Wednesday, December 30, 2015

DDR: Handel

The DDR issued a pair of stamps honoring Handel on 27 April, 1959, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the composer's death. Handel was born in Halle, Germany which between the end of World War II and reunification, was situated in East Germany. The 10pf green stamp shows a statue of Handel from Halle. The 20pf red stamp shows the composer as depicted by Thomas Hudson in a painting of 1748. There is nothing particularly organ-related about the stamps, other than the fact that Handel composed for the instrument, and was a proficient player.

DDR: Schweitzer

The German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR) issued a set of three stamps honoring Albert Schweitzer on 14 January 1965. It was the honoree's 90th birthday. The stamps are denominated 10pf, 20pf and 25pf and are distinctly green, red, and blue. The third stamp shows the doctor seated at a console, presumably that of an organ. The background shows the score for the B-minor prelude (and fugue) for organ. The stamp is not directly organ-depicting, but has enough organ-related interest to warrant inclusion here. The stamps are SCN 748-750.

Australia: Royal wedding

HRH Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 29 April 2011. The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey. Australia issued a mini-sheet of two stamps in anticipation the event on 12 April. The two stamps include a $2.25 denominated stamp with cream-colored background and a 60c stamp with gold-colored background. Both stamps feature the same straightforward image of the couple. The selvage of the mini-sheet, however, shows the interior of the Abbey, including the organ. The history of the Westminster Abbey organ is well-documented.

Spring Garden Moravian Church: Antigua & Barbuda

This mini-sheet consisting of a single stamp was issued 19th December 2005 by the island nation of Antigua. It is part of a set of stamps for Christmas, ten individual stamps, plus 2 mini-sheets. All of the stamps commemorate church buildings in Antigua, featuring a view of the exterior of the church. The other mini-sheet also with a $5 denomination shows the exterior of St. John's Cathedral. The current stamp is the only one in the set to show an interior scene, and it happens to include the organ facade along with clergy and choristers. I tried to find out more information about the church but their website is not active. The only detail I could discern was that the church was founded in 1756. Most of the organ's facade is in the selvage, but it seems a single pipe made it within the perforations.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vatican: Europa 2014

Vatican City, seat of the Roman Catholic church and located entirely withing the city of Rome, Italy issued two Europa Stamps in 2014. The pair feature organs in Vatican churches. These two stamps were a gift from my friend Mark Jameson in Reading, GB. I don't have Scott catalog numbers as my set goes only through 2009.

St John Lateran organ (.70 Euro)
The St John Lateran instrument was begun in the late 1500's and intended to be of the finest and largest in Europe. Biagi built the instrument though the casework was designed and executed by others. Like any prestigious instrument this one went through, or endured, or indeed suffered, from various repairs replacements and enhancements over the years. While some original pipework exists in the instrument, it's very different from the original, though it is now usable by modern musicians in a contemporary worship setting. The most recent extensive work was completed in 1989 with lesser work done in 2002-2003. Four (!) other instruments exist in St John Lateran, an organ for both the Epistle and Gospel transcepts, a very small choir organ and an instrument in Corsini chapel. This wiki gives helpful information, though in Italian.

Choir Chapel Organ, St Peter's (.85 Euro)
The second of the stamp pair shows the Chapel Choir organ in St Peter's Basilica. This is a modern instrument built in 1974 by the Tamburini firm. It's a rather modest instrument of two manuals and pedal. This wiki gives information about all the instruments in St Peter's. A whole book has been written, devoted to the 1875 Cavaille-Coll instrument in the basilica.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Bach portrait

This image of JS Bach at an organ console is rather famous in some circles. It's unique for it shows the composer seated at an organ console. We gain insight into the attire one might wear whilst playing during this era, something about the console layout, etc. Details about the image are scarce however. All I have been able to determine is that the Getty image most often encountered is based on a print of perhaps 1725 found now in the British Museum. One colleague suggested that the basis of the print may be the console of the organ in the New Church, Arnstadt.

