My interview with Jon Lord, December, 1997

The great rock keyboardist Jon Lord, of Deep Purple fame, passed away this week. Here is an interview that I conducted with him in 1997, for an article that was published in Keyboard Magazine in the USA.

You can read more from my years of work as a music journalist at this link.

Interview with Jon Lord of Deep Purple

Friday, 5 December 1997

The Tabernacle, occasional site of the House of Blues, Atlanta, Georgia, before Purple’s appearance there that night.

Interview by Wheat Williams

This interview is Copyright © 1997 by Wheat Williams, III. All rights reserved.

Wheat: I have to tell you something. I got on the website night before last, and I found out so much information about you, your role in the band, and your solo projects. It was like a journalist’s dream. These guys handed me all the background research that I needed.

Jon: That’s the website for you. Bless their little hearts.

Wheat: So you have a solo album coming out.

Jon: I have, yeah. I guess it’s the end of January. We only just delivered it recently, so I don’t know.

Wheat: What’s it going to be called?

Jon: It’s called Pictured Within.

Wheat: And who plays on it?

Jon: Me! There is a string quartet, there are French horn players, oboe players, clarinet players, and a stunning young German cello player who’s brilliant.

Wheat: What’s his name?

Jon: Hagen Kuhr.

It’s like nothing I’ve done before. There is no discernible Deep Purple influence at all. It’s not like the last one I did, which was 115 years ago — it feels like that to me. I think you can take away the “100.” That last one has some pretty quiet moments on it, but there are still some organ, synths, and drums.

Wheat: So are you playing piano, or are you the orchestral conductor?

Jon: A bit of both. I’m playing a lot of piano on it. We had a small orchestra on a couple tracks and I conducted them.

Wheat: Was this all recorded in Germany?

Jon: Yes. It was all done in Cologne. It’s very much a written album. It presents me more as a composer than as a performer, for which I’m really grateful to the record company for seeing which way I wanted to go.

Wheat: And it’s on EMI Germany?

Jon: Yes, it’s EMI World. But, I think it’s going to be Virgin Classics. It’s the classical division that signed me. Which was rather nice.

Wheat: Is it going to be available in America?

Jon: Oh, yeah. World-wide release.

Wheat: Marvelous. Love to hear that.

Jon: I’d like to hear it, too.

Wheat: Now, you live in England?

Jon: Yes, I do.

Wheat: Do you spend a lot of time in Orlando, or is that just when the band is rehearsing?

Jon: Well, it’s the third or fourth album we’ve made. It’s a small town outside of Orlando called Altamonte Springs. It’s warm, It’s friendly, well it was warm, until today!

It’s friendly, there’s great restaurants, people are nice, and the [recording studio] room is fantastic. It’s one of those great rooms where you don’t know why the room is good. It just is. It wasn’t designed as a recording studio. It was designed as a video studio. But it’s a big big room. It’s designed for photo shoots, for video shoots.

Wheat: Well, I’ll have to make a pilgrimage and visit it. I’m an audio engineer myself.

Jon: You know sometimes a room just is good. We get a great drum sound in there, and we can play live in there, and still get reasonable separation.

Wheat: Let me ask you. How do you maintain the classical, orchestral, acoustic music connection while all these years  you’ve been trucking all over the world playing very loud, nasty rock and roll? How do you keep both of those things alive?

Jon: Well, I’m a Gemini. I guess was born with a distinctly split way of looking at things. I adore both styles of music and in fact I used to go so far as to sort of pontificate on the subject by saying “There is only one music,” or “There are only two kinds of music, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.” And I don’t want to get quite that passionate about it, but I honestly believe that the less labels, the better. The less demarcation between one kind of thing and another, the better. That’s what I’ve tried to do in the past. I may well be perceived as a rock and roll musician, a rock keyboard player, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do this or that.

Wheat: Your family were classical musicians, weren’t they?

Jon: Well, right back to some great-great grandparents, there’s been music in the family.  Not performance, but my father was semi-professional saxophone player. He played in a regular dance band, strict-tempo ballroom dancing kind of dance band. But they used to hanker after and do the occasional Glenn Miller arrangement, or Stan Kenton, or stuff like that.

Wheat: So do you still play a lot of classical piano at home?

Jon: Yes, I do. For the simple reason that it’s pretty hard to practice at home playing “Smoke On the Water” or “Highway Star.” It doesn’t help. It’s difficult to do that at home.

Wheat: Your hands kind of get stuck playing parallel fifths?

Jon: Well, I’m an Englishman. Parallel fifths are absolutely essential. All English music has parallel fifths!

Wheat: Lots of Ralph Vaughan Williams. I’m a big choral singer. That’s my thing.

Jon: So you’ve sung a lot of old music?

Wheat: Yeah.

[Interruption where Steve Morse offers to bring us coffee.]

Jon: No, it’s a great tradition in England. It’s always had a great choral tradition.

Wheat: I’ve never been there. I must go some day. I’m doing the tenor solos in a local church production of Handel’s Messiah.

Jon: It’s time for the Messiah again, isn’t it.

Wheat: Yes, time to trot the old thing out.

Wheat: What’s it like playing with this kind gentleman here? [Gestures to Steve Morse]

Steve: See me for some sidebar quotes.

Wheat: Sidebar quotes? Okay, cool.

[Digression where I tell Steve Morse what a big fan I am of his solo work]

Steve: He’s so good at improvisation. You’d do well to find a jazz keyboard player with ears as big as this guy.

Wheat: [to Jon] What’s it like playing with this man and having a new lead guitar focus in the band?

Jon: Well, it’s now three years since Steve’s been on board. So I’m getting used to it. It’s great.

Wheat: He obviously brings a lot of energy.

