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Cascading Organ Delight, part 1

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  • prachar_1
    Cascading Organ Delight is in 3 parts. The first part recounts events leading up to Sri Chinmoy s performance on the Grand Organ at the Sydney Opera House
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2003
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      "Cascading Organ Delight" is in 3 parts. The first part recounts
      events leading up to Sri Chinmoy's performance on the Grand Organ at
      the Sydney Opera House on Monday, 30th November, 1987.

      Part 2 is a personal account of the performance itself, from an
      unusual perspective.

      Part 3 consists of an interview Sri Chinmoy gave immediately
      following the performance. I am most grateful to Vidagdha for her
      contributions to Part 1.

      Part 1

      Towering high above the stage in a shell-like concrete chamber 50
      feet high, 43 feet wide and 27 feet deep, the ten thousand pipes of
      the Grand Organ dominate the magnificent interior of the Concert
      Hall, the largest of the Sydney Opera House's famous white shells.

      Like the building it inhabits, the Grand Organ is regarded with a
      mixture of apprehension and awe.

      Apprehension - because ten years' labour and over 3 million dollars
      for a musical instrument seemed a bit extravagant to taxpayers who
      had seen the construction expenses of the Opera House balloon to such
      an extent in the late sixties that the State Government had to
      institute a special "Opera House Lottery" to raise the funds.

      And awe - because this 37-tonne colossus is the largest mechanical-
      action organ in the world and, certainly, the most intricate. While
      most organs fall into a particular category (one hears of the "German
      Baroque organ" or a "late French Romantic organ"), the Opera House
      organ covers all likely options, simply by containing a lot of all
      the different sorts of pipes, and some amazing ways of combining the
      various sounds. It also has a generous complement of ancillary
      stops - bronze hand bells, two types of bird-call (cuckoo and
      nightingale), and even an eerie drum-roll reminiscent of distant

      It is an instrument designed to cater to every conceivable musical
      demand, concealing within its endless combinations and permutations
      myriad marvellous possibilities...

      For Sydney organ-builder, Ronald Sharp, the Grand Organ was the
      fulfilment of a life's dream: his darling child. When the organ was
      not ready for the opening of the Opera House in 1973, he continued
      his painstaking perfectionist work under mounting pressure and
      criticism for 6 further years, until the organ was finally
      inaugurated in 1979. Even a decade later, it was difficult to
      separate him from his instrument; he was often to be found making
      minute adjustments to tiny pipes and, indeed, he was doing just that
      at 6.30 pm on Monday, November 30th, 1987, when Sri Chinmoy arrived...


      When first smitten with the ideal of Sri Chinmoy playing on this
      great instrument, we had commenced by approaching organists who were
      familiar with the Grand Organ to see if they would endorse an
      application for Sri Chinmoy to be allowed to perform on it. As a
      general policy, the organ is only made available to organists of
      considerable renown, and an application from someone with only 6
      months playing experience would not normally be considered!

      Our strongest supporter was the Chairman of the Department of Organ
      and Sacred Music at the most prominent music conservatorium in
      Sydney. He was also organist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and
      a touring organist of distinction. Having heard recordings of Sri
      Chinmoy's earlier organ performances, he even informed all his
      students that they could not afford to miss such an important
      performance. At this time, Opera House administrators were saying
      that only 3 people, including Sri Chinmoy, would be admitted to hear
      the performance. The lecturer in organ had readily and eagerly
      agreed to be the one to intruduce the organ and its many particular
      features to Sri Chinmoy, so he would certainly be one of the three.
      Yet he was determined to find a way around these restrictions, so
      that his students and others could be there!

      Once the authorities had confirmed that permission was granted for
      Sri Chinmoy to have a 'private rehearsal' with two other people in
      attendance, it began to seem very sad that such a momentous occasion
      would only reverberate through the vast emptiness of the Concert
      Hall. This was something the whole of Australia, and eventually the
      world should hear!

      We once again consulted with our organist-friend, who gave us the
      name of the Head of the Music Department of the ABC, Australia's
      (then) only national FM broadcaster. This lady immediately expressed
      interest in the idea of recording Sri Chinmoy's performance and began
      to formulate the concept of building an entire program around Sri
      Chinmoy which would include an interview. As an afterthought, she
      mentioned that she knew of someone who would do an excellent
      interview, if only he were available... she mentioned the name of our
      organist-friend! The intricate threads of destiny were being

      After some weeks of discussion, the ABC proposal became definite, the
      Opera House agreed to this new arrangement and granted official
      recording rights, thereby enabling a much larger crowd to attend.

      (To be continued...)

      While awaiting the next installment, may I recommend you lose
      yourself amongst some of Sri Chinmoy's writings on music, which you
      can find at http://www.srichinmoymusic.com
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