This picture has been used in several stamp images over the years, sometimes black&white, sometimes colorized, sometimes reversed, etc. I also recently encountered this image, similar but slightly different. I wonder if the two images are related somehow.

(The image has also been satirized in various ways. It's such a fascinating image that it's a shame we don't know more about the details.)


Handel memorial

This mini-sheet consisting of a single stamp was issued in 2009 by the Handel Haus Stiftung (Handel House Foundation) to commemorate the 250 anniversary of the death of Handel. Located in Halle, Germany the Handel House preserves and promotes all things Handelian.This bespoke stamp was a promotional item in 2009. The stamp consists of a portrait of Handel, that by Thomas Hudson from the 18th century, hanging in the Handel House facility. For our purposes, however, it is the selvage that is more compelling, for it contains elements of a pipe organ, along with potions of a musical score. The facade shown is not familiar to me; others may recognize it. The mini-sheet also includes what seems to be a slogan of sorts, "Es lebe der liebe Sachsie." That seems to me to render as "love live the beloved Saxon" (Handel), but my knowledge of idiomatic German is limited.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Santo Domingo, Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca (Mexico)

This is one of two high-value stamps from the set of six, $13.50. It shows the organ in the Santo Domingo, Yanhuitlan. the church was built in 1548 and the organ in 1700. Like many instruments of this locale and era, the instrumenthas a single keyboard of 45 notes and no pedal division. The instrument was work done in 1886 (an inscription inside the instrument), and again in 1996-1998 by Pascal Quoirin from France. View more information about the instrument at the IOHIO site here.

Mark Jameson's article gives this specification:

Left hand
Flautado mayor 8'
Flautado bardon 8'
Octava 4'
Tapadillo 4'
Docena 2 2/3'
Quincena 2'
Diez y novena 1 1/3'
Veintodosena 1
Cimbala 2/3'
Trompeta real 8'

Right hand
Trompeta real 8'
Clarin claro 8'
Flautado mayor 8'
Flautado bardon 8'
Octava 4'
Tapadillo 4'
Docena 2 2/3'
Quincena 2'
Diez y novena 1 1/3'
Veintidosena 1'
Cimbala 2/3'

("Lleno" seems to refer to a sort of combining stop of several pitches.)

San Andres, Zautla, MEX (IOHIO)

One of two middle-value stamps from the IOHIO set, this shows the organ in San Andres Church in Zautla, Oaxaca. The church dates from the 17th century and the instrument from 1726. The IOHIO site divides organ history in Oaxaca into four periods; this instrument is placed in the first/earliest. The site also reports that there are faces painted on at least some of the facade pipes, making it a polychrome example. The case was restored in 1990 and the rest of the instrument in 1996 by Susan Tattershall. This stamp also has an "error" stamp associated with it. On some copies of the stamp the final "s" is missing for the word "Instrumentos."

Mark Jameson gives this specification of the instrument in his OCJ article. As with many smaller instruments this one has no unison pitch stop; the lowest register is a 4' flute. The single, 45-note, keyboard is divided. There is no pedal division.

Flautado 4'
Veintidosena 1/2' - 1'
Diez y novena 2/3'
Quincena 1'
Octava 2'

Flautado I 4'
Octava I 2'
Docena/Octava 1 1/3' - 1'
Flautado II 4'
Octava II 2'

An excellent summary article by David Warren Steel has includes information about each of the organs in the 2013 set of stamps, as well as photos.

