KEN GRIFFIN DEDICATION SHOW
At The Beautiful Sound (Allen Organ Dealer)
Countryside, Chicago, Illinois.
On Sunday 19th of October 2003
Lee Moloney of The Beautiful Sound
Entrance to The Beautiful Sound Show Room Frank Pugno in the showroom (available light shot)
A new venue and a well tightened up program gave this year's Dedication to Ken a fresh and very entertaining afternoon. The show, which was hosted by The Beautiful Sound Inc. and supported by the Chicago Theatre Organ Society, was set in the show room with literally dozens of organs around the room. At one end stands a beautiful pipe/digital organ, while at the other end stood a magnificent Allen George Wright 4-manual Renaissance Theatre organ, which was going to be the star of the show. It only arrived a couple of days beforehand and was certainly Beautiful Sound's new attraction. To the far left of the George Wright 4-manual Renaissance Theatre organ was a fine Steinway grand piano, which could be played from the Allen via a midi connection. Between these was the Hammond B3, the same one we rented last year and which was being used today for the Ken Griffin Dedication. On the right of the Allen was an equally fine two rank Allen. Down each side of the room were numerous Allen church type organs. However also spotted in the back row was a classical Conn and early Hammond.
The seating was arranged in the center of these magnificent instruments and what better place to perform a Dedication Show to Ken Griffin. It was standing room only by time the 80 or so of an audience arrived, with people sitting on every available organ bench around the show room.
The Dedication show began with Andy Antonczyk playing Ken's “Kringle's Jingle” on the Allen George Wright Signature organ, and a fine job he made.
Andy Antonczyk at the Allen George Wright Signature organ (Available light shots)
He then introduced Kurt Armsden (at the Hammond B3), who began with great gusto with a very early Ken number, “Redwing”, a fast bouncy number that left no doubt that we were here to pay tribute to Ken Griffin. This was followed by “Have You Heard”, another great favourite and virtually note for note to the record.
Kurt then introduced Sally White who kindly gave a talk on her memories of Ken. From when they first met to the last time she saw him alive. Kurt also asked Sally a number of questions. She gave a very moving report and deserves our gratitude for handling this so well, albeit at times she became rather emotional at all the memories which came flooding back as she spoke, but she made a strong stand and completed the talk by thanking all of us who continue to remember Ken and still listen to his music.
Kurt was joined by Eric Larson for Love Letters In The Sand, where Eric had set the Hammond to sound like a Wurlitzer electrostatic organ, which Ken used for this recording. With Kurt playing the main melody, Eric used the pedal synthesizer and Yamaha keyboard to imitate Ken's left-hand accompaniment chords and his right-hand 'brassing chords. The Hammond performed this task well, considering a Wurlitzer electrostatic wasn't available for the event.
This dual performance proves just how difficult it must have been back in the 50's for Ken to produce these overdubbed recordings, simply using reel-reel recorders. We take computerization and digital sound processors so much for granted today, but it was pure belt & braces work back then.
Kurt then played “Humoresque”, again with great feeling and so very close to Ken's arrangement and concluded with my favourite of favourites “Hi-Li-li, Hi Lo”. This is a very fast number which anyone trying to play like Ken will agree is very difficult indeed, but again Kurt got it off note by note. It's incredible how close to Ken's original recordings that Kurt manages to get to and the applause was well deserved.
Kurt at Andy's 3 Manual Allen Organ
Lee Moloney next gave a very fine performance at the Allan George Wright 4-manual Renaissance Theatre.
Lee Moloney at the Steinway
Interval (20 minutes)
Once again Andy's mother, Pat, did a nice job of greeting people at the door and supplying most of the refreshments, for which we give a big thank you. However a number of the Chicago Organ Group brought along packages of food, which added to the nice turnout, which I am sure everyone appreciated.
Frank Pugno, at the Hammond B3, started the second half off with a delightful arrangement of Ken's “Do You Ever Think Of Me” and “Ballad To A Lovely Lady”, one of Sally’s favourites. This was followed with an excellent performance of “Barcarolle”, exactly as Ken recorded it, with Eric playing the xylophone and bell trills on the electronic Yamaha keyboard. I learned from this that Ken actually fingered those bell sounds! I had always thought that they were produced from a pre-set.
Next Frank gave an arrangement of “Golden Sails” that you would be unable to tell the difference from Ken playing it himself. He played the number fully as Ken. On a personal note, I appreciated Frank making mention that he hadn't heard this tune until I sent him a copy in an mp3 format. It says much that he has since managed to get the tune and the 'Griffin Sound' off so well.
“Forget Me Not” was a new one to me but it turned out to be one of those really cute little tunes that are simply entertaining.
This was followed with another close-as-it-gets playing of “Auf Weiderseh'n, Sweetheart” that you are ever likely to hear and not tell the difference from Ken's recording.
