Soul Food at the Art Gallery

Published February 22, 2013 by Susan Woodward

It took three attempts to visit the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, but I finally made it in!   I really, really wanted to go on Monday because it was my birthday, but when I arrived, the museum was closed to the public.


I came back on Tuesday to find that it was also closed to the public that day as well.


Wednesday I had a lunch date and then watched movies with my son on his day off, so I didn’t even ATTEMPT to show up again.

But Thursday?  SUCCESS!!

My big thing was that I wanted to do something for my soul.  I have been working hard to reformat this body (and it really still needs a LOT of work…).  I have quit smoking, I’m changing my eating habits (that’s a bit on the hard side…), I am exercising (and not only at Aerial Arts, but actually using the fitness center where I live), and working hard to make myself stronger…but I really needed something more to nourish my soul.

One thing I did this week to help with that was to visit my friend and healer, Mimi.  I had a wonderful reiki session with her, and that also helps with the spiritual food.

I really felt called to go to the art gallery, though.  I am in no way, shape, or form any kind of an art “expert”… far from it!   I was thinking that maybe something there was calling to me in some way, begging me to come see it.  I figured that my soul would recognize whatever it was that was calling to me because I wasn’t quite sure if my eyes could do so!

I walked through the various rooms, hoping that something would speak to me and grab my attention.  While there were many interesting pieces, nothing said, “Hey, Sue…cop a seat and pay some attention to me for a bit!”

That was before I got to the far end of the building and could hear what sounded like the Phantom of the Opera (NOT Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version, but the one I imagine from Gaston Leroux’s novel) playing upstairs.  It was haunting and literally drew me up that marble staircase till I found the source.  It was coming from the Italian Baroque Organ in the Fountain Court.

I discovered a young man sitting at a bench, playing this massive 600 pipe organ.  (Ok…I’ll give you the info from the museum flyer):

Italian Baroque Organ

This fully functional instrument, with its 600 pipes and lavishly carved, painted and gilded 22-foot case, not only reflects the art, architecture and science of Baroque Italy, but its musical and religious culture as well.  With the original bellows dating from the late 1700s, this organ combines the technology of the eighteenth century with exquisite artwork, as seen in the crowning depiction of Saint Andrew.  The authentic pipework, keyboard, and case have been restored to their 1770 condition with as few alterations and additions as possible.  That this instrument was so well preserved is a testament to the continuity in Italian organ culture.  As tastes changed throughout the years, organs were enlarged but the original integrity of sound was never compromised.  The result is that visitors to the Memorial Art Gallery are provided with a unique window into eighteenth-century Italy.

The young man at the keyboard was Joel Kumro, who is studying privately with a professor from the Eastman School of Music.  I was so taken by the sound that I had to take a video to capture it…thank goodness I had my camera and it takes movies!


I have to apologize to Joel for the first video… I filmed it with my camera sideways, and YouTube would not let me rotate the view.  I will have to see if there is a way to fix that, but I can at least share the music with you!  The first piece is called “Tocata per le levatione” by Fresco Baldi:

Because of an error I made in transferring the videos to my computer from my camera, I ended up making a mess of the second video, and could NOT get it on YouTube.  I managed to save myself by getting it to FaceBook!  (I have to work on being more technologically savvy…).  You have to click on the thumbnail to get to it.  Sorry for the technical difficulties, folks…

This piece is entitled “Christae Alio Modo” and it is also by Fresco Baldi:

Italian Baroque Organ

If all else fails, click here:

Stupid video embedding technological mess-ups…   ANYHOW…

The litany of pieces played by Mr. Kumro kept calling me back to the Fountain Court, even after I began wandering around in the other halls nearby.  I decided that it must have been the music calling to me that brought me to the gallery to begin with.  I do not think that I would have been treated to an extended concert like the one I had today on any given day…I was meant to be there today and not earlier in the week.

What made me think that it was the music calling me was a comment that I made to myself while looking around in one of the other rooms.  I looked at a piece and thought, “Huh…this doesn’t resonate with me.”   At that point, the music from the Fountain Court got really loud and higher pitched…and it reminded me of that old Don Knotts movie, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.  I just decided to plant myself on one of the benches in the hall and allow the music to resonate with me.  I noticed a couple of different reactions within my body as I listened.

Tunes that were of the higher pitched, almost gratingly Gothic variety (the best phrase that I could come up with to describe it…and not to be meant derogatory in any way) literally caused the hair on the top of my head to prickle (again, not meant to be derogatory…just an observation).   Wondering if it was just a coincidence, I continued to listen as Mr. