The organ, the god of American stadiums

The organ, the god of American stadiums

Today Max Dozolme talks about the organ and an original use of this instrument! His role as an accompanist for ice hockey, basketball and baseball games.

Imagine an NBA game. The New York Knicks play against their rivals, the Chicago Bulls. The excitement is at its peak, the audience is galvanized by the very close score between the two teams. And that’s where this music sounds …

These few notes are played by an electric organ, the flagship instrument for basketball, ice hockey or baseball games in the United States. If the practice is less common in France, most basketball, hockey or American baseball clubs have their own organist. Placed high up, next to the press stands, they do not miss a beat of the match and play small pieces of music throughout the meeting. Sometimes they even cover classics like this Liebesfreud by Fritz Kreisler.

The stadium musician was born in the United States. ! The Chicago Cubs is the first baseball club to hire an organist to complement their home games. The formula appealed so much to other American clubs the exercise became widespread in all clubs from the sixties. Over time, these organists who support their teams during home games have become important figures! Sometimes they are better known than certain players. This is the case withEddie Layton who was organist of the New York Yankees Baseball Club for nearly forty years.

So why the organ and not the piano or the guitar? The electric organ can be easily connected to amplifiers and has sufficient sound power to compete with the noise from the stadium! The organ is also an instrument rich in different tones. It is an instrumental ensemble all by itself. In this cover of anniversary song, a jazz standard, Eddie Layton overlaps a rhythmic loop with accompaniment and a melody with distinct timbres.

The other reason that makes the organ the god instrument of the stadium is that organists are known to be very good improvisers. To follow matches, you just need a good sense of improvisation because organists do not just play covers or club hymns at the beginning and end of the matches. As speakers without words, they are the ones who puncture the facts of the game. For example, they fill in the dead time between two actions.

Over time, stage organists have even built its own repertoire ! Certain tunes are common to all baseball, hockey or basketball games! This is the case with this little pattern of six tones played a semitone over each time and faster and faster! It would have been written in 1946 by a young baseball player Tommy walker. Her name? “Charge”, a very simple and popular motif that it also exists in several video games!

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