Tag Archives: Music

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday March 2, 2011

Duplication in federal programs found. Washington Examiner Editorial: “Nobody with even minimal knowledge of how public bureaucracies work should be surprised by the Government Accountability Office’s conclusion that there is a ‘staggering level of duplication’ in the federal government. Duplication is inevitable when professional politicians in both major parties go for decades using tax dollars to buy votes among favored constituencies, and reward friends, former staffers, family members and campaign contributors with heaping helpings from the pork barrel. With the inevitable program duplication also comes an endless supply of official duplicity as presidents, senators and representatives rationalize spending billions of tax dollars on programs they know either don’t work as promised, or that perform the same or similar functions as existing efforts and are therefore redundant.” … And they say it’s tough to cut spending.

Public school town hall meetings. Walt Chappell, Kansas State Board of Education member, is holding two public meetings in Wichita this week. Chappell writes: “You are cordially invited to share your top 4 priorities for what Kansas K-12 students should learn at a Town Hall meeting this week. Your Kansas State Board of Education is deciding how to improve our schools at a Board retreat on March 7th. As your elected representative on the KSBOE, I look forward to hearing your suggestions before we vote.” The first meeting is Thursday March 3rd from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian (just north of I-235). A second meeting will be on Saturday March 5th from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm at Westlink Public Library, 8515 W. Bekemeyer, just North of Central and Tyler.

Wichita school board candidates. This Friday (March 4th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features candidates for the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district. For the at-large seat, the candidates are Sheril Logan, Carly Miller, and Phil Neff. For district 4, the candidates are Michael Ackerman, Jr., Jeff Davis, and Clayton Houston. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Bureaucrats can’t change the way we drive … but they keep trying. More from the Washington Examiner, this time by Fred Barnes. “For most Americans — make that most of mankind — the car is an instrument of mobility, flexibility and speed. Yet officials in Washington, transportation experts, state and local functionaries, planners and transit officials are puzzled why their efforts to lure people from their cars continue to fail.” While Barnes writes mostly about automobiles vs. transit from a nationwide perspective, the issue is important here in Wichita. The revitalization of downtown Wichita contains a large dose of public transit as a way for people to get around downtown. It’s also likely that various streets will be restructured to make them less friendly to automobiles. .. More broadly, a major reason for some to support public funding of downtown is their hatred of “sprawl” and its reliance on the automobile, despite that being the lifestyle that large numbers of Wichitans prefer. They see this as something that government needs to correct.

Wednesdays in Wiedemann tonight. Today (March 2) Wichita State University’s Lynne Davis presents an organ recital as part of the “Wednesdays in Wiedemann” series. These recitals, which have no admission charge, start at 5:30 pm and last about 30 minutes. … Today is an all-Bach program, and Davis writes: “This is music for the soul, music for when the weather isn’t quite what it needs to be, music to heal our coughs and colds, music to meditate by — however this grand yet simple composer speaks to you.” … The location is Wiedemann Recital Hall (map) on the campus of Wichita State University. For more about Davis and WSU’s Great Marcussen Organ, see my story from earlier this year.

Americans for Prosperity website attacked. The website of Americans for Prosperity has been attacked by a group that disagrees with AFP’s position on issues. AFP President Tim Phillips issued a statement: “Americans for Prosperity has established itself as a leading voice in one of the great political debates underway in this country over government spending and how best to restore the fiscal solvency of governments at both the state and federal level. Yesterday, a group claimed credit for an attempt to silence our voice and to stifle that debate through an illegal attack on our website. While the political debate over government spending can be heated, we hope that even our opponents will join us in condemning this illegal attack on our free speech rights as unacceptable and irredeemable. Our country cannot meet the great challenges before us if we cannot have a free and open discussion about the threats that we face. Americans for Prosperity will not be intimidated and will not be deterred from our effort to support responsible economic policies, including the efforts of Governor Walker and other democratically elected leaders in that state to balance the budget through common-sense reforms.” … While I agree with Phillips that free and open discussion is necessary to resolve the issues we face, the disruption of AFP’s website is really more a property rights issue than a speech issue.