IOHIO: Mexico

Mexico leaped into the organ-stamp world in 2010-2013. First came a mini-sheet celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National University of Mexico; one of the stamps showed an auditorium with an organ on the stage. On December 20, 2013 came a set of 6 stamps honoring the 10th anniversary of the Historical Institute of Organ based in Oaxaca. The sheet of stamps had 5 of each design. A pair of articles in the Organ Club Journal provides much of the information I have about the stamps and the organs shown. Dr. Barbara Owen's article discusses the history and work of the IOHIO; Mark Jameson's article gives very helpful details about each instrument shown on the stamps. Organs in Oaxaca are unique in that so many remain unused presently but capable and worthy of being restored. The organs reflect Spanish musical models, but incorporate distinctly Oaxacan artistic elements. This issue warrants individual posts on each stamp in the series.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Religious Buildings: Baptist Church (Russia)

This stamp was issued by Russia in 2001 as part of a set of 14 stamps showing religious buildings in that nation. The present stamp shows what is the the Baptist Church in Bryansk Oblast. Klintsy is the largest city in this district in western Russia. The stamp shows the church facility in full color, with smaller images in monochrome on either side. The right side image is of an organ facade. I have not been able to find more information about the organ yet. Several Baptist churches in the US are in partnership with the Russian church. Thus there are several sites that mention visiting the Bryansk Baptist Church for study and mission work.I was able to find a couple of indoor images to confirm, for me at least, that this is indeed the church depicted on the stamp, with its organ. Scott 6651 was issued 12 July 2001. The stamp notes that the image is of the facility in 1996.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

St Vincent: Mendelssohn

This stamp was issued by St. Vincent & the Grenadines in 2009 the bicentennial of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn. The stamp was part of a mini-sheet of six stamps (Scott 3658) depicting various aspect of the composer's life and work. The present stamp depicts a sketch made by Felix Mendelssohn himself of an organ in Heidelberg Germany. Other stamps depict a painting of a scene from "A Mid-Summer's Night Dream"; a portrait of Felix Mendelssohn; a portrait of Cecile Jeanrenauld Mendelssohn, the composer's wife; a musical score; the orchestra hall where Mendelssohn conducted, and the present stamp. There would be no direct connection between the issuing country and the subject matter.

The organ shown in Mendelssohn's sketch is long gone. This site tells us 13 instruments have existed in the church over the course of its history. The location has changed too: south wall, west gallery, and a unique instrument that was situated on a sort of rood screen between the nave and choir, which could be played from both sides of the partition! The present organ is by Steinmeyer was constructed between 1980 and 1993 as their opus 2354. It has 61 ranks. The church's website doesn't give very much more information.

After considerable searching I was able to find some information that sheds light on the sketch shown on the present stamp. Here is the entire passage, minus footnoted material:

In their honeymoon diary Cecile Mendelssohn noted on 8  May 1837 that "before lunch Fritz [Schlemmer] played for us in the church," and later Felix sketched the scene into the diary. Even though Cecile did not identify the church, it has long been assumed that the church in question was the Heiliggeist-Kirche since "it is the principal church of Heidelberg," as as Peter Ward Jones has pointed out, "it was just around the corner from [their] hotel." On the other hand, as Ward Jones has also noted, Mendelssohn's sketch does not depict the interior of either the Heiliggeist-Kirche or any other identifiable Heidelberg church. Moreover, the organ on which Schlemmer is playing in the sketchappears to have but a single manual, although very clearly there is a Ruckpositiv behind him. The figure beside Schlemmer, serving as registrant, appears to be Mendelssohn, and certainly if Schlemmer played, then it can be assumed that Mendelssohn also played. Altogerh, Mendelssohn's sketch presents a number of problems, but as Ward Jones has reasonably concluded, "it may well be that the details were imperfectly recollected."

Mendelssohn and the Organ, William A Little, Oxford University Press, July 1, 2010 ISBN 0195394380 Pages 352-353. Accessed via Googlebooks. Little's helpful book is still in print and available.

Little begins this portion of the Appendix A by noting the location and the instrument, Liborius Muller: III/41 (1815). I have not been able to find information in English about this building nor a catalog of instruments.