Last year Frank played, in his own style, “Plantation Boogie”, which was a big hit with the audience and it isn't surprising that this was requested to be played again. As Frank explained "They threatened to cut my head off if I didn't play it this time". It is hard to believe but I really think he played this even better than last time. The audience was bouncing with him and to watch Frank's footwork during the performance was quite magical and the roar of applause at the end was richly deserved. This was one of the finest performances you will ever see and hear of this great boogie number.
A Hammond Auto-Vari 64 rhythm unit was used to accompany Frank’s playing.
Frank then did what must be a very difficult thing for any musician to do! Go straight from having played 'popular' organ music on a Hammond B3, to a light classical piece, on the 2-manual, 27-stop Allen Classical Renaissance organ. Frank gave a very beautiful arrangement of Bach's “The Little Prelude in C Major” and once again earned the well deserved applause.
Frank then played on the George Wright Signature IV organ. His first song was “La Donna e Mobile (The Woman is Fickle)” from Verdi’s opera “Rigaletto”. For his final number, he played “We Just Couldn’t Say Good-Bye” in typical theatre organ style.
Eric Larson..... kicked off with “Marie”, at the B3, with the great 'brassing', accentuation chords that made Ken so well known as an organist. However, it was when Eric played “You Belong To Me” that I was caught out and after a few moments I had a job to see Eric and could almost see Ken sitting at the Hammond. This was one of the most moving moments of the performance, for me, note for note and the exact Hammond sound couldn't help but create a mental image of Ken himself at the keyboards. This is what makes it so very rewarding having got our little group of organists together and to make this dedication to Ken. Anyone who knows this recording must have shared my thoughts that it was so close you couldn't tell the difference.
Eric was next accompanied by Frank for the amusing arrangement of Ain't She Sweet, where, with Frank at the Hammond B3 playing the main melody, Eric created the 'Cutting Air' sounds on the pedal synthesizer and the piano sounds on the Yamaha keyboard..
Eric then went to the Allen George Wright Signature organ to play September In The Rain, which was followed by “Cabaret”. This mighty theatre organ can blast you off your feet but when Eric sat at the keys he made the organ sing so sweetly that you would swear that it was a different organ altogether. Eric has a very fine touch at the keyboard and can make you tap your feet, or feel like getting up to boogie or, as in this case, feel that you are listening to a great concert organist.
For the finale, with Kurt on Hammond, Eric On George Wright Allen, Andy on Allen, Frank on Allen 311 Theatre Renaissance and Lee on the Steinway, we had a wall of organ sound for Ken's “You Can't Be True, Dear”. However this was so well received that it was decided to give another collective round for “Ain't She Sweet” that nothing better could have followed and concluded another fine dedication show that I am sure would have pleased Ken very much.
Eric at the Allen George Wright Signature and at the Hammond B3
The show was brought to a close with Andy thanking everyone for a great performance. Next Dennis Scott, the President of the Chicago Theatre Organ Society gave his thanks and described his enjoyment of all the organist's performances and then gave out details of the next meeting of the CTOS. It is good to know that such a group exist and hold regular (monthly) meetings and are so enthusiastic about all forms of organ music.
Eric, Sally, Andy, Kurt and Bill at Andy's Home. Frank Pugno, who didn't manage to join us
The portrait on the sheet music (far left) is of Ken, on that evening at Andy's home.
for his arrangement of Beautiful Wisconsin.
Joy Collins at the Allen Protégé Theatre Compact Organ
Our Special thanks go to Joy Collins, the owner of The Beautiful Sound for her kindness in allowing us to hold the Dedication Show at the venue, and of course, to Lee Moloney for his assistance and support.
I can't conclude this report without giving our thanks to Andy Antonczyk for the time and all the organising he put into this great two hours of entertainment.
N.B. It wasn't suitable to take pictures during this year's performance due to the different layout at the Showroom, which would have meant continually getting in front of the audience. Most of the above pictures were taken on the Friday & Saturday prior to the Dedication Show, or at Andy's Home. This does allow us to see everyone who took part.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO EXPRESS YOUR THOUGHTS AND SHARE ANY PHOTOGRAPHS YOU MAY HAVE TAKEN DURING THE GATHERING PLEASE DO PASS THEM ON SO THEY MAY BE ADDED TO AND RECORDED ON THESE PAGES.
Digital Photo's by Bill Reid.
AFTER THE SHOW
Again, thanks to Andy's planning, a gathering was arranged at a nearby hotel restaurant, where around 30 of us enjoyed a nice meal and shared some friendly chat. All from the Ken Griffin Organ Society attended and the remainder was made up of members and officials of the Beautiful Sound and The Chicago Theatre Organ Organ Society. It was also nice too to meet Brian Wessel again, who missed most of the show but managed to attend the meal. It turned into a great party and I am sure everyone enjoyed themselves. This was an excellent conclusion to a really nice day.
Between the clearing up and this gathering Sally and I managed to visit Ken's grave out at Oswego. With thanks to Bob Potts and his wife Cindy who kindly drove us out to Aurora and back to Countryside. You can see this report and photos in link 16 on the Home Page. We enjoyed our chat with Bob who is very knowledgeable about Ken's and his recordings.
"Ken's music just goes on and on"