Kansas presidential primary pitched as economic development. Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty: “Why the dash by states to be early on the [presidential primary] calendar? The first is political power and ego. Early primary and caucus states merit attention from the presidential candidates to party big-wigs and power brokers within these early states. But a second reason has rapidly risen in prominence: The economic impact that candidate visits and media coverage of same brings a state. One economist has argued that the economic impact of the Iowa caucuses on the Iowa economy in 2004 was in the neighborhood of $50-$60 million. Other states want a piece of that action.” The complete editorial is Insight Kansas Editorial: Creative Thinking About 2012 GOP Presidential Caucus Can Benefit State.

Huelskamp joins Tea Party Caucus. Tim Huelskamp, a new member of the United States Congress from the Kansas first district, has joined the Congressional Tea Party Caucus headed by Michele Bachmann. The two other new members of the House of Representatives from Kansas have not joined.

How government works. The myth of George W. Bush as a small-government conservative, hiding information from the press and public, and the revolving door between government and lobbying. From Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. “Of the $96.5 trillion in unfunded Medicare liabilities, $19.4 trillion was added by the ‘small government’ George W. Bush administration’s prescription drug benefit, known as Medicare Part D. The story of that bill’s passage is the story of America in the twenty-first century. The White House did not want to risk the bill’s passage by letting accurate estimates of its cost leak out. Richard Foster, Medicare’s chief actuary, reported that its administrator, Bush appointee Thomas Scully, threatened him with his job if he revealed cost estimates to Congress — a claim that email correspondence from a Scully subordinate appeared to corroborate. The pharmaceutical industry was thrilled with the bill, which would yield perhaps an additional $100 billion in industry profits over the next eight years. Ten days after the bill’s passage, Scully left to join a lobbying firm and represented several large pharmaceutical companies. The bill’s principal author, Billy Tauzin, went on to head the drug companies’ main lobbying organization, a position that paid $2.5 million per year.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday November 7, 2010

Wichita City Council this week. Spirit AeroSystems asks for $7.5 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB). IRBs are not loans made by the city. In fact, in this case the bonds will be purchased by Spirit itself, says the agenda report: “Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. intends to purchase the bonds itself, through direct placement, and the bonds will not be reoffered for sale to the public.” The reason for the bonds is the property tax exemption on property purchased with the bond proceeds. Additionally, Spirit may not have to pay sales tax on the purchases. This is a public hearing designed to solicit citizen input on this matter. … Then POET Ethanol, Inc. asks for an additional five years of property tax exemption. Five years ago POET — then known as Ethanol Products, LLC — received a “five-plus-five-year” exemption, meaning that exemptions were granted for five years, with a review to take place to see if the company met the goals it agreed to as a condition of receiving the exemption. At this five year review, city staff says POET has met the goals and recommends that the property tax exemptions be granted for another five years. … The Finance Department will also present a quarterly financial report. The agenda and accompanying material is at Wichita City Council Meeting, November 9, 2010.

The election means something. “Elections have consequences,” writes Burdett Loomis, professor of Political Science at the University of Kansas in an Insight Kansas editorial available at State of the State KS. He writes: “The broad and deep GOP set of victories means that conservatives have the opportunity to put forward an agenda of social, fiscal, and tax issues that have been built up over the past two decades. Unquestionably, many of those items will quickly find their way into law.” But Loomis thinks things are pretty good already in Kansas: “In general, things may need some tinkering, but there’s very little that’s broken in Kansas. Governor Brownback should understand his power, and the need to act responsibly as he works on behalf of all Kansans to better their health, education, and quality of life.”

Wichita Eagle publisher at Pachyderm. This week’s meeting (November 12) meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features as the presenter William “Skip” Hidlay, President and Publisher of The Wichita Eagle. His topic will be “The Eagle’s transformation in the digital age.” Hidlay is new to Wichita, having started at the Eagle in March after working at newspapers in New Jersey. The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Property rights experiment to be conducted. This Monday Americans for Prosperity, Wichita Chapter, presents “I, City: An Exercise.” Presenters will be John Todd and Susan Estes. Todd says: “You are invited to participate in an experimental exercise involving private property rights, and experience the impact of taxes, regulations, and economic incentive programs mandated by government on those property rights.” Todd says that suggested reading prior to the meeting is “I, Pencil” an essay by Leonard E. Read of the Foundation For Economic Education. You may click here to read this short essay. This event is on Monday November 8, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm, at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Kansas taxes in perspective. Governor elect Sam Brownback wants to take a look at the tax structure in Kansas. Possible actions could include eliminating the corporate income tax. Context: The one cent per dollar increase in the statewide sales tax is expected to bring in an additional $300 million per year. According to the Kansas Legislature Briefing Book, in fiscal year 2009 the corporate income tax brought in $294.2 million, just about the same as the increase in the sales tax. Personal income taxes brought in $2,755.3 million. Excise taxes — sales and compensating use taxes, alcohol and cigarette taxes, and severance taxes — brought in $2,286.7 million.

