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Jenny Setchell's book 'Organ-isms',
recommended by KELLY FERJUTZ


If you've ever experienced chills up (or down) your spine at the sound of a 32ft Bombarde, this is the book for you! It's a lovely suite for organistas, done in the 'theme and variations' style of composition. Anyone who has ever touched or even heard a pipe organ (especially) will enjoy Organ-isms. I suspect that even those with experience only on smaller organs will also find much to treasure within these pages.

Jenny Setchell, the author, says that there may be a sequel. I would suggest crossing multiple fingers in the hope that this happens. However, as the contributors are all (or mostly all) organists, they should be exempt. It is only the readers who should keep digits crossed.

The book is comprised of anecdotes from some two hundred contributors from around the world. The tales are scattered throughout according to theme. 99% of them will make you smile or guffaw. Guaranteed. Many of them are about one instrument and one musician, almost exactly paralleling the reality of being an organist. One is nearly always the lonely one, there at the console. But oh! The myriad things that can go wrong. And always at the wrong time, to boot!

Actually, one could easily summarize the book (or maybe it could be a sub-title?) as 'anything that can go wrong between organ and organist, most likely will, with frequently dreadful results'. Of course, time and distance removes much of the sting from such events, and after the fact (much after the fact) the re-telling of these tales is truly hilarious.

'Organ-isms - Anecdotes from the World of the King of Instruments'' by Jenny Setchell. © 2008 Pipeline Press

It is incredible, the amount of 'grace-under-fire' exhibited by these noble musicians under extremely harrowing circumstances. No wonder they call it the 'King of Instruments'. Nothing else could provide such entertainment. Speaking of kings, in case you wonder about the charming photo on the cover -- it's not faked! It really happened at the Crystal Cathedral in California (where else?) when Frederick Swann was accompanying large pageants of one sort or another, many of which had numerous live animals involved, along with all the people.

This tiger, by name Alicia, became very friendly with Mr Swann, and one day while he was practicing, she came to visit. The church photographer was called in, and took the unbelievable photo! Very discerning cat, if you ask me! She may not be the King of Beasts, but surely ranks as the Queen!

The main topics covered in the book are Giving Concerts; In Church; Organists at large; Organs Behaving badly; Organ builders and tuners; Animals; Two Personal Views; and Poetry, and most of these have several smaller divisions. There is a wonderful list of contributors with bios and web-sites, where applicable, not to mention a splendid and very detailed index. First rate, all the way around.

I was once privileged to attend the concert presented as part of an AGO (American Guild of Organists) convention held here in Cleveland, to celebrate the re-birth of the magnificent Skinner organ at Severance Hall. One of the main performers was the inimitable (and very wide-awake) Todd Wilson. (You'll have to read the book to understand that reference -- I'm not spilling the beans here.) If you are a devotée of pipe organs, you should make a point of attending any such concert that might come your way. You'll not regret -- or forget -- it!

I'm just as certain you'll thoroughly enjoy this book, as will anyone on your gift list who enjoys music or is, in fact, a musician. I quite look forward to a second volume of such delightful tales. Anyone who missed out on this one should certainly communicate with Ms Setchell at the web-site listed below.

The book is available through the publisher, Pipeline Press, and at independent bookstores, plus some church and/or concert hall giftshops. A listing is provided at the publisher's web-site:

Copyright © 20 May 2009 Kelly Ferjutz,
Cleveland USA





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