Jon: An enormous amount of energy, and a lot of good will as well, which is essential. We hit it off, I think, within about twelve minutes. He would have to tell you this, but I do know that when he was asked to join, he said, “Only if that keyboard player [Jon points to himself] is a part of the band.” And I felt that was a great compliment. We play well together. You know it’s good. And we’ve changed sides. Ritchie used to be on stage left. Steve now plays stage right, and I’ve moved my keyboards back, facing the audience and next to the drum riser. So we get a much better point of contact.

It’s a different thing. It’s not better than Ritchie, it’s just different. There’s no point in trying to go–it’s chalk or cheese. Except for the fact that chalk and cheese, only one of them is food, and Steve and Ritchie, they’re both guitarists, but it’s a different world.

Wheat: He is obviously renowned as just about the most technically proficient guitarist in rock.

Jon: I would say so, yeah. He’s pretty remarkable. He never takes his bloody guitar off, that’s why! He’s always practicing. But sorry, you had a question.

Wheat: Are all the songs on Purpendicular group compositions? Did everybody have pretty much equal input?

Jon: Yeah, over the whole spectrum of the album. Some came from different directions, more from one guy than another.

Wheat: So Steve’s ideas get equal weight with everybody else’s?

Jon: Oh, sure. In fact he did warn us when he first joined the band. He said, “You’ll get pissed off at me in the end because you have to turn me off.” Ideas just pour out of the guy. It’s wonderful to work with that. It’s sometimes an embarrassment to each other, when you have to really look at what sounds like a good riff, and see if it actually means anything. Is it going to go into a song, or is it just… So it’s probably better that way than just sitting around twiddling your fingers wondering what you’re going to do next.

Wheat: Do you play much from Purpendicular in your set tonight?

Jon: Six or seven, I guess. Five or six? We’re probably going to do a couple of work in progress, you know, just to see how they feel. It seems like the perfect opportunity, doing these House of Blues gigs, to try out a couple of new songs.

Wheat: You don’t play much in America, do you? You get a lot of call for Japan and Europe.

Jon: Well, we kind of blew America. I don’t wish to get into laying any blame anywhere, but Ritchie didn’t particularly want to play here for the longest time.

We were on stage, we were doing a tour in ‘86, I think it was, and he broke his finger on stage. He was throwing his guitar up into the air and catching it, you know, one of his little tricks that he used to do, and he caught it wrong. That was in the middle of a sold-out twelve-to-nineteen-thousand-seater-hall kind of tour. By the time we came back again, Gillan and Ritchie had fallen out again. This is now 1990. Joe Lynn Turner had joined the band much to the chagrin [uses French pronunciation] of the rest of the band. It wasn’t a great move, we didn’t all think. And we lost our audience, quite simply. We lost our audience. By 1991 or ‘92, a lot of people over here thought that we had disbanded and just gone our separate ways.

WheatThe Battle Rages On was a great album.

Jon: It was okay, considering that the backing tracks were conceived with Joe Lynn Turner as the vocalist, but it was recorded with Ian Gillan.

Wheat: That must have been difficult adjustment, with regards to changing keys.

Jon: Some of the tracks were already recorded. Some of them we didn’t have time to change. So Ian had to write a different sort of song [vocal part] than he would normally have written. It was a strange time. But you know then, Ian was back in the band, Ritchie was fine for a while. We started the 1993 tour with high hopes and big ticket sales, but not over here. Nothing over here. He just would not come over here.

Wheat: Do you think there is an opportunity to regain the American audience?

Jon: We shall see. You know the old thing about not counting chickens, and everything. I guess we could only try.

It would be easy as hell to go the nostalgia route, you know, just to say that all we are going to do is play the old stuff, and we’ll play at classic rock concerts, and we’ll do classic rock tours with other classic rock bands…

Wheat: Which is not in itself a dishonorable thing…

Jon: I’m not saying it’s dishonorable. No, no. No, no. Absolutely not. It’s just not the way we want to go. We want to write new material. We want to be perceived as a band that still has a current viability as a recording unit. We want very much, you know, in spite of the fact that we’ve all been together since God was a child, we still believe a band of this style and this ability has a place in rock music.

Wheat: So are there plans for the next Purple album? Are you hoping to get a better label situation?

Jon: We have as yet, I can’t tell you who, but two major American labels are interested, so that is wonderful news for us.

Wheat: When will you be working on your new recording?

Jon: We are in process, right now. We’ve got all backing tracks done, we’ve got twelve new backing tracks. We are in the process of doing overdubs. We’ve done most of them. We are getting back in the middle of January to restart overdubs and vocals. So it’s close. It should be out May. And as I say, we do have the potential of a really good, big American label–not dissimilar from one that we were with once before.

Wheat: Okay, I don’t intend to second guess that.

I might get a chance to talk with Mickey [Soul], your keyboard technician [Soul, an American, was also the keyboardist in the band Rainbow at one point.]. Keyboard is a gear mag, and they want to know about all the instruments you play, but I wanted to mention something that just blew my mind. They have a review in the new issue [January, 1998] of the Roland VK-7, which is a keyboard that emulates the Hammond B-3, and they mention that it has a ring modulator on it. And a little light bulb went off in my head. I remembered that Jon Lord used to have a Moog ring modulator hooked to the output of his Hammond. So I think this is sort of a Jon Lord tribute. Maybe you should get an endorsement from them!

Jon: Well, that would be nice.

Wheat: But you’ll always play a real Hammond, won’t you.

Jon: Of course, but Hammonds occasionally go wrong.

[Discussion of the ring modulation effect]

I just used to use it as a some way to take the organ other than just being a Hammond. I’ve always tried to see how far you can take a Hammond, or where else you can take it, rather than how far.

[After the interview, while walking to the sound check, Jon mentioned that the ring modulator he used on his Hammond was in fact a Gibson, not a Moog. He said that he bought several, because each one had a working life of only about three months before it broke down.]

