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The Virgil Fox Phenomenon

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we now find ourselves in an age where conformity is hailed as a pre-requisite to respectable living, and where individuality and freedom of expression are increasingly frowned upon.

You must have enjoyed a completely different youth to the one I did! I find the world is far less conformist now than it was back then. We can value diversity and be the richer for it, but that doesn't mean that we must accept all forms of self-expression as being equally valid lest we make someone feel devalued. Such views only lead to the diluting, or even abandoning, of standards. To keep the argument vaguely on topic, this is evident in music education, where universities are now complaining that they have to teach under-graduates the very basics of music theory because they are not taught in schools any more.

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===============

 

You should meet some of the girls I know!

 

I think your theory of juvenile 50-year-olds is entirely correct, and you should indeed stick to it, just as Dudley Moore did.

 

<_<

 

MM

 

But do you know any [girls] with beards?

 

With regard to juvenile forty- and fifty-year-olds - this is probably true. However, there is a middle ground. For example, I think that the ascerbic, intelligent wit of Blackadder is superior to the slightly infantile humour of Monty Python. For the record, last Saturday night I watched (with a couple of friends) Monty Python and the Holy Grail - I was so bored I fell asleep. Humour, like most other things, is subjective.

 

I would hate to turn into a boring old .... (insert appropriate noun). However, I would maintain that it is possible to 'have fun' (and to be an interesting person), without actually liking anything about Virgil Fox. Of course, Fox (and Curley) are not the only organists who are able to entertain. I have derived a huge amount of entertainment from attending recitals by David Briggs, Gillian Weir, Ian Tracey and others. Yet their approaches have all been worlds away from that of Virgil Fox.

 

I think there is a danger that one could overlook the 'quality' for the sake of the 'quantity'. It is not enough for me that he played to thousands - this, of itself, is not sufficient of an accolade or reccommendation. It is the quality of his music - which was so eccentric, so variable that, for me, he failed effectively to communicate the music simply because he allowed himself to become larger than the music itself.

 

Teaching - have to go....

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You must have enjoyed a completely different youth to the one I did! I find the world is far less conformist now than it was back then. We can value diversity and be the richer for it, but that doesn't mean that we must accept all forms of self-expression as being equally valid lest we make someone feel devalued. Such views only lead to the diluting, or even abandoning, of standards. To keep the argument vaguely on topic, this is evident in music education, where universities are now complaining that they have to teach under-graduates the very basics of music theory because they are not taught in schools any more.

 

======================

 

Talking about my youth could get people into trouble....I reserve the right to remain silent!

 

The world may appear less conformist, but deep down it probably isn't. The same values of bigotry, conformity and prejudice lurk just beneath the surface.

 

In fact, Vox almost makes the case for the opposite view, in that we must accept all forms of self-expression, but we must then regard them all as equally valid.

 

Supporting that idea are a million cameras, data bases, tens of thousands of minor officials and the knee-jerk reactionary politics which blight our lives and demean humanity.

 

Anyway, if we live a multiply expressive age, why do people get so hot under the collar about a dead organist, and why do all new organs sound the same?

 

MM

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I have his recording of Bach Trio Sonatas on a pedal harpsichord.  It is worthy but unconvincing - an organ played by Koopman or Butt (or many other people) is a much better bet.

 

Paul

 

=============

 

Mmmmmmmm!

 

Do I sense another controversy?

 

MM

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Teaching - have to go....

Seen it, done it, got the tea shirt. Every time I find myself wishing I'd stayed in the profession I look at the reams of bureaucracy my teacher friends have to put up with and count my lucky stars. The problem is not with the teachers, whose general standard is probably far better than I was subjected to in my youth, but with the government.

 

Anyway, enough of this off-topic stuff....

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MM, what does homosexual narcissism have to do with this?  In fact, what is homosexual narcissism, come to think of it?  Is it different from heterosexual narcissism?  And how does it contribute to the debate on the musical style/virtues of Virgil Fox?

 

=================

 

Oh dear!

 

What an enormous and rather esoteric subject psychology is: even more so the psychology of the "performer" as artist.

 

I'm not quite sure that I have the capacity to explain what I mean about homosexual narcissim, but I know it when I come into contact with it, as I often do.

 

For the record, Freud started the ball rolling, when he defined the origins of homosexuality as being connected with narcissism.

 

If there is but one trait in narcissism, it is the building of a barrier between that which is real and that which is delusional; perhaps akin to a certain emotional self-containment which one finds with many schizophrenic people It is perhaps a way of perceiving the world in a way which is entirely self-centred, and yet emerges as a flambouyant statement of excess.

 

In drawing the corollary of Oscar Wylde, I always get the sense that he was exactly this type of character. He had a wife who was devoted to him, children who depended upon him and a society which revered him, yet it was not enough. With tragic consequences, he pursued an emotional outlet which, at the time, could only be self-destructive, and which gave rise to family and social conflict, as well as his eventual trial and imprisonment.

 

Obviously, Virgil Fox never had a wife and children, but he did have his disciples, and still does to this day.

