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Help With Organ Anecdote


sprondel
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Dear members,

 

I am looking for a source and some facts concerning the famous anecdote about someone announcing "And now, the organ will play!", and the organist who is supposed to play sitting in the audience, waiting what might happen without him. I have a vague memory that WT Best was the organist in question, but can't find anything to support that.

 

Who was involved, and when and where did this happen as reported?

 

Thanks for any help!

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Guest Cynic
Dear members,

 

I am looking for a source and some facts concerning the famous anecdote about someone announcing "And now, the organ will play!", and the organist who is supposed to play sitting in the audience, waiting what might happen without him. I have a vague memory that WT Best was the organist in question, but can't find anything to support that.

 

Who was involved, and when and where did this happen as reported?

 

Thanks for any help!

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

 

I can't help with specifics, but am sure you're right about it being W.T.Best.

The version I heard involved the opening of a town hall organ (somewhere like Bolton) and a mayor's speech:

'The organ will now play'

Pause.

Repeat - 'The organ will now play.'

Pause.

'I said, Mr.Best, the organ will now play.'

 

Reply: 'Well, let it, I'm not stopping it.'

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The other Best anecdote/urban myth that I've come across goes like this:

 

WTB was attending a sporting event (boxing possibly) at St George's Hall. A Corporation official spotted him and asked him to play during the interval, 'as the public like to hear the organ'. WTB went to the console, drew a couple of stops, broke a pencil into three and placed the pieces on the keys so as to play a major triad.

 

Clearly, such a course of action would only be possible if the organ was fitted with an electric blower. I suppose that it's possible the incident occurred some years later, and another organist was involved (Cunningham at AP, perhaps).

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Hello All

 

The version that I have heard is that WTB arranged to demonstrate an organ to a local dignatory (spelling?), when the chap didn't show up, WTB made to depart, only to encounter him on the stairs. "I've come to hear the organ he said, whereupon WTB made his way back to the organ, jammed some keys down with a broken pencil and left.

 

Jonathan

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Hello All

 

The version that I have heard is that WTB arranged to demonstrate an organ to a local dignatory (spelling?), when the chap didn't show up, WTB made to depart, only to encounter him on the stairs. "I've come to hear the organ he said, whereupon WTB made his way back to the organ, jammed some keys down with a broken pencil and left.

 

Jonathan

 

Another (slight)variation told to me some years ago:

 

Best was engaged to play for a Public ceremony but the Lord Mayor had been late in arriving and Best was caused to have to play for 'extra time'.

 

The Mayor's attendant walked up to Best and said that the Mayor wished to hear to organ so he wedged the top note down with a pencil and left!

 

The organ was blown by a steam engine until quite late on - up to the time of the 1930 rebuild, I think. The stone bed of the engine is still there.

 

DW

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My understanding is that it was GTB at the Temple Church. Perhaps it is ome of those apocryphal talers that never actually happened but somehow got embedded into the collective consciousness of organists the world over!

I'm quite sure I read it in some authoritative source, perhaps an OR article or even Stephen Bicknell's book ... Temple Church is a good hint, though. Must dig out the book.

 

Thank you anyway,

Friedrich

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I'm quite sure I read it in some authoritative source, perhaps an OR article or even Stephen Bicknell's book ... Temple Church is a good hint, though. Must dig out the book.

 

Thank you anyway,

Friedrich

 

Sorry Friedrich but I think you might find that no fewer than 5 organists have been credited with variations on this! Since all stories I have been told came with sworn affidavits as to their veracity, I suspect the truth lies in the fact that this happens often - (but none as good as those embroidered above!) Perhaps these have emerged as a result of organists venting their spleen after hearing a vicar announce yet again that the "organ will play" during the signing of the register - or some other such idiocy attached to "covering the action" music.

I don't really understand the reason for this dehumanisation, other than maybe an organist out of sight is out of mind?

Whatever, it certainly gets up organistic nostrils.

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I can't help with specifics, but am sure you're right about it being W.T.Best.

The version I heard involved the opening of a town hall organ (somewhere like Bolton) and a mayor's speech:

'The organ will now play'

Pause.

Repeat - 'The organ will now play.'

Pause.

'I said, Mr.Best, the organ will now play.'

 

Reply: 'Well, let it, I'm not stopping it.'

 

I agree that it was W T Best.

 

The version I heard had him replying, "Damn the organ, let it play!"

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Best's name has been linked to the tale since at least 1926 when the story (along with the one about the pencil) was printed in the Musical Times. You can read it here (in the left-hand column) in what seems to be an article about Best, but unfortunately I do not have access to JSTOR so have no idea how authoritative the article might be. Perhaps one of our more academically connected members might be able to elucidate?

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Best's name has been linked to the tale since at least 1926 when the story (along with the one about the pencil) was printed in the Musical Times. You can read it here (in the left-hand column) in what seems to be an article about Best ...

Thanks Vox! That's the sort of information I was looking for.

 

Gratefully

Friedrich

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Guest Roffensis

In one of my two churches at funerals I frequently hear the Priest's announcement "and (pause), during communion the organ will play.....", but I'm not bothered! It's actually a great source of amusement to me. :(

 

Clever things these organs.

 

Nothing changes!!

 

R

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Another (slight)variation told to me some years ago:

 

Best was engaged to play for a Public ceremony but the Lord Mayor had been late in arriving and Best was caused to have to play for 'extra time'.

 

The Mayor's attendant walked up to Best and said that the Mayor wished to hear to organ so he wedged the top note down with a pencil and left!

 

The organ was blown by a steam engine until quite late on - up to the time of the 1930 rebuild, I think. The stone bed of the engine is still there.

 

DW

 

As it happens, Friedrich posted the same query on our sister site Orgelforum (hosted by builders Jäger & Brommer). I added the following reply which seems to confirm DW's version:-

 

A short monograph "Impressions of W T Best" by John Mewburg Levien (publ. Novello & Co, London 1942 and now something of a rarity) contains the following couple of paragraphs (p. 15)

 

One day, when he was going to play a concerto at the beginning of the second part of a concert, the secretary came to him towards the end of the interval and said, "Do you mind going in now, Mr Best, and playing something on the organ: the audience like to hear it when they are getting back into their seats while the orchestra is tuning." Best went to the organ, cut a lead pencil into four wedges, fastened down the common chord of C major in the middle of the Great manual, drew the Open Diapason stop, and sat down beside the organ, which the returning audience heard in this unusual way.

 

Yet again, at a banquet, at which in the course of the after-dinner proceedings Best had to play a solo on the organ, the chairman unfortunately announced at the appropriate moment, "The organ will now play." A footman, thinking he had not heard, leant over his chair and said, "Mr Best, it was announced that the organ will play." "Damn the organ, let it play," replied Best, in a very audible voice. The chairman had to rise again, and say, "Mr Best will now favour us with a solo on the organ," and then the organist rose from his seat and "obliged".

 

JS

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