Wheat: Does that include an awful lot of customization of the circuitry, hot-rodding and overdriving it?

Jon: The simplest, easiest thing to get that really wonderful overdriven sound is to just turn the Leslies up. Turn the Hammond up, turn the Leslies up, and play it properly. You can’t pussyfoot around with a Hammond organ. If you do, it ends up sounding like a rather nasty church organ. You have to be in charge of it. In the early to mid 70s, I wanted to try and do something with that, which is where the ring modulator came in.

I mean, I’ve tried to play synthesizers. I’m not a great synthesizer player, but there’s some reason that I don’t actually like them very much. What I use them for, I’ve got a couple out there, I just use them for pads, for bits and pieces. Less and less now. Yeah. I’m actually in the process of scaling right back down. What I want to take out next year is a B or a C, nice, simple, with two darn good Leslies, and a nice piano keyboard. I’ve got a little Kurzweil MicroPiano which gives me a wonderful piano.

Wheat: You have it connected to a Roland controller?

Jon: Yes, a Roland controller. And there’s a [Korg] M1 on top of the organ for some reason. It must have got stuck there about eight years ago.

Wheat: And a [Yamaha] DX7.

Jon: Yeah. Again, that got there on top of the piano. I just use them both as controller keyboards.

Wheat: What do you have in the rack?

Jon: A [Korg] Wavestation. What I would love to take around with me is a [Roland JV-] 2080.

Wheat: The studio players love those.

Jon: Oh, I use it quite a bit on my solo record. What I tried to do on that, the interest for me is to combine real piano, a big concert Steinway, with some nice pads and acoustic instruments like string quartets and French horns and so on. Or a small choir, and see where I could take that.

Wheat: So did you use the 2080 for backing tracks, and replace it with real musicians?

Jon: Yeah, on a couple of things I did exactly that. To see how the string quartet sounded, I built one up.

Wheat: That orchestral board for the 2080 is wonderful.

Jon: Oh, fantastic. That, hopefully, would be my setup next year.

So what you see out there now is really the end of the 80s. I built that system up during the 80s because nobody wanted to hear real Hammond sounds. They wanted to hear volume. Perfect Strangers, for example, that album was made with a normal Hammond, but when we got into the live part of things, then Blackmore said, “No, you should get this louder.” And then Paicey said, “Yeah, I can’t hear it, get it louder, man.”

Wheat: I noticed that you have those extra bass cabinets underneath the Leslies.

Jon: That’s just for the piano and the pads and all.

But basically it’s an outdated, outmoded system that’s just about ready for the bonfire!

Wheat: I was talking with my editor at Keyboard magazine. Greg Rule, the editor that I work for, does techno/dance music, and the magazine has this raging thing in the letters to the editor saying, “I don’t want to read about Keith Wakeman, give me Prodigy.” Uh–I mean, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman.

Jon: They’re interchangeable. Rick Emerson.

Wheat: [does an earnest reversal] No, I would never say that. That was a big slip there. I’ve met Rick, and he is an exceptionally nice gentleman.

Jon: He’s a delightful man.

Wheat: But at any rate, I’m always concerned about this tug, this duality between the sampling, techno, programmed music versus guys that play [non-sequenced] musical instruments. And I’m far more interested in the latter. Now, these [techno] people are doing very creative stuff…

Jon: Of course they are.

Wheat: …but does any of that have any influence on you?

Jon: Not really, no. I think I’ve missed that part of musical history. I don’t believe that my talent, whatever it might be, would be in that area, really. I’m an instinctive musician. I tend to play off the moment. I like to improvise, I like to just, well, sometimes just screw around.

Wheat: And to interact with other players.

Jon: Yeah, and as a result, that’s what I believe, without patting myself on the back, that’s one of the elements that made early Deep Purple so interesting. What Blackmore and I used to do together. When he was pliable in that respect, when he decided that he had this particular row to hoe.

Wheat: Was he more the blues man and you more of the classical person? Is that what you brought to the table?

Jon: No, actually! I was in an English rhythm and blues band for four years before I started Purple.

Wheat: Before Roundabout.

Jon: Yeah, exactly. And Blackmore used to play in a very English rock and roll band–pop rock, you know, until he went out to Germany. I think he had a band called The Three Musketeers, where he started to experiment a little, and then he first heard Hendrix and listened to early Clapton and stuff.  But I was more of a blues player I think, and I only started using the classical things in the blues band that I was in the R&B band that I was in. What we call R&B in England is not what you call it here.

I started using classical stuff because it was somewhere else to go. Sometimes you come up against a wall on a straight 12-bar blues sequence, and I just thought, well where can I go? So one night that bit of Bach kind of got in there. The guitarist in the band at the time said, “That was great. Why can’t you do that more often?” So that was all he had to say. He just pushed that button, and I was there.

Wheat: You are certainly one of the pioneers, like your work with Eberhart Schoener, trying to meld the classical with the rock.

Jon: It was hard work in those days. Nowadays, people are doing it all the time. You feel like saying, “We were doing that twenty-five years ago.”

Wheat: Yeah, but now it’s like Yanni and John Tesh.

Jon: Oh, yeah. They say, “What was it that you did?”

I say, “I did a thing called Concerto for Group and Orchestra, Gemini Suite, Sarabande…” They go, “Wow, where is this stuff?”

Wheat: Most of that’s available on CD, isn’t it?

Jon: It’s available on CD in Germany. It’s all being remastered, hopefully next year.

Wheat: Marvellous!

Wheat: On Pictured Within, did you do your own orchestration and arranging for that?

Jon: Yes.

Wheat: So it’s just pencil and paper. As much of an improviser as you are, you still have the discipline to sit down…

Jon: Well, I was taught that. You don’t lose that. But I also improvise a lot at home, an enormous amount.

