I have just spent a couple of days at the Falcetti Music Company's annual Fall Extravaganza. Falcetti Music is a family business in it's second generation of ownership. The elder Falcetti's came to the event as honored guests, and I am thinking as long as they live they will always do that. Sam shared with me that in his retirement he is now working with Roland Accordian students and has 60 of them. Sam is a small man (shorter than my 5'3") sharp and tidy, and he played his accordian for us during a social hour.
Mrs. Falcetti (senioritis has caught me and I can't bring her first name to mind) is just as sharp and even shorter than Sam. With her carefully coiffed snow what hair and cheerful smile, she thanked everyone for coming and for supporting the company and told us she has nothing to do with the extravaganza anymore, that her boys, Tony and Michael do it all. But as I went to sign up for next year's event, there she was driving Michael crazy with directions to put the registrations in order and be sure the checks were attached to them, and that everyone had put in all the information. Michael looked at me and rolled his eyes and said patiently, "Yes, Mom. I have it all." She turned to me and said, "I've trained him well." and I agreed.
After dinner Friday night, Jim Weider entertained us with a few stories and an hour or so of wonderful music. He opened with a tribute to Glenn Campbell which included about twelve of Campbell's best known songs. I guess I should have written down what he played because the only specific ones I can remember are Rhinestone Cowboy and Witchitaw Lineman He played the Carpenters' Sing, Sing a Song and invited everyone to joing in the "la-la la la-la chorus", and closed with one of his inspiring patriotic medleys.
Saturday morning we had breakfast, of course, and then a workshop with Dennis. He was supposed to give us a lesson in playing the Addams Family and Munster theme songs, but chose instead to talk to us about styling, expression and ways to make our music "bounce" . Dennis told us about his heart surgery last year and shared some of his usual humor about an event that was not at all funny and very nearly took his life. HE credits the skill of a doctor from Massachusetts, one of only six in the country who perform the surgery, for "super gluing" his heart back together after a post-op set back. It's not my place to give details, but I will tell you, it is a medical miracle,and maybe more than a little bit of the Hand of God, that we still have this remarkable performer with us.
After lunch on Saturday we had a second workshop with Jim Weider. I have been to Jim's workshops a few times and always find them to be worthwhile. He is organized and knows the organ inside out, in fact, he is now part of the "product development team" for Lowrey. And yes, they are still thinking up things to put in future "virtual orchestras." (Dennis says "It still looks like an organ to me!) Jim's workshop was on modifying pre-arranged rhythms to represent other band sounds. For instance, by modifying a Gospel rhythm and using piano sounds, you can get a great "bar room rinky-tink". Jim makes playing fun and interesting. Jim explains that "the little lady who played the hymns in church on Sunday spent Saturday night entertaining in the local saloon."
Saturday night dinner was some of the best roast beef I have ever eaten, at least since I left home. Of course, we don't go for the food, but there's no doubt, it doesn't discourage us to have such great meals. All through the meals and social times, student players provided background music. It was interesting to hear what others people were doing with their music. There were two organs on stage, the newest "Sterling" and the older Stardust, still a great organ. I got to play the Sterling and think I could get used to it, but another organ is not in my future. Dennis, a Falcetti salesman and I got together early Sunday morning for a personal, very detailed demonstration by Dennis, and a pretty aggressive pitch by Ron the salesman. Yes, if I had the money, I would have succumbed. Then Tony Falcetti, a handsome second generation family member, spent about ten minutes telling me how I could work it with a credit company which deals only in music sales. He also told me I could change my mind and buy at any time and the price he quoted would still be good, and he would send Ritchie Mitnick to my home to teach me to play, and Dennis would also come to my home to spend a day with me. Now, let me tell you, a day with Dennis almost sold me! But I kept seeing my kids looking at each other with disbelief, which kept me strong.
Saturday night Dennis did a concert for us with a medley of familiar oldies for us. Going from beautiful waltzes to clever two-steps, polkas and fox-trots, his favorite Hawaiian melodies and some Latin pieces with smooth transitions that you hardly notice until you realize you are hearing a different song. He played for more than 45 minutes. He told a few little side stories about his personal connections to the performers of yesteryear like Connie Francis, (he played for her first recording), Harry James, the Dorseys, Bert Kempfert and Lenny Dee. And a nice story about being with Rosa Rio just before her death. He also told us that shortly after his heart surgery, to fulfill a contract he had made before the event, he got the doctor to medicate him sufficiently to perform the organ music for a Phantom of The Opera DVD. He said he was so drugged, he had no pain, felt like a youngster, and all his music came back so that he was mentally "one note ahead at all times." And then he went home and crashed.
Following Dennis' concert Sam Falcetti, Ritchie Mitnick and a guitarist whose name I did not get, but I know he is from the Falcetti Music Company, played dance music.
Sunday a.m. Dennis was on again. He is amazing in his energy. He told me someone said he is a relic and the last thing he wants is to be performing past his time. To me and to others who love the music we grew up listening to, and are playing as amatuers, he is not a relic but a treasure. He confided in me that he fears looking old and not performing well and not realizing it. He has an amazing memory and no matter what is going on in his life, when he is on he "is on" all the way. He played Big Band music, beginning with Harry James sounds and going on with The Three Sons, The Dorseys, and such tunes as Sunrise Serenade, You Made Me Love You (which he told me last year is his favorite song), Twilight Time, and on and on. The Sterling "Virtual Orchestra" does sound amazingly like the solo instruments of those bands. And, of course, the talented Lowrey artists do get the best out of them. There are things I really like about the new organ (ooops! VO) that I think I would enjoy. Some new rhythms like a really lovely waltz with less "thump"; the piano and guitar rhythms which are far beyond what is in the Prestige; and a greater variety of solo instrument choices. But getting a bigger, newer fancier organ does not make one a better player. So .........
Ron and I both signed up for next year's event. God willing and barring any unforseen incidences, we will be there and so will Dennis and Jim. And my friends Joyce and Corliss, and The Falcetti's elder and younger, the couple celebrating their 54th anniversary and all the rest of the wonderful organ-izers.
If you have a chance to attend a music store event with Lowrey organ artists, please do take advantage of it.
Keep music in your life, share it with others, and encourage the young to find a place for it in their lives. IF I were younger and could take on a new challenge, it would be to get more kids into music. Instrumental, vocal, or appreciation - it lasts a lifetime.