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Virgil Fox's Residence
Englewood, New Jersey
July 7-12, 1969
Plus a field trip to Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newark

These sound files were contributed by Douglas Marshall, who was given permission to record this unique, week-long masterclass at Virgil Fox's home in Englewood on his residence pipe organ. These sound files are the only available audio presentations of Virgil Fox Masterclasses, to our knowledge. They were recorded on a consumer reel-to-reel tape recorder of 1969 vintage, and so exhibit the quality expected from this era. The most important aspect of these tapes is being able to hear Virgil talking to a group assembled in his parlor, and hearing his anecdotes, performing tips, and other timeless — and educational — comments.

The recordings — about twenty-eight, in 45-minute installments — will be added to this website, one each month. If you would like to be notified of the releases as they are added, please fill out the e-mail form below. We also would appreciate your comments regarding the usefulness of this aspect of www.virgilfoxlegacy.org.

Tape 1

Side 1 - Virgil Fox demonstrates his residence organ as the class gathers for the first morning session at 394 East Palisade Avenue, Englewood, New Jersey; Philharmonic Hall Herald Trumpet, John Steinkampf; crescendo pedal, David McKay Williams; flues; paperwork begins; console layout; stories of residence organ installation; Joseph Oelhaf, Rainbow Room Wurlitzer, Richard Simonton, ATOS; Widor Toccata; Clarence Dickinson; St. Bartholomew's and Brick Presbyterian Church; Mark Adams at organ; piano accent practice, accent vs. relaxation strike; Mark and Virgil, piano and organ together; down, touch, relax; Virgil demonstrates different Widor endings; David McKay Williams on Easter Day at St. Bart's; compulsive rhythm; depth of key touch; Washington Cathedral, St. John the Divine; Gallery of Modern Art; organ installation and acoustics; pedaling and position of torso; no ritard; St. Eustache, Joseph Bonnet.

Side 2 - Hear Virgil discuss Paris, Iturbi, Horowitz; his teachers, slow, medium, and fast practice; Widor Toccata; analysis and correction; accented piano practice; Leschetitzky principles; legendary teachers; Bird Fox and Etna Nichols; hearing the accent (dead keyboard); Fugue a la Gigue; agogic accent; playing "only" the accents ("chops"); rhythm; raise vs. pressure; Army band; depth of unaccented notes; relaxation; "wheel"; Vierne Scherzo; time, pulse, movement, rhythm; Dalcroze movement; Rubenstein; and memory.

Tape 2

Side 1 - Virgil discusses solar plexus and rhythmic pulse. Speaks of difference with piano vs. organ vs. choir in Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, harpsichord vs. organ. Bach's Trio Sonata #1 in E-flat major, played by Richard Wallace. Registration in one hand is an old clarinet with a 2'2/3 for character; flutes 8' & 4' in left hand (no 2'; too bright). Decision has to be made by what is available. Large feet vs. normal feet yields different technique. Lesser motions in feet don't travel so far unless the feet are large; when feet are large, don't move them as much. Toe toe toe vs. toe heel toe. Toe to toe as often as possible offers greatest clarity. All eighth notes need to be non-legato. Munich. Frankfurt. South and North German approach. Playing from the wrist only. Speed up tempo. Accents. Use of expression in a trio sonata for shape. Mechanical instruments made control difficult. Baroque playing, as interpreted by some, leads to a diatribe by Virgil. Rotate on pelvis to practice free. Tempo vs. habit. "No free lunch." Keates' head voicer, Dieter, introduced. Used to work for Kemper in Germany. Moller. Harrison & Harrison. Ruffatti. Tuning reeds, and construction of reeds. Casavant. Cochereau. Notre-Dame de Paris. Vierne. 1932 tuning. Low & high pressure reeds. Ellen, youngest student (16) present. Reed cipher. Regulation. Setting temperament. Roger Hardesty. Tuning in fourths and fifths. Even beats. Uneven temperaments. Silbermann. Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. Flat & sharp beats. Mixtures. Natural frequencies. Untempered organs. Electronic organs and "antiseptic, burning sound."