Wheat: Do you use a computer and a sequencer ever?

Jon; No, I’ve got a Disklavier.

Wheat: Ah, the Yamaha. So you sequence right from the acoustic piano.

Jon: Sometimes, yeah. I actually use it as a giant, expensive memo pad. I just sit there and I play into it.

Wheat: Is it an upright, or a grand?

Jon: I’ve got an upright. I’m changing for a grand, because I’ve got a grand piano at home, but I use that more, and neglect the Disklavier sitting in the corner. Because I don’t get so much feedback from an upright. I get a tubby, sort of round sound.

But I find that most of my ideas come out of improvising. There’s a tune on the new album that came about thirty-eight thousand feet above the Pacific Ocean, on the way back from Japan. I’ll take it wherever it comes.

Wheat: I remember reading John Paul Jones saying that he would do his Led Zeppelin arranging while walking around in the garden with a pad and a pencil. Do you do that to?

Jon: I go walking, but I don’t take a pad and a pencil. I’ve got a dog to deal with!

Wheat: You’ve just got an amazing memory.

Jon: I write it down when I come back.

[We depart to go to the sound check and take some pictures. End of interview]


This interview is Copyright © 1997 by Wheat Williams, III. All rights reserved.

Chapter the Fifth, in which Master Williams gets a wee bit Steampunk

Once again the armchair musicologist sallies forth.

From a blog post on the New York Times web site, I learned about a fascinating crowd-sourced project of the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford in England. The project is called What’s the Score at the Bodleian?

It seems the library has a collection of over 4,000 different pieces of sheet music, virtually all for solo piano, published in the mid-Victorian era (circa 1865). They have never been cataloged until now. They’re asking the public to volunteer, view scans of the sheet music, and fill out characteristics of each piece for a database, to facilitate cataloging and studying the music and the history behind it.

Now in the era before radio and phonographs, people at home had to make their own entertainment. There was an insatiable market for solo piano pieces that were easy for amateur musicians to play. Obviously this meant buying a piece of sheet music and performing it on the home piano or pump organ. Nothing in this collection of the Bodleian Library’s is expected to yield any major music discoveries, on the merit of the material, but think about it: here is a trove of music that has most likely never been recorded, and never performed since the Victorian era.

After I logged in and cataloged two pieces, I got curious, and downloaded the JPEG images of one four-page score. It occurred to me that I had the tools to make a recording and present it to the world, so here goes.

The piece is called “The Favorite Galop” by one E. Vincent Smith, published by Howard & Co. in London, with no date visible anywhere.

[“Galop” is a quasi-dance rhythm that comes from the word “gallop”, and it influenced a popular compositional style at the time. The best-remembered example is Rossini’s overture from his opera William Tell, also known as the theme to the US television show The Lone Ranger.]

I can’t play piano worth anything, so I took the digital approach to Victorian music, hence the steampunk reference. On my Mac, I ran the JPEGs through Lemkesoft GraphicConverter to scale and convert them to a PDF. Then I processed the PDFs with Neuratron PhotoScore to perform OCR (optical character recognition) on the sheet music.  I had to do a considerable amount of hand-editing to correct inevitable mistakes in the OCR process. Next I took Photoscore’s output into Avid Sibelius, the world’s best music notation program, and did more cleaning up and editing for phrasing, dynamics and tempos, utilizing Sibelius’ tools for musical expression in score playback to create a less-mechanical feel. I used Modartt Pianoteq Play to play back the score, using one of their physical models of a 1922 Erard grand piano.

Now of course, all this took more time and produced inferior results than what could have been achieved by a good pianist simply sight-reading the piece and playing it on a MIDI keyboard connected to a sequencing program. But what the heck, I did it my way.

So here it is, the world premiere recording of a totally forgotten piece of music, “The Favorite Galop” by E. Vincent Smith, from somewhere in the late 19th century, realised electronically by Wheat Williams, © 2012.

Here is the full score as a PDF for your reading pleasure (13MB download).

The Favorite Galop

I’ve been in contact with Martin Holmes, Curator of Music at the Bodleian. He has a really interesting project going on. Why not log in and participate?

Studying the Text to Theodore Dubois’ “The Seven Last Words of Christ”

If you would like to use this material, for instance to reprint it in a concert program or bulletin at your church, you have my permission. But first, please send me an email introducing yourself and telling me about your church or choir. I can also send this post to you in a format that is easy for you to copy, paste and edit.

Update, April 10, 2017: Every year I get kind emails from music directors and pastors all over the English-speaking world telling me they are performing this work, and referencing my study. It is largely for this reason that I’ve kept this website going all these years. Thank you all for contacting me. I am glad that I have contributed to your performance and worship in a small way.

The Seven Last Words of Christ (Les Sept Paroles du Christ)
Théodore DuBois, 1867
Text and Bible Study
Copyright © 2011 by Wheat Williams

DuBois’ Seven Last Words of Christ was composed in 1867. His original collection of texts are in Latin, comprised of verses from the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible and texts from traditional prayers of the Roman Catholic Church.

The words presented here are from the English-language edition of the piece published circa 1899. Some 120 years later, this G. Schirmer edition is still in the libraries of church choirs across the English-speaking world, is still in print, and is still widely performed today. This edition, however, sets an English translation of the text but provides no information on the sources of any of the words. My work has been to go back to the original Latin used by DuBois to identify the specific Bible verses and liturgical texts that DuBois quotes, to fill in the missing information.

There are other musical works by other composers based on the Seven Last Words; as far as I know, DuBois’ particular selection of verses and prayers is unique to him.

Words of Jesus are in bold.