Huelskamp to Washington. Mark Reagan of the Dodge City Daily Globe interviews Tim Huelskamp, the new congressman for the first district of Kansas. Some of the matters Huelskamp has to deal with include orientation, hiring a staff in Washington and in the home district, his hope to serve on the agriculture committee, and voting for leadership. He notes that the federal government has been borrowing 37 cents of each dollar it spends. … Tim and his wife Angela have four young children, all adopted, some from Haiti. I would imagine a big decision he has to make is whether to travel home each weekend — as did predecessor Jerry Moran — or move his family to Washington. It’s not a quick and simple matter to travel from Washington to his home in Fowler. It usually takes about six hours to fly from Washington to Wichita, and then another three hours to drive to Fowler. That’s a lot of time spent traveling, and most of it is idle, wasted time. … I’ve observed Huelskamp in several debates on the floor of the Kansas Senate. Whoever is selected to fill his remaining term has some big shoes to fill.

Election was about the economy. Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz contributes an excellent analysis of the election and a cautionary warning. In GOP Won on Economy, So Focus on It he writes: “The usual pattern is that after the election, voters and the activists go back to their normal lives, but organized interests redouble their efforts to influence policymakers. The people who want something from government hire lobbyists, make political contributions and otherwise do all they can to get their hands on taxpayers’ money. Meanwhile, the average taxpayer cannot be expected to exert influence on each particular spending bill. Tea partiers must change that pattern. They must keep up the pressure on Congress and state legislators. They must demand actual performance, not just promises. To keep momentum going, tea partiers should also insist that Republicans stay focused on the economic agenda that created their winning coalition, and not get bogged down in divisive social issues, which will split the movement and alienate independents.” In Kansas, this may be a problem. While incoming governor Sam Brownback is already exploring ways to cut taxes in Kansas, there are also proposals for various social legislative agendas, such as restrictions on abortion and requiring photo ID for voting. While these measures are important, I believe our state’s fiscal status is very important and must be dealt with.

Organ recital this Tuesday. This Tuesday German organist Ludger Lohmann visits Wichita to present a recital as part of the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series. The event is at 7:30 pm Tuesday, November 9, at Wiedemann Recital Hall (map) on the campus of Wichita State University. Tickets are $10 with discounts available. For more information call the fine arts box office at 316-978-3233. I’ve not heard Mr. Lohmann live, but I own several of his recordings, and this is a recital that music lovers should not miss.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday October 24, 2010

Surprise endorsement from Wichita Eagle. Today the Wichita Eagle endorsed Republican Mike Pompeo over Democrat Raj Goyle in the race for the Kansas fourth Congressional district. Surprising. Still, the Eagle editorial board can’t help reveal its preference for big, expansive government by taking a few digs at Pompeo, describing his free-market, limited government views as “overly idealistic at times.” Continuing, the Eagle wrote “For example, he believes that there wouldn’t be a need for farm subsidies or economic development incentives if there were lower tax rates and a friendlier and more stable regulatory environment. That’s not the real world.” The Eagle editorial board said that Pompeo is “too ideological and wouldn’t seek practical political solutions.” Well, are the “practical” solutions imposed on us by the current federal regime working? I would say not. Other evidence of the Eagle’s unbelief in the power of freedom, free people, and free markets was noticed in its failure to endorse Richard Ranzau for Sedgwick county commission, in which the Eagle mentioned his “inflexible anti-tax, free-market views.” The Eagle prefers “nuanced” politicians.

Who is Raj Goyle? On today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas hosted by Tim Brown, guests Randy Brown and Ed Flentje discussed the fourth district Congressional race race, and Goyle in particular. The reliably liberal [Randy] Brown said that Goyle made a mistake in not voting for the statewide sales tax increase, which Brown characterized as a “responsible thing to do.” This, he said, caused people — including Democrats — to view Goyle as a political opportunist, and Goyle lost a chance to distinguish himself from his opponent. Flentje said “he does appear to be quite flexible,” which elicited hearty laughter from the panel. He continued: “It’s hard to figure out exactly where he is … he’s trying to address overwhelming Republican advantage in registration. He’s been for the most part a good legislator, campaigns aggressively, but he’s going uphill … I kind of feel for him.”

