‘Tis the Season for Delphine, and A (Tenuous?) Local (?) Connection

Delphine Galou, that is, the magical contralto in my favorite performance of Handel’s Messiah.  Here is my annual link to that version, and if this does not elevate your temporal senses, your sense of well-being, and your sense of The Divine you’d better check your pulse.

Collegium 1704, the Prague-based orchestra and chorale, is committed to performing baroque (and earlier) music being faithful to the original scores and instrumentation.  Hence, there are some odd versions of instruments with which we are familiar.

If you watch the concert video closely, you might see what I think is a Virginia woodworking link to this ensemble’s accoutrements.

Smack-dab in the center of the orchestra is an instrument that looks suspiciously like a Taylor & Boody console pipe organ.  T&B is a premier, internationally renowned pipe organ maker just over the mountain from us near Staunton, Virginia, on the way to Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, for those of you familiar with his work in food production practices (featured in The Omnivore’s Dilemma).  I am acquainted with T&B’s head woodworker and have visited there a several times.

During one of the visits as a family they were just finishing up a magnificent organ for the chapel at Yale, with all presentation surfaces painted and marbleized with platinum leaf detailing.  Spectacular.  The gigantic instrument was to begin disassembly the following day, for transport to New Haven.  The fit was so tricky they replicated precisely the balcony where it was to be installed in their fabrication shop and built the organ to fit that space.  Exactly.

While touring and gawking we got to see one of their console pipe organs, basically the size of a roll-top desk and similar to this one.  Elderbarndottir, being a pipe organist herself, asked if she could have one.  “It only costs as much as a house, Dad.”

The workmanship was astounding, and the sound is almost incomprehensively sublime given the size of the entire unit.  The inside is packed about like under-the-hood of a ’68 Mustang 428 Boss, barely even room for your hand to slither in for anything.

So try to spot and listen for the organ in this incomparable performance of Handel’s Messiah.