Soprano Solo

Lamentations 1:12

O vos omnes qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte si est dolor sicut dolor meus. O all ye who travel upon the highway, hearken to me, and behold me: was e’er sorrow like unto my sorrow?

Ruth 1:20

Posuit me Dominus desolatam, totâ die mœrore confectam; ne vocetis me Nœmi, sed vocate me Mara. For the Lord Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me. Call me now no more Naomi, from today call me Mara.

First Word

Baritone and Tenor Solo, with Chorus

Luke 23:34

Pater, dimitte illis, non enim sicunt, quid faciunt. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Matthew 26:66

Et dicebant omnes: Reus est mortis; And the people clamor’d: He is death-guilty;

Mark 15:13

 tolle, tolle, crucifige eum.  take him, take him, let us crucify him!

Matthew 27:25

Sanguis ejus super nos et super filios nostros! Be his blood on us, and on our children!

Luke 23:33

Crucifixerunt Jesum et latrones, unum a dextris et alterum a sinistris. Then they did crucify Jesus, and the two thieves, one at His right hand, the other at His left hand.

Second Word

Duet for Tenor and Baritone, with Chorus

Luke 23:43

Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso, amen, amen, dico tibi. Verily, thou shalt be in Paradise today with me. Amen, so I tell thee.

Luke 23:42

Domine, memento meî cum veneris in regnum tuum. Hear me, O Lord, and remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.

Third Word

Solos for Soprano, Tenor, Baritone with Chorus

John 19:26-27

Mulier, ecce filius tuus. See, O woman! here behold thy son beloved.

from Stabat Mater dolorosa, 13th century hymn

Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta Crucem lacrymosa,
Dum pendebat Filius.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Christi Matrem si videret
In tanto supplicio?
See yon mother, bow’d in anguish
Who beside the cross doth languish,
Where on high her son is borne;
Is there mortal, who not feeleth
To behold her where she kneeleth,
So woeful, and all forlorn?

Fourth Word

Baritone Solo

Matthew: 27:46 and Mark 15:34

Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me? God, my Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?

based on the Book of Lamentations, Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday

Omnes amici mei dereliquerunt me; prævaluerunt insidiantes mihi; tradidit me quem diligebam. All those who were my friends, all have now forsaken me, and they that hate me do now prevail against me; and he whom I have cherished, he hath betray’d me.

from Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday

Vinea mea electa, ego te plantavi; quomodo conversa es in amaratudine ut me crucifigeres? Even the vine that I have chosen, and that I have planted: wherefore art thou now so strangley turned into bitterness, that I by thee am crucified?

Fifth Word

Chorus, and Solos for Tenor and Baritone

John 19:28

Sitio! I am athirst!

Mark 15:29-30*

Judæi prætereuntes blasphemabant eum, moventes capita sua et dicentes: Vah! qui destruis templum Dei, si tu es Christus, Filius Dei, descende nunc de cruce, ut videamus et credamus tibi. Si tu es rex Judeorum, salvum te fac. And the Jews then passing by him, all did rail upon him, and wagging their heads at him, they said unto him: Ah! Thou wouldst fain destroy the temple; if thou be Jesus, Son of the Father, now from the cross descend thou, that we behold it, and believe on thee when we behold it. If thou art king over Israel, save thyself, then!

Sixth Word

Tenor Solo and Chorus

Luke 23:46

Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum. Father, into Thy hands I commend my soul.

Psalm 88:27 (according to the numbering of Psalms in the Latin Vulgate)
Psalm 89:26 (according to later translations)

Pater meus es tu, Deus meus, susceptor salutis meæ. For Thou art my God and my Father; Thou art my Saviour.

Seventh Word

Solo for Soprano, Tenor and Baritone, with Chorus

John 19:30

Et clamans Jesu voce magna dixit:Consummatum est! And with a loud voice Jesus cried, exclaiming:“It is finished!”
Et inclinato capite, traddit spiritum. And He did bow His head, and rendered up His spirit.

Luke 23:44

Erat autem fere hora sexta; obscuratus est sol, et tenebræ factæ sunt in universam terram; velum templi scissum est; omnis terra tremuit; And it was about the sixth hour; and the sun was darkened, and darkness covered the earth, until about the ninth hour; and the veil of the temple was rent, and all the earth did quake;

from Matthew 27:52

petræ scissæ et monumenta aperta sunt. and the rocks were rent, and all the graves were opened wide.

prayer from the Stations of the Cross

Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
Quia per sanctam Crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
Christ, we do all adore Thee, and we do praise Thee forever;
for on the holy cross hast thou the world from sin redeemed.


*Mark 15:29 does not use the word “Jews” in the original Greek. That word does not appear in that verse in the Latin Vulgate (which DuBois quoted), or in any other translations of the Bible. Rather, Mark 15:29 uses the Greek word oi, meaning “those passing by”.


Many churches and choirs in the English-speaking world are still using copies of the original English-language edition of DuBois’ piece published circa 1899. However, I wish to point out that there is a newly-edited edition of DuBois’ work with new, revised English lyrics and a newly-edited and -engraved full orchestration, by Hal Hopson, published in 2003 by Lorenz Publishing Company, and available for purchase or hire from the publisher.

My work for Christmas with the Georgia Boy Choir

Christmas with the Georgia Boy Choir, 2011

This season I did some music copyist work for the Georgia Boy Choir for their amazing Christmas concert at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, December 16 and 17.

Director David R. White is also a solo singer, and with the orchestra and choir he wanted to close the concert by performing Alan Silvestri‘s “God Bless Us Every One” from the Disney movie A Christmas Carol (2009). The song was written for Andrea Bocelli, who belts out a high Cb at the end. David, being a fine singer but a mere mortal, needed the song in a lower key. He asked me to transpose the whole thing down for choir, orchestra, and soloist. So we bought the full set of orchestral parts, choir octavos, and conductor’s score from Hal Leonard.

