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Rowland Wateridge

Marilyn Mason R.I.P.

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I regret to advise that I have heard this morning of the death of Marilyn Mason during the early hours of yesterday (US time).  

She was 93 and, with Wilma Jensen, of their era the undoubted doyenne of American lady organists.  She joined the University of Michigan in 1947 later becoming Professor and Head of Organ there.  She had studied with Maurice Duruflé and Nadia Boulanger in France.  She held numerous degrees and honours and commissioned more than 75 new works for organ. In earlier years she was a prodigious recitalist, performing more than 30 times per year, including the première by an American woman organist at Westminster Abbey.  She founded the UM Annual Organ Conference in 1960 which continues to this day.  The University commissioned a classical organ by Charles B Fisk based on the organs of Gottfried Silberman in an ornate Silberman case which is named in her honour “The Marilyn Mason Organ”.  On retirement in 2014she held the record at 67 years of being the University of Michigan’s longest serving Faculty Member.  She probably first became well-known in the UK from a photograph in W L Sumner’s book “The Organ” of her as a young woman playing her house organ in Ann Arbor.  Her chief legacy will be her teaching of the many hundreds of students who passed through her classes, many of them on to their own distinguished careers.

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I am sorry to hear of this.  I first saw her play at Reading Town Hall (possibly in the early 1970's?).  Earnest Davey of HN&B had tuned the organ before her recital but called in on the day she was trying things out and asked whether any notes needed to be adjusted.  She came out with a request that Earnest had never heard before or since in his long tuning career.  Would you polish the pedals for me, which he did!  When later on we saw her footwork we understood why.  A wonderful recital.  

 

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A sad day indeed.  A very fine organist and a remarkable teacher.  She will be missed and remembered; especially by her many pupils in America.
This is not the moment to tell the story  of getting her name mixed up with another, but I will add it later, because she was known to have had  a great sense of humour.
 

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The funny story concerns a trip on a Boston Tube Train, when I overheard a very animated (loud) conversation, coming from people with a rather peculiar dress code.

What I heard, was, "Marylin Mason is just the greatest".

I was sitting next to one of their number, and being in the middle of the appreciation society, I couldn't help but agree with the comment; suggesting that she was a brilliant performer.

With a cold gothic stare, came the reply, "Marylin Manson is a guy!"

I know the story got back to her, and caused some amusement, so I was delighted to have brought a smile to her face.

 

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1 hour ago, MusoMusing said:

The funny story concerns a trip on a Boston Tube Train, when I overheard a very animated (loud) conversation, coming from people with a rather peculiar dress code.

What I heard, was, "Marylin Mason is just the greatest".

I was sitting next to one of their number, and being in the middle of the appreciation society, I couldn't help but agree with the comment; suggesting that she was a brilliant performer.

With a cold gothic stare, came the reply, "Marylin Manson is a guy!"

I know the story got back to her, and caused some amusement, so I was delighted to have brought a smile to her face.

 

As a lover of both organ music, and heavy metal, this amuses me greatly. 

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