Who is Sam Brownback? “Most agree that Sam Brownback will be elected governor on November 2, but what kind of governor he will be is less than clear. Even after nearly a quarter century in Kansas politics and government, his divergent political lives prompt voters to ask: Will the real Sam Brownback please stand up?” H. Edward Flentje, political science professor at Wichita State University, through State of the State Kansas. Flentje appeared on today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas to discuss this column. Fellow guest Randy Brown said “In terms of being a political opportunist, he strikes me as the classic person who tells whatever group of people he’s in front of what they want to hear.” Flentje disagreed with this. The column traces Brownback’s evolution in both the personal and political spheres, and does ask the question “So, will the real Sam Brownback as Kansas governor please stand up?”

Kansas candidates score free TV. “Democratic incumbents Chris Biggs and Dennis McKinney are riding a $100,000-plus wave of television advertising their Republican opponents denounce as thinly veiled self-promotion and an abuse of office that should be stamped out by the Legislature.” More by Tim Carpenter at Topeka Capital-Journal. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, as a look at the Kansas agency websites headed by elected officials shows them using these sites as campaign billboards year round.

Jim Powell political advertisement on Facebook

Politicians advertise on Facebook. Here’s an example of a politician running for office that uses Facebook for advertising. With Facebook ads, you can target who your advertisement is displayed to in great detail.

Putting a price on professors. The Wall Street Journal covers an effort in Texas to evaluate the worth of state university faculty members from a financial viewpoint: “A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained. … The balance sheet sparked an immediate uproar from faculty, who called it misleading, simplistic and crass — not to mention, riddled with errors. But the move here comes amid a national drive, backed by some on both the left and the right, to assess more rigorously what, exactly, public universities are doing with their students — and their tax dollars.” The article notes some dismal statistics of the type we’re used to hearing about K through 12 education: “Just over half of all freshmen entering four-year public colleges will earn a degree from that institution within six years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And among those with diplomas, just 31% could pass the most recent national prose literacy test, given in 2003; that’s down from 40% a decade earlier, the department says.” Credit goes to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a state-based think tank that is often at the forefront of the fight for fiscal responsibility.

Pretending the union money doesn’t exist. From RedState: “Desperate Democrats have been hyperventilating for the past month over money being spent by corporate and other groups, notably the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, to run campaign commercials. To conservatives, running commercials to attempt to persuade voters in advance of an election is known as ‘free speech,’ and turnabout is fair play after corporate money went heavily for Obama in 2008, but let’s play along here; how much of an advantage does the GOP have here? … That’s right, three of the five largest campaign spenders this year are not business or pro-business groups but unions affiliated with the Democrats and dominated by public employees.”

iPhone screen

We forget the blessings of technology. As I write this I am plugged into my iPhone. I carry it with me wherever I go. I would rather leave home forgetting my wallet than my iPhone. As it is more than just a telephone, it also holds my music, as seen in the accompanying depiction of its screen. The ability to carry with me — wherever I travel — examples of the great works of music, in this case Beethoven violin and piano sonatas, is something that is truly remarkable. More than that, it’s a miracle. Now when I check in to a hotel, it’s not uncommon to find a clock radio where I can dock or plug in my iPhone and listen to my music as I unpack and prepare for the day’s events. The back of my iPhone reads “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” If not for this international cooperation, would the miracle of the iPhone — and other similar technology — be affordable, or even possible?

Violinist to perform in Wichita, Pretty Prairie

This weekend Kansans have two chances to hear violinist Dr. Maurice Sklar at two free events.

The first is Friday October 1 in Wichita at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, 525 W. Douglas At McLean. The time is 7:00 pm. For more information, call 316-264-2354.

The second event is Saturday October 2 at The Round Up Event at SK Ranch, 12508 West Parallel Road, Pretty Prarrie, KS. This event is at 2:30 pm. For more information, contact Pat Crampton at 316-960-5898.

Dr. Maurice Sklar was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a Russian-Jewish family with a rich musical heritage. At age four, he began playing the violin. He won numerous awards from the age of nine, and left home to study violin with Fredell Lack in Houston, Texas, when he was only thirteen. He attended Meadowmount Summer Music School, Ivan Galamian’s Strings Camp, for seven consecutive years from the age of thirteen to nineteen.