David wrote his own modified arrangement for the the choral part. He gave the Hal Leonard scores to me. I replicated everything in the Sibelius music notation software program, making a few adjustments to the arrangement to accommodate the transposition and instrument ranges, and to reconcile the chord progressions between the conductor’s score,  two different published piano accompaniment arrangements, and David’s choral arrangement. I then printed up a new choral octavo, conductor’s score, and parts for the orchestra. It was a huge orchestration (on a Disney scale and budget); David performed it with a twenty-five piece orchestra and pipe organ accompaniment.

Two esteemed members of the professional orchestra told me that they all checked my charts and that they contained no errors and were easy to read. Mission accomplished.

David sang the piece, unamplified, with all of his choirs and the orchestra, the massive pipe organ, and the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand at Peachtree Road UMC. That’s his son Duane, a freshman at Covenant College, conducting in the picture above.

I can’t show you any of my scores, which will never get out of David White’s hands, because the piece is copyrighted by people who are not me and not David White. Let me state again, the Georgia Boy Choir purchased a full set of commercial, licensed scores for every part for every musician, so all copyright requirements were met, and the Georgia Boy Choir pays performance royalties as well.

Wheat sings Menotti’s opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

Please permit me to share with you what a great Christmas season I had. I haven’t sung a solo role in a stage production since I was in college in 1988, and I haven’t been in any kind of stage production since 1992, but this season I sang King Kaspar in Roswell Presbyterian‘s production of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, with a full 23-piece professional orchestra. We performed two concerts, December 8 and 9, in front of a total paying audience of 1,100. It was a benefit for the Christian charity Music Mission Kiev in the Ukraine.

I got to work with the fabulous 26-year-old opera singer Shellee Wilson as Amahl’s Mother. I call her “the next Jessye Norman“. She’s headed to London for the next year. Ralph Griffin, a member of the church and the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, is a retired professional operatic bass-baritone, and played King Balthazar. King Melchoir was played by Roswell Pres. music director Bruce Graham‘s son Andrew, who has a master’s in choral conducting and is a high-school choir director. Amahl was played by 13-year-old Sarah Clements, who amazingly is as much of a classical ballet dancer as she is a singer and actress. It was a professional-calibre production and the best production of Amahl you could ever hope to see in a church in this town.

I’m happy to say that vocally I held my own with the pros. We had eight weeks of two nights a week of rehearsals, which is a lot, but I took advantage of it, and got my comedic timing down well. I didn’t know if I could pull it off and make people laugh, but guess what, I did.

I’m at the age where career professional opera tenors are retiring. I have no illusions about getting many more opportunities like this one, let alone making any money at it, but it’s gratifying. Circumstances made it difficult for me to devote much energy to singing for many years. Only in the last three years have I been able to get serious about it again, and it feels good.

Photographs are by professional photographer Stanley Leary, and he holds the copyright. Prints may be purchased at this link at

“One moonstone to make you sleep.”
“Choirs of angels hover over his roof and sing him to sleep.”
“Yes, good woman. Let him come with us. We’ll take good care of him.”

Most unfortunately the photographer did not shoot any pictures of me cupping my hand to my ear and saying “Eh?”.

Merry Christmas.

Needful things, undone

Lately I’ve gotten a lot of attention for my computer tech support work, and my work with music notation software on the iPad. I have also done some work lately in moving a couple of WordPress web sites from one hosting service to another, and I’ve been meaning to write up a large tutorial document on how to do that. There are a lot of resources out there that explain bits and pieces of the process, but I haven’t found one good tutorial on the procedures as a whole, so I need to write my own and share it with the world.

I’ve been meaning to blog about all these matters, but concerns about finding more gainful employment have taken over for awhile. That’s why I just sat for the examinations and re-certified myself as an Apple Certified Macintosh Technician and an Apple Sales Professional. As you may know, I do more work with Microsoft Windows systems as I do with Macs. It’s honestly very hard to find somebody like me, who is equally expert with both Macintosh and Windows technical support and network administration. I want to be outstanding in my field.

In the meantime, for those of you who would like to learn more about Mac stuff, tech support, and music on computers, let me refer to you to Ask Different, a new community-driven technical support site that is part of the Stack Exchange network of sites. I’ve been posting there a great deal lately.

They also have a site called Musical Practice & Performance, for decidedly non-computer-related discussions about learning to be a musician. I’ve contributed a few posts there also.

I’m helping teach a class at Summer NAMM on Saturday

Hi all.

I’m at the Nashville Convention Center (Tennessee) for the Summer NAMM convention (National Association of Music Merchants). This is where musical instrument store owners and purchasing agents meet all the companies that sell musical instruments, recording studio equipment, sheet music–pretty much everything you can buy at your local Sam Ash or Guitar Center–and they meet with the representatives from all the companies that make the instruments–Roland, Yamaha, Casio, Gibson, Martin, Taylor, and everybody else. They try out the new models being released this year, and they place orders for products to sell in their stores.

Saturday is open to the general public (tickets cost around $25). My boss Doug Roberts of Roberts Creative Systems is teaching classes in a computer classroom with 20 MacBook Pros. I’m one of his assistants. His classes are in beginning home and studio recording with GarageBand, Logic and what have you. At 3:00 pm on Saturday, he’s teaching a class on music apps for the iPad, and he’s asked me to give a short presentation on apps for reading sheet music on the iPad–to use the iPad in place of, or as an augmentation to, your usual sheet music folder or stack of scores, fake books and folios. I’ve done a lot of research in this area.

More info later.

New Trinity Baroque performs Bach’s B minor Mass

Posted Sunday, March 6, 2011. Some corrections have been added since.

The stars aligned in Atlanta last week for something that will certainly never be repeated again.