Religious Music Festival (Spain)

This stamp commemorates a religious music festival in Cuenca, Spain. It seems the event has been going on for more than 50 years. I say "seems" because while their website is full of event information, there is very little information about the history of the event or who sponsors it. Being in Spain, I would assume it spring out of the Catholic hierarchy, but I really cant' tell. The event began in 1962; this stamp was issued in 1986, so perhaps it was a 25th anniversary commemoration. The stamp shows a stylized organ facade, and indeed, there are a few instruments to be found in the photo gallery of the website. The facade does not seem to depict a specific instrument. Scott 2472 was issued March 26, 1986, with a denomination of 17 pesetas.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Vatican: bas-reliefs

In 1966 Vatican City issued a set of 12 stamps. These were all images of bas-relief carvings found in the private chapel of the Pope. The first of the set of 12 is a carving of Pope Paul VI, done by Enrico Manfrini. The other (artists and craftsmen) carvings were executed by Mario Rudelli; they are found on a chair in the chapel. Each of the stamps is a different color. The stamps depict: organist; painter; cartographer; sculptor; bricklayer; printer; farmer; blacksmith; scholar. The organist is seated at a positiv organ, which is equipped with a built-in stand. The organ seems to have a single set of pipes. The organist stamp (Scott 424) is part of a set that includes the regular issues named above, plus two special delivery stamps showing the pope and the papal arms (Scott E17-E18).

Wallis and Futuna: Schweitzer

Wallis and Futuna issued this stamp (Scott #330) in 1985 honoring Albert Schweitzer. While the doctor's relationship with Africa is well-established and -known, I am curious about his appearance on the stamp of a Polynesian country. The stamp appears to have been issued to mark the 20th anniversary of his death. Perhaps it is Schweitzer's relationship with France itself which prompts his appearance on the stamp of a French territory stamp.

In any case, the doctor's image is shown on the stamp, along with that of an unidentified boy. The boy's features are imprecise such that he may be intended to represent youth of Wallis and Futuna, or perhaps youth of Africa. The boy is wearing a necklace which to those knowledgeable in such areas may provide clues as to his ethnicity. Some plant life is shown in the background, as well as a (church?) stained glass window and some organ pipes arranged in a round facade feature. We cannot know the site of the window nor organ, or if they are simply non-specific artistic representations.

I have a document that lists all the pipe organ stamps that I am aware of. It includes information that was in an old list developed by a member of the American Topical Society many years ago. The notes for this stamp include "Strasbourg Cathedral organ." A quick look at various images of the organ in the Strasbourg Cathedral reveals that the pipes on the stamp _could_ be from the cathedral organ. But the correlation is tenuous at best. There simply is not enough context provided with the stamp image to know for certain. I'm going to maintain my designation as "unidentified."

Wallis and Futuna: Ronsard

Wallis and Futuna is a French-related island nation in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. It has had a complicated history. For several years it was a "French overseas territory." Since 2003 it has been termed a "French overseas collectivity." The land area of these islands is barely 50 square miles; the population is around 12,000 persons.

The present stamp was issued in 1985 (Scott #329), 300 years after the death of the stamp's subject, Pierre de Ronsard. Ronsard was a French poet. He is best known for his "love poetry" and his masterful use of language and meter.

The stamp features an image of Ronsard, in silhouette, super-imposed over a compelling drawing. A woman is standing at a table of some type, and is shown playing a positiv organ. A man's face peers over the row of pipes. He may be manipulating the pump for the organ, or perhaps is merely a listener to the music. A curious face (human or animal?) is placed before the table, on the border between the silhouette of Ronsard and the drawing of the woman and organ. I suspect the drawing is an illustration of a scene from one of Rosard's writings. But as I am not at all fmailiar with his oeuvre, I cannot but suppose. There doesn't seem to be any relationship between Ronsard himself and music, let alone the organ. Perhaps someone more familiar with his writings can clarify if this may be a scene from one of the writers works.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Canadian International Organ Competition

I had a nice note today from Alexia Jensen with the Canadian International Organ Competition. They happened upon this blog recently and asked if I could add a link for the CIOC at the bottom of the page. Of course I am glad to do so. From their website: Canadian International Organ Competition (CIOC) promotes organ music namely by increasing public awareness and interest for this music.