Side 2 - Unification. Baldwin Model 11. Saville. Electronic organs. Boston Symphony Hall & Wanamaker organs. Celestes. Tuning. Mixtures. Widor, St. Sulpice, Bach A Minor Prelude. Harmonics. Grand cornet in pedal. Moller, Colorado Springs Air Force Academy Chapel organ. Kimball. Courboin. Ernest White, St. Mary's on the Verge. 32' bombarde, resultants. Franz Schmitt Toccata. "Quinting" on smaller organs, in the pedal. Mark Adams, Cathedral organ in Laramie, Wyoming. Vibrations and tuning. "Pitches" of individual rooms. Bach Passacaglia on Philharmonic, Lincoln Center recording [ed., actually, the console assistant left a mixture on during a decrescendo, so Virgil closed the swell box on it; he liked this take best, even with the mistake]. Dieter Geisler(?) of Keates Organ Company, Canada [ed., built part of Virgil's house organ]. Marienkirche in Lubeck, Germany. Bach, Buxtehude. Leipzig, expression lever on Marienkirche organ. Abendmusik series from time of Bach. A Minor Chorale of Franck (Virgil demos). 5-manual tracker organ, console disposition, combination action. Swedish organ. G. Donald Harrison and Whitelegg, both builders and players. Richard Wallace, Bach Trio Sonata #1, continued. Infinitesimal space between some notes. VF at piano. Pedaling, VF vs. Lemmens method. [See master class handout pdf.]

      Masterclass Handout
144kb - PDF Format.

Pedal exercises, finger action vs. toe action. Carolyn Ramsdal, Brahms Chorale Prelude #5, "Deck Thyself, O My Soul." Registration, "organistic," severe vs. romantic interpretation. George Lamphere. "Holy Week without Brahms chorale preludes is not Holy Week at all!" VF recording of Brahms on John Hays Hammond organ in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Tape 3

Side 1 - Carolyn Ramsdal playing. Legato, "Virgil keyboard" (unrelated training product). Brahms chorale prelude, "Deck Thyself, O My Soul." Expression, baroque approach. Bach's "Wedge" Fugue, Breitkopf edition. German approach, Karl Richter, Gunther Ramin. Virgil Fox playing. Metronome marking, trill rules Virgil violates, metronome marking indicates 69 = half note. Carl Straube. Trill started on note above vs. on note. Dupre. Bach-Gesellschaft. Shakespeare. Rembrandt, Mrs. A. W. Erickson, Christie's, Sotheby's. Complete recapitulation of fugue exposition? Elongation of line, tiny breaks in accompanying voice, subject without any breaks. No thumbs on black keys. Virgil dissects piece. Stretto following exposition uses deep detache. To bring out one voice, make all the other voices a different touch. Mildred Andrews. Non-legato in pedal. Franck's Finale in B-flat demo (usual way vs. VF), staccato in pedal. Louis Robert, Peabody. Back to Bach, good judgment and good taste in making a personal statement. Magic gas in swimming pool to show when someone wee-wees. Torrence warning. Registration change in "Wedge" Fugue. Virgil starts to give secrets of registration & expression. Scientific preparation vs. emotional. Two-manual Allen. Bill Stahl playing. Generals 4, 5, & 6. Sowerby's Toccata. Phrasing.

Side 2 - Bill Stahl playing Sowerby "Toccata." Finger detachment. Sensation in hands and fingers. Steely relaxation. Impact on first note. "When a long note is followed by a short note, get off the long note." Thumb scale. Theme of Sowerby. (Craig Sisters.) "Chewed, swallowed, but not digested. Never really satisfies, so fails to be great." Pattern in mind. Jump between manuals, look first. (Very detailed analysis of Toccata.) Staccato but stay on keys. Metronome. Horowitz, Prokofiev "Toccata." Lights, position, ushers. Chopin. Establish pattern. Cyril Scott, occultism. Align with rhythm. Metronome pounding in ear. Virgil pounding on bench. Down, in, out, up. Keep going, but relax it. Final chord, keep it going. Langlais "Te Deum." Three Gregorian Paraphrases by Langlais, publisher Philippo. "In all French music, the dynamic marks have only to do with the expression." Piece played in entirety, then dissected by VF. Play deep into the keys. Chop. Ste. Clotilde. Full Swell, box closed. Sustained chords against detached. Improvisation device. VF plays device "for between stanza 3 & 4 , to make church rock." Legato, inner voices chopped. Bird manure; shotgun and three umbrellas needed. Groups of four (no thought of individual notes). One color against another. Final note crisp. Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, St. James Church, Madison Avenue.