On Sunday, February 27, the Atlanta Sacred Chorale, with a 22-piece modern orchestra, performed Bach’s B minor Mass at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University. Then five and six days later, the New Trinity Baroque orchestra and the Georgia Tech Chamber Choir performed Bach’s B minor Mass with period instruments and Baroque tuning less than three miles away at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. Today the New Trinity Baroque performs again in Birmingham, Alabama.

I attended the February 27 performance of the Atlanta Sacred Chorale and the March 5 performance of New Trinity Baroque. I’ve seen both a modern and a historically-informed production of the full B minor Mass in the same week in the same town. That will never happen again in my lifetime, anywhere.

Now I volunteer with the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, the other Baroque orchestra based in Atlanta, Georgia. New Trinity Baroque and the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra don’t view each other as rivals, since they share so many musicians, both those who live in Atlanta and those who are flown in from out of state, to fill out their rosters. And the B minor Mass requires more players in the orchestra than just about any other work in the Baroque repertoire.

Here are my personal impressions.

What can you say about the greatest magum opus of the Baroque era and a lasting member on the short list of the greatest orchestral and choral musical compositions of all time? And to hear it played and sung in the authentic Baroque manner, rather than with a “modern” interpretation with modern tuning and instruments? It was a landmark experience for this armchair musicologist. Bach is deeply spiritual, and as a believer myself, this music speaks to me on such a deep level that I feel like I’m right in tune with what Bach was thinking and feeling in 1749.

Martha Perry, based in Bloomington, Indiana and affiliated with the Indiana University School of Music, was the concertmaster. Other Atlanta Baroque Orchestra regulars performing were: Elena Kraineva, viola; Anna Marsh, bassoon; Martha Bishop, bass; Janice Joyce flute; Ute Marks, violin. Our friend Wanda Yang Temko was the soprano soloist.

(Martha Bishop and Ute Marks are considered regular members of the New Trinity Baroque.)

Last Thursday, New Trinity Baroque director Predrag Gosta reported that they had sold 500 advance tickets to the first two shows. Tickets were $29 per person. Reports are that they had 220 paying audience members, not counting guests and comps, on Friday, March 4 at St. John United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Last night, Saturday, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal, they had an audience of around 350; the place seats 400. Today, March 6, they are performing at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, and that concert is free to the public.

The performers report that rehearsals commenced on Tuesday, March 8, and that they were all flying home on Monday, March 14.

Atlanta music critic Pierre Ruhe was there, and before the concert I spoke with him to thank him for the interview with the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra’s new Artistic Director Julie Andrijeski that he published. He said, “I’ll come and review the next Atlanta Baroque Orchestra concert that features dance.” Hmm.

As for the performance, the conductor on this night was Predrag Gosta, yet each concert is being performed under a different director(!) and so far it seems that Georgia Tech Chamber Choir director Jerry Ulrich and Mr. Gosta had considerably different styles and tempos. Before the concert, Ute Marks commented, “Ulrich was more labored and drawn-out. Predrag is going to be more direct and quicker.”

I would describe the sanctuary at St. Bart’s as intimate and close, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s not a traditional sanctuary space at all. The sound is good, but I’d characterize it as warm, meaning that it lacks some high-end definition and clarity. The orchestra ensemble sounded on the lush (for Baroque) side as a result. The choir was arrayed in a blended formation, not divided into four sections, which I found quite surprising given the needs of the demanding contrapuntal texture throughout Bach’s work.

According to the program, this was the Southeastern United States premiere on period instruments of the new 2006 Joshua Rifkin edition of the Mass in B minor.

The Georgia Tech Chamber Choir had about 40 voices. Most all are undergraduates and none of them are music majors. Given that, they performed very well; Jerry Ulrich must be a formidable director indeed. I must say, though, that I saw the Atlanta Sacred Chorale perform Bach’s B minor Mass just six days earlier at Schwartz Hall at Emory University, and this extremely accomplished amateur chorale of older, more mature singers is better, with a more even sound but also with excellent articulation and clarity of those startlingly difficult contrapuntal sections.

With regard to the orchestras in the two concerts, I’m reminded that I’m making a comparison between a choir and orchestra with “modern” instruments and a choir and orchestra with “period” instruments and performance practice, which are totally different musical approaches that cannot be directly compared. I will add as a footnote that one of the performers in the “modern” orchestra with the Atlanta Sacred Chorale was Atlanta Baroque Orchestra Resident Director Daniel Pyle, who brought his portable Baroque acoustic pipe organ, transposed up to modern tuning to match the other instruments in that ensemble.

Vocal soloists:

Wanda Yang Temko is widely known and beloved in Atlanta, and always expresses joy and vitality in her solos. This was unfortunately in contrast to tenor Adam Kirkpatrick. He sang adequately but with a rather heavy Romantic-sounding tone, and just did not look like he was having a good time doing it. Afterwards, I was told “This is the first time that Adam has ever performed in Baroque tuning.” That says to me that he is, although possessing quite a pedigree as a soloist, not experienced in historically-informed performance in the Baroque period at all, and it showed in his singing style. Contrast this again with well-known Terry Barber, countertenor, who was revelatory. His Agnus Dei was the high point of the entire concert, and he used his ease and facility across the entire alto range to beautifully express everything Bach gave him to say. I don’t have much to add about Paul Max Tipton, young and up-and-coming baritone. Nothing against his fine singing; it’s just that in my opinion, compared to the other solos Bach wrote for this piece, I don’t think the bass-baritone solos offer as much opportunity for vocal expression. Faint praise, I know; but when you’re tapped to sing bass in one of the greatest musical compositions of all time, what’s not to like about that?