 

Another candidate must surely be Liberace, who journeyed through life with a complete mother fixation, which then became the theatrical narcissism and confused emotonal lifestyle of the aesthete; forever the party animal in the pursuit of male youth and beauty.

 

Elton John is possibly another candidate, but as he is rich enough to sue, we'd better not go there!

 

Maybe all I am saying, is that art reflects and makes comment upon the perceptions of what we see, hear and taste. If we take the greatest art, as in something like the music of Bach, there is a wonderful integrity, which balances the inner-world and the outer-world, and manages also to encapsulate a trascendent spiritual world....exactly what Stephen Farr was saying, I believe.

 

Thus, in great musical art, there is the element of transcendency....of perception and emotions ebbing and flowing between artist and audience, without a word being spoken.

 

I am reminded instantly of what Russell Burgess (?) said of the famous Wandsworth Boy's Choir recording of the St.John Passion; conducted by Benjamin Britten, if I recall correctly.

 

"During the interval, I went into the cloisters, only to find young boys wandering around silently, yet sobbing uncontrollably" (Or words to that effect)

 

This is why the corollary of Oscar Wylde is important, because in his professional life, he had enormous verbal virtuosity and facility, an astonishing wit, a great deal of theatrical presence and a reputation which covered both sides of the Atlantic.

 

However, I never find much tenderness or empathy in the writings of Oscar Wylde, until I read "The picture of Dorian Gray" and "The ballad of Reading Jail," where Oscar Wylde was perhaps facing the bleakness and futility of his own existence and downfall.

 

I'm not quite sure how this applies to Virgil Fox, but of one thing I am sure. He lived a double-life, in that he was "out" to those whom he trusted, but then chose to live in a closed-world sub-culture, which embraced New York homosexuals, of which the Riverside Church, NY, was part. Had he been more famous as a public figure, rather than as a mere organist, he could very easily have suffered the sort of press comments which Liberace had to endure.

 

So perhaps what I mean by "homosexual narcissism," is someone who develops a persona which seeks to be loved and adored, yet remains emotionally detached, but not to the point of NPD (Narcissistic personality disorder). Maybe it is important to understand that Virgil Fox grew up in a small town, went to a small school, and yet lived with the fact that he was different. The "love of self" was possibly the means by which he found the inner strength to be the obsessive musical titan (monster?) that he was, but perhaps at the expense of ultimate artistry, as he constantly sought to draw attention to himself.

 

Perhaps he carried that with him as emotional baggage all his days, because what most impresses upon me, is the fact that he was an artistic loner who carved a special niche for himself and did it oustandingly well by the standards of the entertainment industry, and like Oscar Wilde, there was real genius, real virtuosity and real panache.

 

I'm sure I haven't put this very well, but it makes perfect sense to me.

 

Perhaps someone should send it to "Pseud's Corner" in "Private Eye?"

 

:D

 

MM

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I'm not sure I agree with you MM. The hallmark of narcissism, surely, is the individual who rather uses others as a mirror, ie uses others to reflect back an image of themselves which they desire. Importantly, if they fail to get this, those other people cease to be of importance to them. I'm sure this is the very definition of celebrity, so your example of Elton John probably fits this. However, I'm not sure this is the case with Virgil Fox. If it is, it's not a particularly positive thing. And I still think his homosexuality is irrelevant to this. After all, he was hardly the first and it's not exactly that out of the ordinary.

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So, Mr MM, relax, lie back on the couch and tell me about your experiences.

 

 

======================

 

After this "interesting debate" I am far too traumatised to say anything much at all, esepcially since I have caught a chill thanks to the cold-compress.

 

I am delighted that this subject has turned out to be the second largest of the past year, with possibly the largest number of posts in such a short space of time. Whether that shed more heat than light is open to question, since my original motivation was to link the Fox Phenomenon with the German Romantic one.

 

I could never have anticipated so many personal comments, a verbal attack upon a cathedral organist or one which raised such passions.

 

Although feelings ran high, even I was taken aback to be in receipt of three private e-mails, one private Mander message and four telephone calls; one of which came from a board member who managed to track me down from afar.

 

I am relieved that I have yet to receive death-threats, but I have taken the precaution of now carrying my old cricket-bat in the boot of the car, just in case.

 

We wouldn't want headlines such as "Murdered organist hunted down like Fox!"

 

Of course, madness is possibly a pre-requisite to being an organist, and it may be of interest to the members of this board to learn, that the father of the present dictator of North Korea, a certain Kim Il Sung, was a very accomplished organist, and back in time, when the Americans entered the country, they found a whole pipe-organ in his operations bunker!!

 

Now where are those Valium tablets?

 

;)

 

MM

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======================

 

After this "interesting debate" I am far too traumatised to say anything much at all, esepcially since I have caught a chill thanks to the cold-compress.

 

I am delighted that this subject has turned out to be the second largest of the past year, with possibly the largest number of posts in such a short space of time. Whether that shed more heat than light is open to question, since my original motivation was to link the Fox Phenomenon with the German Romantic one.

 

I could never have anticipated so many personal comments, a verbal attack upon a cathedral organist or one which raised such passions.