Tape 4

Side 1 - Bill Stahl plays "Preces" by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald; registration, expression. Mendelssohn Sonata No. 2 in C minor. Rhythmic opening, registration. Active participation of listener. "If you have a tremolo [on a solo stop] that is too deep, you let only the accompaniment have the trems." Alfred Hollis, Scotland, was blind, and had the tremolos on pistons. Bringing on the tremolo while on the note. Wanamaker organ, 2 trems for each division, on dials; can open swell shoes with thumbs, also. Courboin could go from a whisper to a full tutti with the crescendo pedal; then lifted foot to hit triple tutti; then opened swell shoes. Mechanical ingenuity required of organist. Lilt, movement. "If you say adieu, you have to leave!" Break between phrases; take a "breath." Lean in and hold back. Alice Whitman. "Singers are dumb; if they have a beautiful voice, they can't be given everything!" Zinka Milanov. "Lean into the top of the phrase." AGO, subtly, squeaks, typewriters. "Arrive at the full box just before you leave the long note." "When a long note is followed by a short note, get off the long note." ("He doesn't play the dots.") Douglas Marshall, Fugue from Fantasy and Fugue in G minor by Bach. Don't play a fugue without the prelude, in most instances. Don't put a fugue that has a prelude on a program by itself. Establish yourself rhythmically before playing. Wheel in motion mentally. "That's why I never have anyone around me before I play."

Side 2 - Doug Marshall playing fugue from Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, Bach. VF feels it was hurried a bit; recommends more practice, and taking great care when console changes take place. Go through it again with accented rhythms. 3 things to do simultaneously: play the notes, run the console, be a musician. (Drinks served at 10 cents each; VF apologizes for necessity.) Legato vs. detached playing. Kinds of detachment. Non-legato according to the values of the notes. Try to preserve the values of the notes. Middelschulte introduced VF to values of notes. Tells story of meeting him in Chicago when he was 16. Middelschulte sent by Karl Straube to Chicago from the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. VF recalls playing dedication of a new organ in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. Middelschulte, "If you will be a master, go into the workshops of the masters." Kewanee, Illinois. Middelschulte did not have the physique to play concerts; very nervous. "Perpetuum Mobile" played by VF. Inversion (which Middelschulte said not to play). Piece originally to play with orchestra. Back to detached playing. Doug Marshall playing. Connect vs. staccato. Dupré "for instance." Gunther Ramin "for instance." VF shows how he likes it. "If you want to bring out one voice, make all the other voices the opposite touch. " Widor. "With parallel notes, detach one." VF plays to end of fugue, illustrating again and again detached vs. legato. Henry Willis. Thomaskirche concert. Impulses established with practice; one month on this piece (G minor Fugue). Toccata in F, played by VF first on silent keyboards and then with stops. Practice right to begin with and you'll know piece forever. In Hanover, Pennsylvania VF had a problem with Toccata in F, so practiced it 30 times each day for 7 days until he had it--forever.

Hymns. VF was told, "Don't pay any attention to your fancy pieces; just make sure that everyone sings the hymns." Structure of combinations; spirit and style; touch, and way you get that spirit and style. David McKay Williams was greatest hymn player VF ever heard. Learned from an English organist at the Denver Cathedral. VF with Gerald Knight in Canterbury, and how he led the singers through a hole in the floor so that he could see the eyes of the lead singer. George Thalben-Ball at Temple Church, London, in rehearsal; all musical elements discussed. Hymn playing must be rhythmic, but never metronomic. Room for breath. Episcopalians too fast. Sing in a tempo for everyone. If you force them, they won't sing.

Tape 5-1
Side 1 - Hymns: Virgil Fox demonstrating. Harmony & beat in hymn planing. Devices show where the pulse is. "When in the same voice there are two notes the same, the first loses half its value." Jean Langlais. Any touch device to show the beat is useful. Tempo. Mary Walker at the Peabody, criticism observed. Key. Class sings. Charles Marie Widor. Registration. Extend the final note at the end of each stanza and before the Amen when playing in a large edifice. Light 16' manual stop on at all times in hymn playing, for gravity. E. Power Biggs. Charles Schwab. Archer Gibson. Radio. Transcriptions. Henri Mulet. Other devices. Organic music phrase. Brahms Requiem. Fauré. Bach. Opera. Application to hymns. VF demonstrates with Fauré Requiem. Nadia Boulanger. Washington Cathedral, National Symphony. Vox Humana. Hazel Gravell, Riverside soprano soloist. David McKay Williams. Portamento. Sacred music profession. Messiah. Breath. Combinations for hymn playing. Expression. Quiet hymn registration. Introduction. Natural breath between stanzas. Acoustical release. St. Bartholomew's, New York. St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Henry Willis. Franck, Final in B minor.

