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ORGANFEST
May 26, 2009
 
The organists began arriving on Saturday. Barely pausing to drop their suitcases in the hall, they made a beeline for the church, where the organ builders waited for them, where the organ itself waited in silent mechanical excitement, waited for the mighty pushes of wind for which it was made to begin their rush through its intricate stops and become a thousand different sounds under four pairs of extraordinarily skillful hands.

They clustered at the console like schoolboys before a miraculous model train. Some of them had never met until that very moment, but communicated instantly and wordlessly over the keys, glancing at each another and nodding at an unexpected sound, raising an appreciative eyebrow at another, now and then breaking into a communal smile at something especially fine.

I hoped it would not be too hot. I hoped it wouldn't rain, although we could use a bit of rain. I hoped people would come to the concert. I wondered, and not for the first time, if a three-hour organ concert was a bad idea. Maybe it was too much. If it was, it was too late now.

But it was brilliant. The hours flew by. If it was hot I didn't notice, and nobody left at the intermission. All the weeks and months of building and voicing and tuning burst into glorious flower. The church was part of the instrument, and we were inside it, music coming from everywhere and nowhere, passing through us. We were part of the organ.

And the hands that played! Hands and feet, I mean. I closed my eyes and thought that they must not be human hands and feet. I thought they must be gods or supermen or something. But no: Superman is a fictional character, and there is only one God. These were just human beings inspired by the spirit of God, schooled to show forth the best that can be, human beigns who have answered God's call to to enoble the world by adding to its complex beauty. They were chosen for this. All artists are chosen for their art. They are doing what they were born to do.

Wasn't it wonderful? I kept saying at the party afterwards. Weren't they wonderful? Two voice students from Juilliard put on a rinfresco that really was food fit for the gods. But there wern't any gods there but God. And fifty happy Florentines and a few of the world's finest musicians, who stood in our garden sipping a lovely cold punch, tired but delighted, as the fountain splashed diamonds onto the lilypads in the little pond.

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The organists were, in alphabetical order, John Bertalot, Frederic Blanc, Jonathan Bowden, Gregory Eaton, and David Hurd.

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We recorded the concert. If the recording is of a quality acceptable to the artists who so generously donated their time and their genius, we will release it for sale sometime in the coming months. This will help us make the final payment on our fine new organ. You can help us, too, by making a donation at www.stjames.it via PayPal or credit card, or by sending a check to St. James at via Rucellai, 9, Firenze 50123.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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