One thing I’d like to commend Predrag Gosta on is his decision to take the time to bring individual instrumental soloists to stand in front for each movement, despite the crowded conditions and the need to keep everything moving forward due to the extreme length of the piece. This enhanced the connection between the instrumental soloists and vocal soloists in the exquisite duets, and brought out the individual instrumental characteristics against the tendency of the hall to blend the ensemble sound together a bit too much. Somehow nothing seemed labored or drawn-out in Gosta’s direction. Gosta also transported things from movement to movement and section to section often without any breaks at all, and somehow there were only a couple of stops to retune in the entire presentation.

Instrumental soloists included: Martie Perry, concertmaster; Karolina Bäter, flute; Mariane Pfau, oboe/d’amore; and Paul Hopkins, corno da caccia.

After the concert, Martie Perry was calmly triumphant, yet visibly exerted. “It’s a lot of extra work for the orchestra to deal with three different conductors–especially for the concertmaster,” she said.

Things were wrapping up at St. Bart’s around 10:45 pm, and the orchestra and choir had to depart for Alabama at 10:00 am. I wish I could road trip out to see them again, but hopefully somebody will post a review online.

Conclusion, Comments, and Upcoming:

It’s one for the record books. The Atlanta Sacred Chorale gave their performance of Bach’s B minor Mass at Schwartz Hall at Emory University on Sunday, February 27, while New Trinity Baroque gave their performance of the same work on Saturday, March 5 less than three miles away at St. Bartholomew’s. Pierre Ruhe commented to me “Atlanta’s fine arts scene is more fragmented than any other city. Nobody knows what anybody else is planning to do.” I know that these things have to be planned far in advance, but I hope that local leaders of the various performing ensembles could make a better effort to communicate and plan together and not remain in their own separate spaces with only a vacuum between them.

The Atlanta Baroque Orchestra intends to book their next concert on the same weekend as the next New Trinity Baroque concert. New Trinity are performing “Mozart meets Haydn” in one performance only on Saturday, May 21 at 8:00 pm. The Atlanta Baroque Orchestra concert, whose title is as yet unannounced, is the next afternoon, at Roswell Presbyterian. Martha Bishop commented on how she wished that she could work with the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra this time, but had to make a prior commitment to New Trinity. Well, I hope that any sufficiently motivated concertgoers will attend both concerts. St. Bart’s and Roswell Presbyterian are an easy 30-minute drive apart, mostly a straight shot on Georgia 400.

I should add that on Sunday, March 13 at 3:00 pm, I’m singing tenor with the Michael O’Neal Singers at Roswell United Methodist Church in their production of Brahms’ German Requiem (in a newly-prepared English translation by the late Lara Hoggard). This concert will feature 150 singers and a 42-piece orchestra. There are some parallels between Bach’s B minor Mass and Brahms’ Requiem. Both are landmarks of Christian music on the concert stage, and both are considered the magnum opus of their respective composers, each of whom are considered among the most important and influential composers not only of their own style period but also in the entire history of Western music.

Cheap Impostor, a great desktop publishing utility

Cheap Impostor 3.2.2
Cheap Impostor 3.2.2

Recently I took it upon myself to develop a new concert program design for the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra. They needed something fresh because they had used the same design, done in Microsoft Word, for six years of concerts.

I engaged graphic designer Beth Beaver, who did a great job working from my suggestions and using some Baroque and Renaissance woodcuts I selected from books of reprints of old art. Beth’s new design has the appropriate “Early Music” look and feel, while being highly legible and readable, using the best modern principles of layout and typography. We worked in Adobe InDesign CS5.

The Atlanta Baroque Orchestra’s printed concert programs are US Letter size (8 1/2 by 11 inches, or 21.6 cm x 28 cm for those of you outside the United States of America), folded and stapled, and they are 8 pages or sometimes 12.

We have them printed by a professional print shop that donates their services. They print on-demand, double-sided on Tabloid paper (11 by 17 inches, or 28 cm by 43.2 cm) which are folded and stapled to make a book that is US Letter size in finished form.

The print shop requires that we submit a PDF file formatted for Tabloid size and imposed, completely ready to be printed on a laser printer, without the print shop having to do any editing. When I say imposed, that means that the order of the US Letter-sized pages presented within the Tabloid pages is re-ordered for printing double-sided and folding, to make a book. The pages have to be in a different configuration and page order from that of the order of the US Letter pages created in the desktop publishing program.

It turns out that Adobe InDesign CS5 is not entirely capable of doing this within itself. When I learned this, I went looking for a solution, and I found one, a Mac-only utility called Cheap Impostor, which costs $35.

Cheap Impostor
Cheap Impostor modifies PDF layouts for book printing

Cheap Impostor is billed as a program for individuals to print booklets of their documents on their home printers. However, for our purposes, it provides a professional printing solution as well.

Adobe InDesign CS5 can output regularly-paged PDFs, and it can also print out an imposed booklet to paper, but it does not permit the user to save an imposed booklet as a PDF file. I suppose they want you to purchase Adobe Acrobat for that purpose. But Adobe Acrobat costs hundreds of dollars. Then there are professional “pre-flight” PDF imposition programs, which provide considerable flexibility for all kinds of printing situations, but cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Cheap Impostor, on the other hand, does what we need for only $35, providing a perfect work-around for InDesign’s deliberate limitation. Our needs are simple, and we only print a few hundred programs a few times a year, so the pro software is way out of our league.

We create the concert programs at US Letter size in Adobe InDesign CS5, output a PDF, open the PDF in Cheap Impostor, and with only a couple of clicks, have it impose 2-up, double-sided onto Tabloid paper (11″ x 17″), output as another PDF file. The print shop takes the PDF output from Cheap Impostor and prints up 8- or 12-page folded and stapled concert programs. The professional printers are happy and so are we.

Bravo, Cheap Impostor! It’s a useful addition to any Mac-based graphic designer’s toolkit.