 

Although feelings ran high, even I was taken aback to be in receipt of three private e-mails, one private Mander message and four telephone calls; one of which came from a board member who managed to track me down from afar.

 

I am relieved that I have yet to receive death-threats, but I have taken the precaution of now carrying my old cricket-bat in the boot of the car, just in case.

 

We wouldn't want headlines such as "Murdered organist hunted down like Fox!"

 

Of course, madness is possibly a pre-requisite to being an organist, and it may be of interest to the members of this board to learn, that the father of the present dictator of North Korea, a certain Kim Il Sung, was a very accomplished organist, and back in time, when the Americans entered the country, they found a whole pipe-organ in his operations bunker!!

 

Now where are those Valium tablets?

 

;)

 

MM

 

I only hope Virgil could see the amount of `post' his topic has caused - he would be thrilled!

 

F

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I am relieved that I have yet to receive death-threats, but I have taken the precaution of now carrying my old cricket-bat in the boot of the car, just in case.

 

MM

 

Actually, simply carrying a copy of a recording by Virgil Fox might be enough to ward off unwanted persons.

 

Perhaps something a little less controversial next time, MM?

 

How about " 'Father' Henry Willis did not understand the true function of chorus mixtures - discuss"?

 

:lol:

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"Boring" and "old" both being adjectives I think we may now need a NOUN for them to qualify !

 

Oh God - mea culpa. It was late and I was tired. These are my excuses and I am sticking to them....

 

Nice to 'read' you back, Brian!

 

(I have edited the original post - I was presumably tired - or temporarily stupid. Clearly I need an all expenses-paid holiday to Paris for a week....)

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Oh God - mea culpa. It was late and I was tired. These are my excuses and I am sticking to them....

 

Nice to 'read' you back, Brian!

 

(I have edited the original post - I was presumably tired - or temporarily stupid. Clearly I need an all expenses-paid holiday to Paris for a week....)

 

Hi PCND

 

At least you understand the use of the apostrophe !! I would be very surprised if anyone on this board can truthfully claim that in their entire life they have never written a sentence containing a mistake which they knew perfectly well was one when it was drawn to their attention. I certainly could not !

 

It is nice to be back. I actually returned about a week ago and I have been ploughing through this topic in my spare time ever since. I am pleased to have finally reached the end and equally pleased that peace seems to have broken out again : I thought it was getting rather too over-heated to be healthy a few pages back, and the necessary distinction between disagreeing with the speech on the one hand (OK) and insulting the speaker on the other (not OK) was not always being observed. I think it was JKK who so nicely made this point with which a number of others, yourself included I think, concurred.

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Hi PCND

 

At least you understand the use of the apostrophe !! I would be very surprised if anyone on this board can truthfully claim that in their entire life they have never written a sentence containing a mistake which they knew perfectly well was one when it was drawn to their attention. I certainly could not !

 

It is nice to be back. I actually returned about a week ago and I have been ploughing through this topic in my spare time ever since. I am pleased to have finally reached the end and equally pleased  that peace seems to have broken out again : I thought it was getting rather too over-heated to be healthy a few pages back, and the necessary distinction between disagreeing with the speech on the one hand (OK) and insulting the speaker on the other (not OK) was not always being observed. I think it was JKK who so nicely made this point with which a number of others, yourself included I think, concurred.

 

Hello Brian!

 

It is good to have you back.

 

Yes - I have a particular dislike of redundant apostrophes! (Even if I cannot always tell a noun from an adjective after 23h....)

 

I, too, am glad that the dust appears to have settled after the Fox debate. I will be interested to see if my (not entirely serious) suggestion for a less-controversial thread will be taken up.

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I, too, am glad that the dust appears to have settled after the Fox debate. I will be interested to see if my (not entirely serious) suggestion for a less-controversial thread will be taken up.

 

 

 

========================

 

 

Well that's it then; it just has to be E.Power-Biggs!

 

In fact, we could set it out as a play, with Frank Fowler playing the part of Dirk Flentrop, Stephen Farr as the very English Mr.Biggs on whom we could pour scorn, David Coram as G.Donald Harrison and Lee Blick playing the role of Virgil Fox (with optional cape or sequin jacket). I think I would like to play the part of Mr Fox's publicity agent.

 

On the other hand, we could be a lot more civilised, because the E.Power-Biggs phenomenon inspired a whole generation, and completely altered the course of organ-building in America.....and it all started with two Englishmen.

 

I suppose out own equivalents would be Geraint Jones, Cuthbert Harrison and Ralph Downes, with Cecil Clutton making a nuiscance of himself from time to time.

 

It should be very interesting to see how we may be able to link all the way back to Karl Straube and Schweitzer (among others), since Straube had sent Middelschulte to America, who then taught Virgil Fox, the unashamed romantic-organ symphonist, who totally despised almost everything that Biggs and tracker-organs stood for.

 

MM

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Guest Lee Blick
Lee Blick playing the role of Virgil Fox (with optional cape or sequin jacket

 

Ohhh, definately both. I love that dressing gown he wears playing the Gigue in G. It's as if you are being invited for a midnight snack and recital in his lounge.

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