Local elementary students get taste of organ music
By Kevin Felt
Pasadena - from classics by Bach and Gershwin to sing-along standards gTake Me Out to the Ballgameh and gTwinkle, Twinkle Little Star,h local elementary students got a rousing introduction to organ music during a special childrenfs concert at Shumei Hall on Nov. 7.
Organ professor and UCLA staff organist Christoph Bull, said that his goal was to excite the children, mostly from Hamilton, Madison and San Rafael elementary schools in Pasadena and Loma Alta Elementary in Altadena, about different types of music.
gI want to turn them onto organ music, classical music ? really all styles of music,h said Bull. gHopefully, some of them will say eWow, I want to learn that.f But even if they donft pick up the organ as a result of something like this, I want to give them an awareness of what the instrument is like and what different types of music you can play on it.h
Before he started playing, Bull asked the children where they had heard organs
before. Eager hands shot up.
gAt a concert,h said one student.
gAt a party,h said another.
gAt church,h said a third.
Then, Bull explained some of the history behind organs, telling the students that they were first invented gthousands of years ago in ancient Greece,h then returned to prominence in the Middle Ages when Europeans began using pipe organs during church services.
Since Shumei Hall has no pipe organ, he explained that he would perform on a digital organ and a synthesizer.
But first, he took off his shoes.
gItfs not good to play in your street shoes,h said Bull. gSome organists play with organ shoes, but I play in my socks.h
While performing J.S. Bachfs gToccata in D Minorh and gFugue in D Minor,h@he
demonstrated the various sounds the organ is capable of simulating, including
trumpets, trombones, lutes, clarinets, English horns, and French horns. @
During the Bach fugue, he challenged students to listen for echoes in the piece, which came whenever he switched back and forth between the instrumentfs upper and lower manuals.
Next, the childrenfs faces filled with wonder as he performed another Bach piece completely with his feet.
gThe special thing about the organ is that you play with your feet as well as your hands,h said Bull, who explained that he often isolates each element, learning pieces one limb at a time, before he can perform all the elements together. gWith a piano, you mostly have your feet on the ground, but organists also have to use their feet.h
Demonstrating the versatility of the digital organ, Bull played a Japanese lullaby using some of its more unusual sounds, including the glockenspiel, xylophone and harp.
Realizing that he had heard an organ ? during the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium ? one boy made the inevitable request: gTake Me Out to the Ballgame.h
Bull, who grew up in Germany, obliged, with a disclaimer:
gPlease donft hold me to the exact notes,h he said. gI didnft grow up in this country, so Ifm not too familiar with the song, but I think Ifve heard it.h After the children sang along to the slightly altered melody, he said, gI think itfs quite clear that you know it better than I do.h
Bull demonstrated ragtimefs typical syncopated 2/4 rhythm by performing Billy Joelfs gRoot Beer Rag.h
Then he compared the difference in rhythm between 3/4 time and 4/4 by encouraging the students to clap along to a baroque piece by French composer Francois Couperin and George Gershwinfs gI Got Rhythm.h
Patiently throughout the presentation, Bull fielded childrenfs questions ranging from inquiries about the various lights, buttons and pedals on the digital organ to inquiries about why he decided to play the organ and where he had performed.
gI love their enthusiasm and how open-minded they are,h said Bull after the concert. gThey have so much energy.h Jane Imai, executive director of the Shumei Arts Council, said that she was thrilled with the performance, also sponsored by the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts.
gWe want to let the children experience the highest quality
performance because high-quality art has the power to uplift and enrich us
spiritually,h she said. gHe did a very good job. I was so impressed.h