Accepted at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City at the age of fifteen, Maurice subsequently won a scholarship to attend the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of sixteen, where he studied with the great violin teacher, Ivan Galamian. In 1984 he was accepted as a scholarship student with the renowned violin pedagogue, Dorothy DeLay. While attending the Aspen, Colorado Music Festival from 1984-1986, Miss DeLay invited Maurice to return to Juilliard and conclude his professional studies. From 1985-1989, he worked with her in preparation for a major solo career in classical music.

  • 1986 – Winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions

  • 1987 – New York debut in the YCA Series of the 92nd Street “Y”
  • 1987 – Kennedy Center debut in the YCA Series in Washington, D.C.
  • 1990 – Chosen by MUSICAL AMERICA as one of the top ten “Young Artist of the Year”
  • 1990 – Appointed Artist-in-Residence and professor of violin at Oral Roberts University.
  • 1990 – 91 – Associate Concertmaster of the Tulsa Philharmonic
  • 1997 – Awarded an Doctorate of Ministry degree
  • 1992 – Present – Ministry involvement with churches across America and around the world as a concert soloist and minister of the Gospel

Dr. Maurice Sklar has appeared as soloist with many orchestras, including The Little Orchestra Society of New York at Lincoln Center, The Houston Symphony, The New Orleans Philharmonic, The Monmouth, New Jersey Symphony, The Curtis Symphony Orchestra, The University of Mexico City Orchestra, The Tulsa Philharmonic, The Galveston Symphony, The Richardson Symphony, The Bridgeton Symphony, The Baton Rouge Symphony, The Plymouth Symphony, The Memphis Symphony, The Hendersonville Symphony, and The Minneapolis Chamber Symphony. He has performed in concerts across the country and abroad.

Wichita’s Lynne Davis and Marcussen Organ

It’s one of Wichita’s and Kansas’ finest cultural assets, and it needed tuning and repair. So in August, the Marcussen organ in Wichita State University’s Wiedemann Recital Hall was placed in the care of Halfdan Oussoren, son of the organ’s builder.

I took the opportunity of the tuning to visit with Lynne Davis, who is Ann & Dennis Ross Endowed Faculty of Distinction in Organ and Associate Professor. More simply, she’s in charge of the organ program at Wichita State University. Besides managing the program and teaching students, she performs regularly in Wichita and across the world.

Lynne Davis Marcussen Organ 2009Lynne Davis at the console of the Great Marcussen Organ in Wiedemann Recital Hall, Wichita State University.

Most of the music heard in organ recitals at WSU and elsewhere is classical, or serious, music. People are often worried that since they may not understand what a sonata is, or how a fugue works, they won’t be able to enjoy and appreciate a concert of classical music. So I asked Davis: Is knowledge of classical music necessary to enjoy it, particularly an organ recital?

She answered no, explaining that there is the first degree of enjoying anything, and knowledge is not necessary for this. People learn, she also explained, and people learn to appreciate the organizational aspects of classical music. She also noted that in her recitals she often speaks to the audience before playing a piece, explaining details about the composition that the audience will hear.

There is also an element of universality in music, and lack of knowledge should not scare off people, she added.

The organ, to many people, is closely associated with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Davis spent most of her adult life living in France, including studying with several famous French organists, so I asked her: what is the French contribution to the organ, both in terms of instruments and music?

Davis laughed — it’s a large topic, she said. A major contribution is the symphonic organ, more like an orchestra in that it has more sounds and voices than the organs of Bach’s time. French composers like Louis Vierne and César Franck responded and wrote music for the new capabilities of these organs.

“The French contribution is enormous,” she added. Wichita State University’s organ is designed for performing the works of Bach and his contemporaries and predecessors, and also for the complex and sonically rich French symphonic works.

Davis was born in Michigan and studied organ in college there. After that, she went to France to study and stayed. So what, I asked, brought her to Wichita?

Davis explained that she had reached the limit as to what she could do in France as a musician, a woman, and an American. Her mission, she said, is to share her talent, and staying in France didn’t offer as much opportunity for this as she could have in the U.S. After her husband died in 2001, she began to look at positions in the U.S., and came to Wichita State University in 2006.

In addition to her teaching and performing here, she performs across the country, generating interest in Wichita State University and its organ program.

