Organ Recital

After we took our luggage to the railroad station in Irkutsk, we walked across the bridge to the downtown area and explored cute churches and ugly soviet squares and determined that since the fall of communism, the Russian National Psyche has decided to replace Peasant-Worker-Soldier control of the means of production, with Shoes.  Shoes rule.  There are two whole malls right next to each other right east of the main square in Irkutsk, which consist of nothing but shoe stores.  It is an unusual sensation, almost dreamlike, to go into a large building with dozens of shops and discover they all sell nothing but shoes.  Not even socks.  And the next level up, the same.  And next door, another whole mall with two floors of shoe stores.

But it isn’t so strange.  Think of souks, thirty traders in a row crouched on the ground in Fes selling screwdrivers, or cardamom.  We are in Central Asia.  Maybe commercial practice moved directly from souks to malls without passing through market research.

Serendipity led us across the street from shoes to an organ recital in a repurposed Catholic Church.  It started out with Bach, and went gradually more modern and experimental.  I was very impressed by the variety of the audience.  Usually in the West if you go to any show more ancient than hip hop, there are the old people and the kids they have dragged along and nobody in between who has any choice in the matter, and you know that rap performances in 2025 will be attended exclusively by old white guys with leather patches on their elbows who imagine they are listening to current music.

Not in Irkutsk.  The audience was a pretty fair representation of the age demographic of society at large.  There were kids there with their parents, but there were lots of teenagers there on their own, even boys, some of them actually straight.  And twenty and thirty year olds and on up.  Afterwards, everybody went up on stage and took pictures of each other with their telephones, posing with the keyboard.

I realized during this recital that the ancestor of all of us in the music business is the page turner.  On stage with the organist was a kind of Missing Link.  He humbly turned the pages for the resident master; but he also maneuvered the stops, and even three levers down by the foot pedals that coupled the keyboards and pedalboard.  So every time the music required, Smithers would run around to the right or left side of the organ and pull out some stops with hands or feet, and he also manipulated a lucite baffle over the higher pipe registers.

Doesn’t it seem that everyone who serves the ones who play the notes is descended from that page turner?  Evolution had just brought a timbre and volume selector into existence.  Next, the video editor.

We took the tram back to the station and had piroshki burgers and got on the train and woke up in Krasnoyarsk.