years. They have lovingly donated much of their hair to this cause, while I seem to have lost some. So now they too can rest.
BUT!!! The resultant tome is coming - and very soon. The last proofs are being scanned by eagle-eyed readers and I am now beginning to think I must be mad to have tackled another one. I always swore after "Organ-isms: Anecdotes from the World of the King of Instruments" I'd never, ever write another book about organs.
But this one is different. Horrifically so. Watch this space. . .
Look at these fantastic discounts from Zazzle shops below (not from just our Organs store, but anything on Zazzle.) !. I'm spoilt for choice myself but think I might go for some cards. Ummmm maybe the playing cards... um errrrr, too much choice! Actually, I DO have a heap of calendars to still send out so I guess that's where I'll be heading.
Zip on over to those links, because there's not often a better deal. Besides, anything is better than fighting Christmas traffic...
Jenny Setchell is an author and photographer who enjoys the quirky bits of life as well as music