The week I visited with Davis was the week the organ’s tuner was visiting and working on the organ. While it may seem strange that pipes constructed of metal and wood would go out of tune, they do, even in the controlled climate of Wiedemann Recital Hall. Also, being a largely wooden machine of great mechanical complexity, the organ requires maintenance and repair. On this visit, the tuner repaired a few pedals that were making clunky sounds when played.

The underlying principle of the organ is simple: air blown through pipes. It’s also simpler than people might imagine, as this organ uses a mechanical action. This means that the linkage between the keys and pedals the organist presses and the pipes themselves is constructed from a network of trackers, stickers, levers, and rollers, just as organs have been built for centuries. This seems like unnecessary mechanical complexity in an age of electricity, computers, and automation. But Davis explained that the mechanical action is the most sensitive type of action, and the manner in which the organist touches the keys affects the way air enters the pipes, allowing for differences in sound. An electrical mechanism doesn’t offer this flexibility.

During my tour of the organ’s interior I crawled on top of some of these trackers, fearful that if I slipped I would crash through what looked like some very expensive machinery.

Marcussen Organ at Wichita State UniversityPipes in the Marcussen Organ. Click for a larger view.

The organ does make use of some modern technology, with the stops being actuated electrically, and having an electronic system that allows the organist to easily change the combinations of stops being used as a piece is played.

The Wichita State University organ was manufactured by the distinguished 200-year-old Danish firm Marcussen and Son. The WSU organ was the firm’s first in North America. Its first concert was in October 1986.

Halfdan Oussoren, the organ builder who traveled from Denmark to spend a week working on this organ, gave me a tour of the inside of the organ. His father “voiced” the organ when it was installed in Wiedemann Hall, meaning he adjusted all the pipes so that they spoke with the proper balance and tone.

Oussoren explained that the organ was built at the firm’s factory in Denmark, then disassembled and shipped to Wichita. In 1986 the $500,000 cost of the organ was donated by Gladys Wiedemann. Today, the organ would probably cost $2.5 million to replace.

Marcussen Organ at Wichita State UniversityStops let the organist select which pipes will sound. Click for a larger view.

Inside the organ its mechanical action is evident everywhere on the first floor, as trackers cover the floor and ceiling. The second and third floors are where most of the pipes live, sitting on top of wind chests. As Davis explained earlier, the organ is a simple instrument in principle, but with over 4,000 pipes organized into 65 stops and five divisions, the large numbers involved are impressive to see.

As can be seen in the accompanying photographs, the pipes are constructed from wood and different types of metal. Different construction techniques are also used, each providing a different sound. Part of the artistry of the organist is to combine all these sounds in a musical way.

A set of photographs of the organ may be viewed by clicking on Marcussen Organ at Wichita State University.

Organ events at Wichita State University this year

This year the events in the Rie Bloomfield recital series are billed as “Recital and Conversation with the Artist.” Davis said that these events will feature her talking with the artist before the second part of the recital. Performers this year are from Russia, Italy, and Germany, so this will be an interesting perspective on life and music in other countries. These recitals have a small admission charge.

These three events also feature a Master Class the following morning. These events, which are open to the public, are an opportunity for students to interact with the visiting organist, perhaps even performing for the visitors and receiving instruction.

The Wednesdays in Wiedemann series, now in its third year, is a series of eight short recitals starting at 5:30 pm. Most last 30 minutes, although this year two are planned for 45 minutes. These events have no admission charge. This year’s series features a few new twists, such as a recital with Wichita State University flutist Frances Shelly, a Christmas recital in conjunction with a tree-lighting ceremony, and in May, a pops concert. This concert will feature music of a different type not usually heard in the typical Wiedemann Hall recital.

On January 29, 2011, Davis hosts “Organ Day,” which is a youth outreach program. During this day-long event students and the public can see and hear demonstrations of the organ, and even play the organ.

Davis will perform in a faculty recital on Tuesday February 15, 2011, at 7:30 pm.

A complete list of organ events at Wichita State University may be viewed by clicking on Wichita State University Organ Events, 2010 – 2011 Season.

Marcussen organ a Wichita treasure

Marcussen Organ, Wiedemann Hall, Wichita State UniversityThe Great Marcussen Organ in Wiedemann Hall, Wichita State University. This is how it looks from my usual seat, A2, right on the front row.