Tape 5-2
Side 2 - Hymns: Virgil Fox demonstrating (tape ends at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newark). Acoustical release. David McKay Williams. Training a choir to "roll r's." John Charles Thomas. Kirsten Flagstad. Ending phrase with consonant. A-M-E-N. Vocal clinic. Westminster Choir College. Madeleine Marshall. Elaine Brown. Seven-fold Amen, John Stainer. Elizabeth Schumann, Ave Maria. Rosa Ponselle. Zinka Milanov. Sewers of Paris. Hymn strategy, stanza by stanza. Dome Organ at St. Bartholomew's, David McKay Williams. Lush sound composition, "American Ensemble." Group sing. Never alter the pedal until the final stanza; then go wild. Beaulahland, arranged by Richard Purvis, Andrew Crow. Hymn recording for Kapp Records. Taper after Amen. Introduction to pastor. Q&A. Lead, don't accompany. Bulletin re final stanza if they're not experienced with creative hymn playing. Line breaks, keep the pulse. Pool room furniture not waterproof.

Sacred Heart Cathedral. 32' reed. Photo taken. Double organ, John Rose, Cathedral Organist. Layout of organ. Carving, windows. Schantz, Orrville, Ohio. 64' Bombarde in Sydney, Australia; George Thalben-Ball. John Rose demonstrates the Newark Cathedral Organ.

Tape 6-1

Side 1 - Demonstration of Newark Cathedral Schantz Organ by John Rose. Richard Wallace, Bach's We All Believe In One God; Leopold Stokowski transcription. Switch to John Rose, playing Vierne Carillon. Rhythmic impact from holding to strict rhythm vs. speeding up. Digging into pedals for full development of sound. St. Sulpice redone in Paris; out of tune three summers ago; comparison to Newark instrument. Fugue playing needs legato. Richard Wallace (finally) gets ready to play We All Believe. VF's standard system of setting up pistons on organ. Vox Humana, Schantz. Joseph Whiteford, Aeolian-Skinner, Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center; Great too weak, being revoiced. VF takes tour through organ stops and sets up standard pistons; VF system. "State of the Faith" in Bach piece. Tempo. Changes last statement of pedal; other recommendations. Reference to symphony transcription by Stokowski. Preparation for Dale Ramsey to play Samuel Barber.

Tape 6-2

Side 2 - Dale Ramsey playing Rheinberger's Sonata in D-Flat, Opus 154, edited by Edwin H. Lemare (Schirmer). Pedal vs. manual sounds. Registration at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newark. Clarence Eddy. Metronome marking. Convincing tempo. "Too slow and too long winded." T. Tertius Noble, St. Thomas Church, New York City. Registration of slow movement (movement cut short). Final movement, with Fugue. Editing of ending of Rheinberger, a la VF. "Fugue needs finishing." German verbosity and long windedness. Bach rose above German tendency. Hitler. Lemonade. David Snyder speaking re master class schedule and dinner. Late swim. Free hot dogs! David's pep talk. Virgil re Communism and musical approach to the organ. Mark Adams.

Tape 7-1

Side 1 - Details of Schantz Organ at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Newark. Introduction of Phillip Truckenbrod, John Rose's manager/partner. Improvisation on hymn, Mary Dedel. Improvisation on "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," Mark Adams. (Break: period of background noise.) Press pistons with thumb; hand position. Listen to building while playing; tubas. Setting full organ pistons. Suggestion to take verses to related keys in order to refresh with other tonalities. Final, Louis Vierne Symphony I, Ellen Pleasants (16 year old member of master class).

VF gives assessment of Ellen and repertoire. Vierne "Impromptu," name of player not given (apparently from Canton, Ohio). Prelude in E minor (from Prelude and Fugue in E minor ["The Wedge"]), Carolyn Ramsdal. Instant coaching on how to hear beat. "Sing me the speed first." Don Muro piece to be played by Don Muro.

Tape 7-2

Side 2 - Don Muro playing a piece he wrote. VF coaching on registration. Vaughn-Williams. Randall Thompson. Slow trio sonata movement. 17 years old. "Very impressive." Don says it is a prelude to a fugue, and based on the first four notes of the prelude. Colors & sounds. Contrasting sound in left hand. VF gets strong primary colors from sounds. "Red against gold." VF wants to listen to piece again. "Convince us of your rhythm, dear boy. We know you're a good composer." VF tries to rename piece. "??? Walk"? New player(?). Bach, Fugue in G minor ("Lesser"). John, age 19. Dupre, Fugue in D Major, book of 8 little Preludes and Fugues. Subject and answer. "Sing me the first part." "Subdivide at all points of stress." "Device: always get quickly off of syncopated or tied note." "Hold the rhythm steady." Fugue, Craig(?), from Reubke. Position of bench. VF plays fugue subject. "You're playing the dots; that won't work." Gerald Near, edited by Marilyn Mason. Craig playing?

