The American Guild of Organists had their annual convention in Boston this past week, which opened up some unusual musical (and people-watching) opportunities.
On Monday, we saw James David Christie and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra at Symphony Hall. I didn’t care too much for the modern music on the program, but his performance of Guilmant’s Première Symphonie pour Orgue et Orchestre was incredible. I guess that’s the point of the piece, but the organ really can hold its own against a full orchestra.
On Thursday, we saw Peter Krasinski provide a pipe organ accompaniment to the silent film Old Ironsides (1926) at Old South Church. That, too, was an amazing performance–in surround sound, no less.
And on Saturday, we visited the factory of C.B. Fisk, the legendary organ-builder in Gloucester. I like to tour a good shop, but more than anything I love seeing the sort of specialized tooling that evolves to serve a particular craft. In one facility, Fisk builds enormous examples of top-quality wood cabinetry, casts their own metal for pipe-making, crafts consoles with complex controls and linkages, and sculpts elaborate architectural ornamentation. Visitors could walk through a partially-built organ in their warehouse while it was played. Their namesake founder was a physicist who worked with Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project before taking up this more peaceful vocation.
The Head of the Charles Regatta operates several redundant timing systems. A high-speed photo-finish camera records a stream of 1-pixel-wide images across the starting line, which are displayed on the screen as a horizontal strip. Here, one of two very capable operators zooms in and manually selects the pixel that best represents the leading edge of each boat, which assigns it an official start time.
Yesterday after lunch I pedaled to Charlestown and locked my
bike to the railing that surrounds Pier 4. Usually I am focused on
not dropping my lock into the sea, but this time I was distracted
because my view of the water was blocked by an angular wall of cold
gray steel. At first I thought the Navy had moved the USS Cassin
Young, but then I spotted modern phased-array radars and, to my
surprise, the flag of Norway. This was the hull of the imposing
Roald Amundsen. Why would a 440 foot Norwegian Navy frigate tie
up alongside my sailing center? I don’t know, but there
is a sandwich shop nearby that makes a very good panini.
Anyway, the sailor standing guard seemed unperturbed by the threat
of a bicycle merely 20 feet from his warship, so I chalked this up
as another Boston first and moved on.
Having completed by
Basic Keelboat certification last week, I was anxious to set
off on my first truly singlehanded sail in Boston Harbor. The
experience brought me back to that weird rite of passage for many
16-year-olds, driving solo on the highway for the first time. The
parallels are striking. Situational awareness consumes an ample
portion of my attention. Developing a subconscious feel for the
boat’s response to various inputs is a priority. Periods of
heavy traffic can be stressful. Catching gusts while sailing
close-hauled can still make me jittery. And I have a strong urge to
pile all my friends into the boat and go for a joyride. Some things
A few things are making this experience great: the unshakable
confidence of the sailing center staff, being a quick learner,
beautiful weather, and the magnificent view of the city from the