The CIOC presents, every year in October, a festival with some of the world's finest organists. Every third year, the CIOC organizes an international competition in which a prestigious jury representing various countries awards important prizes to a selection of the best young organists in the world.

Seeking to actively participate in the cultural life, the CIOC annually develops a programme of activities in collaboration with various organisations of the organ world; these musical and educational activities are designed to emphasize the cultural importance of pipe organs – treasures of our heritage – for a wide and diverse audience.

Every now and then I hear from someone who has discovered this blog and I am delighted. I am honored the CIOC is interested in promoting this blog in their on-line resources, and am happy to return the favor.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Romania: organ cover

This cover doesn't have a pipe organ stamp, but rather includes a detailed photograph of an organ in an illustration on the left portion of the envelop. In philatelic parlance this is a cachet. Using Google translate I get "musical autumn." "Clujeana" doesn't translate, maybe because of missing diacritical markings. It may be referring to Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the second largest city in that country, and a possible site for a major autumn concert series. The third line of text specifically mentions the sixth Mendelssohn organ sonata, the one in which the chorale "Vater unser" features prominently. Below the image, the recitalist, a German, is named. It would seem the venue/sponsor of the recital went to a great deal of trouble to publicize the event. One wonders if other covers feature other concerts from the autumn season concert series. The postmark includes the same copy as the cachet, but also includes an image of Mendelssohn and his signature. The stamp itself (Scott 4159) is also from 1997, and depicts a monument and a cathedral, issued for a maximum card event that year, Balcanmax. Maximum cards are a rarified form of philatelic endeavore in which the stamp, the postmark, and the postcard or envelop all share a common theme or design element. In this case, the postmark and cachet are thus united, but the stamp foils the effort. Nonetheless, it's a nice piece of organ ephemera and a nifty way to publicize an organ recital. Without knowing the name of the building in which this pictured organ is located, I have not yet been able to track down more specific information about it. The postmark mentions the Transylvania Philharmonic orchestra, which is based on Cluj. If one could ascertain the venues in which they may perform, one may learn which organ this is.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rwanda: Schweitzer

Like several other African nations, Rwanda holds a special affinity for the medical doctor and musician, Albert Schweitzer. In the year that would have marked his 101st birthday, 1976, Rwanda issued set of stamps to mark World Leprosy Day. A year later the exact same set of stamps was re-issued with an additional text overprint for the same commemoration. The four stamps shown were part of the set of 8 stamps issued in 1977. Two show Lambarene Hospital and two show Schweitzer's residence. Two pictured below show a piano keyboard and a musical score (Bach's famous D Minor Toccata), and the last two in the set are above. The image includes random organ pipes and the first few notes from Bach's Fantasy in G Minor, not as famous or as well-known to as many people as the Toccata, but quite well-known to organists.

Rwanda: "Angels' concert" painting

The African nation Rwanda issued this stamp in 1969 as part of a set of stamps depicting art work with a musical theme. There are 8 stamps in the set including two air mail stamps, but not including two high-value mini-sheets. Other instruments depicted in the paintings shown on these stamps, aside from singers, are a lute, a fife and a piano. This stamp (Scott 281) showing St Cecilia playing an organ is the low value stamp in the set. (This was actually one of the first stamps I ever collected, long before I started playing organ, or focusing my collecting on organ stamps.) Two other angels are playing a harp and a lute in the painting depicted on the present stamp.

The image for the stamp is taken from the Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert van Eyck and his younger brother Jan van Eyck. The younger van Eyck is believed to have completed the work based on his brother's design between 1430 and 1432. The larger work consists of 12 panels, 5 above and 7 below. They together constitute a scene of adoration of the Lamb of God. There are actually two "musical" panels in the upper portion of the altarpiece. The second shows a group of angels singing. The work remains sited in the building for which it was intended: St Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent. Van Eyck has included a great deal of detail in his rendering of the positif organ. The keys are remarkably clear, and light reflects from the metal pipes.