Tape 8-1

Side 1 - Participants playing at Newark Cathedral. Bach Fantasia. Dupré. Then back to Englewood house. Maestoso Lento; needs verve. Listen carefully to each voice in order to decide registration. Holding last note of underneath voice tried. Chopping with left hand demonstrated by VF. Again, "Don't play the dots." Discussion of Newark Cathedral acoustics; hearing same piece from downstairs so different. Rheinberger piece criticized by VF. (Mostly made up of attendees playing, and not identified on the tape.)

Tape 8-2

Side 2 - Attendees playing in Englewood. VF stops frequently. Rheinberger. "No upper work in pedal. Same thing I had to do in the Mendelssohn Finale." Demonstrates on piano. "Correct bad composition if it gets in the way of the composer's intentions." Fugue. "Correct accenting on organ according to the time [space]." "Whenever you have big chords against polyphony, hold the soprano voice (the top note of the chord), and break the rest." Making recordings very useful for learning. "Tied notes; get off! Same with dots." Barber, Toccata Festiva. Inaugurated Philadelphia Academy of Music Aeolian-Skinner; played by Paul Callaway. VF doesn't know piece. Examines it, wants to hear theme. Registration. "Detached. As staccato as possible." "Beginning to hear speech." Quick analysis of rhythm. "Stupid man to write all that...ridiculous." "Biggs misses nothing. Plays nothing, comes out with a leading recording (St. Mark's, Venice, with Texas Boy's Choir)." Going after the beat. Optical illusion. "If I don't hear it, nobody else does." Virgil beats rhythm. VF doesn't like Barber's suggested registration. Barber "Cleopatra" for opening of new Met Opera. "Casbah" when Barber doesn't know what to do. [Terrible reed, terrible trem on organ; no comment.] "Poor Jimmy...Biggs." "At last, a melody." Dale ? playing. VF congratulates him on his learning work; might have a chance to play it if he knows it. State trumpet solo; Joseph Whiteford reference. "Rhythmic pattern--can't find a tune with a lawyer!" Koussevitzky. Composers. "Thank God I've been delivered this one!" Rhythmic fragments, no tune. Pedal passage accented. Flamenco. Cadenza [written by Thomas Schippers, but not mentioned].

Tape 9
Side 1 - More Toccata Festiva, talk on scale and accents, a few other diversions, Accompaniment - various examples including - Messiah - Surely He Hath Bourne, All We Like Sheep, Elijah, Prelude, If With All.
Side 2 - More Toccata Festiva, talk on scale and accents, a few other diversions, Accompaniment - various examples including - Messiah - Surely He Hath Bourne, All We Like Sheep, Elijah, Prelude, If With All.

Tape 10
Side 1 - Talk on orchestral crescendo, talk about registration, building up hymns, O God Our Help, back to accompaniment - Elijah, Willan, Introduction and Allegro, C.P.E. Bach's book, music playing, etc.
Side 2 - Talk on orchestral crescendo, talk about registration, building up hymns, O God Our Help, back to accompaniment - Elijah, Willan, Introduction and Allegro, C.P.E. Bach's book, music playing, etc.

Tape 11
Side 1 - More on C.P.E. Bach Bach, back to Willan, Duruflé, Toccata - Suite opus 5, talk about Virgil and the Old Riverside Organ, talk on setting up crescendo pedal, back to Messiah - Comfort Ye, Every Valley, And the Glory.
Side 2 - More on C.P.E. Bach Bach, back to Willan, Duruflé, Toccata - Suite opus 5, talk about Virgil and the Old Riverside Organ, talk on setting up crescendo pedal, back to Messiah - Comfort Ye, Every Valley, And the Glory.

Tape 12
Side 1 - Messiah
Side 2 - Messiah

Tape 13
Side 1 - Prelude and Fugue in G, Trio Sonata 1, all three movements - Matty, Bach Concerto - Ellen Pleasants.
Side 2- Prelude and Fugue in G, Trio Sonata 1, all three movements - Matty, Bach Concerto - Ellen Pleasants.

Tape 14
Side 1 - Handel Concerto V - Richard Wallace, Richard Torrence's talk about presenting concerts.