Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Organ Twins in Lerma

Skies were cloudy and the air was cold when we arrived in Lerma to view the twin organs at Iglesia de Lerma. The guidebook explained the age of the organs, both built by the same maker, Diego de Quijano, in 1616-1617. I also understood that the instruments occupy a space where they are mounted across from each other in the church.

But I just was not prepared for the impact of seeing and hearing these instruments. Juan de la Rubia, organist and teacher from Barcelona, began playing on the Epistle Organ.

Using the one keyboard (there are no pedals) and playing what seemed to be a fugue, maybe baroque or renaissance, Juan brought the listener through the gentle stops to fuller, more grounded sounds. I was stunned by the sound. Here were tones and nuances flooding ears and brain -- sounds heard in this church since the early 1600's, almost 400 years ago.

Then Juan moved across the church via the U-shaped balcony that connects the two organ lofts and began fuller, deeper harmonies on the second organ, the Gospel organ, with trumpets and a pedal system that echoes the low notes of the keyboard. The organ speaks with a rushing, reedy voice, then with a clear, jubilant tone, and again more hushed, with a low humming sound.

I looked around and tried to imagine the people of Lerma coming to this church centuries ago. There was no radio, no television, no recorded music. No sound of gasoline engines or distant jets. This space with its twin organs was where they came to hear this big, big sound. Michael Barone told me over lunch today that in those days people thought that the organ sound was the voice of God. What a thought!

Ed took this photo of me with Mario D'Amico of the Grenzing Organ Company (left) and Joaquin Lois (right) of Joaquin Lois Organero. Joaquin and his company had the honor of restoring both of these historical instruments in 1994-95. He was able to explain their construction and intricacies for he knows both organs very well. Mario has great knowledge of organs and has been our guide and translator for the tour.

We cross continents and cultures, those of us who love and treasure these fine instruments. Just like the sounds of the Pipedreams radio shows that stream weekly from Michael Barone's studio in St. Paul, or like the twin organs that speak across the nave of Iglesia de Lerma, the organ sounds cross boundaries and bring people together. It is a stunning, satisfying experience. Maybe we, too, are hearing the voice of God.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

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