minutia press.
The mighty Mander

One of my hobbies is playing classical pipe organ, and because of that I get to substitute around town from time to time. One place I really like to sub is St Peter's Episopal Church, at the corner of Warson and Ladue. They have an amazing music program---one of the best choirs in the city. Bill Aitken is their organist, also one of the finest in the city; he is also the organist at my temple.

He has asked me to sub there twice before, and they had an electropneumatic Moeller organ, which has since been replaced with a terrific instrument by Mander, described here.

So today I played the service, and it was the first time I've really played on the instrument (I went in briefly on Friday just to see what it was like). The instrument is a "tracker" instrument, which means that the keys are mechanically connected to the device that lets air into the pipes. When you play a tracker, you can feel the onset of the air as it enters the pipes; also, the more pipes that are enabled (stops that are pulled), the heavier the action. You feel much more "at one" with such an instrument than you do playing an electropneumatic instrument, where you basically tell an electric circuit to allow air into the pipe.

I think the next best thing to playing the organ today was just sitting in proximity of the choir as they sang. This is one of the best choral groups assembled in St Louis. The are a "true tone" choir that blends like nothing you have ever heard.

I encourage all within eyeshot of this column to make a trip to St Peter's sometime to hear Bill Aitken play (he's orders of magnitude better than I am), and to hear the choir. Even if you're not Episcopal (for I am not), you are guaranteed a religious experience there. Their service is usually at 10:30 AM on Sundays. They also have evening concerts on Sundays, check their web site referenced above.


What exactly is a "true tone" choir?

Posted by: Nathan at March 25, 2003 12:02 AM

Hmmm. I have heard the phrase used before to mean "vibrato-free". You hear the fundamental pitch and its overtones without the warbling among the voices that most choirs seem to have.

But I just tried to find the term on Google and found very few uses of it that way, so maybe it's not so common a term.

I'm not sure why singers use vibrato in a choir. I guess if you can't nail the pitch on the head, better to run back and forth across the pitch so you hit it right from time to time?

Posted by: rkc at March 25, 2003 5:22 AM

I think the more commonly used term is "straight-tone."

Posted by: Sara at March 27, 2003 10:20 AM