One of the most important — but most underappreciated, in my opinion — cultural assets in Wichita is the Marcussen organ at Wichita State University and Wiedemann Recital Hall, which houses the organ.

It’s not only the organ and recital hall, but the people who have been in charge of WSU’s organ program and the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series, which brings in accomplished concert organists from around the world for a series of five or so recitals each year.

It was WSU organ professor Robert Town who had the vision for a grand concert organ at WSU, and it was he who did the fund-raising necessary for such a project. The result was a recital hall and an organ built by the distinguished 200-year-old Danish firm Marcussen and Son. The WSU organ was the firm’s first in North America. Its first concert was in October 1986.

Marcussen Organ, Wiedemann Hall, Wichita State UniversityThis is the performance setup that Professor Lynne Davis recently started using, where video of the console of the organ is displayed on a large screen.

In 2006 Town retired. WSU was very fortunate to recruit Lynne Davis, a native of Michigan who had an accomplished music career in France, to come to Wichita and assume the duties of running the university’s organ program. Professor Davis has interjected a great deal of energy into the organ program at WSU, as far as its public face goes.

In particular, last year she started the “Wednesdays in Wiedemann” series of recitals. These short events are a fine way to become acquainted with the organ and its music without making a major time commitment.

(I should mention that the music you’ll hear at these recitals is usually far removed from what most people are accustomed to hearing in church.)

Lynne Davis Marcussen Organ 2009Lynne Davis at the console of the Great Marcussen Organ.

Dates for Wednesdays at Wiedemann are (in 2009) September 2, October 7, November 4, December 2, (in 2010) January 27, March 3, March 31, and April 28. For all dates, the starting time is 5:30 pm. The recitals are billed as lasting just 30 minutes, but fortunately for attendees, they usually last a little longer. Admission is free.

For the Rie Bloomfield series, events are (in 2009) Brian Campbell of Lawrence on October 13, Anna Myeong of Lawrence on November 10, (in 2010) Michael Bauer of Lawrence on February 2, and Ludger Lohmann of Stuttgart, Germany on March 23. These recitals start at 7:30 pm and have a small admission charge.

In addition, on February 16, 2010 at 7:30 pm, Professor Davis will perform a faculty recital.

Vincent Dubois, Organ

On November 8, 2005, young French organist Vincent Dubois played a recital as part of the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series at Wiedemann Recital Hall, Wichita State University.

I attended his recital last year, and again a most remarkable thing about watching Mr. Dubois play is how effortless he makes it appear. He plays from memory, so there are no scores to fiddle with. He seems totally relaxed, his hands and feet merely skimming and floating over the keys and pedals. Managing the resources of the organ never seems to get in the way of making music, and wonderful music he makes.

This recital lasted fully two hours including an encore. It was attended by the largest audience I have seen for an organ recital at Wiedemann Recital Hall.

One piece Mr. Dubois played was the C-sharp minor prelude by Rachmaninoff, transcribed for organ by Louis Vierne. To me, this piece, one of the most famous in the piano repertoire, is so closely associated with that instrument that it was somewhat bizarre to hear it on organ.

Mr. Dubois played a piece titled Evocation II by the French organist and composer Thierry Escaich. This was an exciting, contemporary, virtuosic piece that prompted an outcry from at least one audience member at its end.

As the last piece, Mr. Dubois improvised on a theme. The improvisations are amazing. Last year he improvised a prelude and fugue on a submitted theme. This year the improvisation was what I would describe as a prelude.

Paul Jacobs, Organ

On September 20, 2005, Paul Jacobs of the Julliard School of Music played a recital as part of the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series at Wiedemann Recital Hall, Wichita State University.

I thought Mr. Jacobs was a wonderful player. He seems, at least to my untrained ear, to take more liberties with rhythm and phrasing while playing Bach than other organists. He spoke to the audience, explaining the pieces he was to play in more detail than many organists do.

He played two movements of Olivier Messiaen’s La Nativite du Seigneur (The Nativity of Our Savior), including Desseins Eternels (Eternal Designs). I guess no one told him that mentioning religion and design in Kansas could be troublesome! He also asked us to look at the audience and be aware that there aren’t many young people in attendance. He also talked about how music has become part of the background noise of our lives, and that how important it is to listen to and concentrate on good music.

There seemed to be more people in the audience than is usual for these recitals. Mr. Jacobs received enthusiastic applause and played an encore. I hope he will return to play again.