Sunday, 12 February 2017

Three Anecdotes from Tales of Organists by John Warriner

An Amateur beginner who was impressing his friends after his first organ lesson stated: “And tenderly pressing my feet down on the Vox Humana, I drew the swell pedal out and played a gorgeous chord upon the tremulant” Source: Alec Rowley

Charles Villers Stanford, representing what was then a more modern approach to harmony and George Mursell Garrett (1834-97) the old English school reflected by George Alexander MacFarrren’s Harmony and Cherubini’s Counterpoint, were daggers drawn. On one occasion Garrett correcting a Trinity student’s efforts in harmony, found a passage annotated and corrected. He asked who had done that, and the student said Professor Stanford. Garrett seized a pen and red ink and drew parallel lines exposing some parallel fifths, [two or more parts in counterpoint moving up or down in unchanging intervals of a ‘fifth’ e.g. C-G, D-A, E-B etc. Traditionally, they were strongly discouraged.] and underneath wrote something like this: ‘Bravo! Professor. Consecutive fifths. Congratulations. Yours Garrett.’
Shortly afterwards they met, and Stanford, who was annoyed, wound up by saying (for he too had a caustic wit) “But what could you expect from a man with a common name like Garrett, which I understand means and attic or a cheap common upper story.” Garrett briefly replied “Better have a common name than a common mind like yours, Stanford. A score draw I think!   

Georg Frederick Handel and Maurice Greene. A caller to Handel’s house enquired from Handel one day why Dr Maurice Greene’s (1696-1755) last composition was hung up outside the window. Handel replied that he thought it ‘did need more air.’
The modern listener will hardly find Greene’s music ‘stuffy.’ 

Warriner, John, Tales of Organists (London, Musical Opinion 1927)  

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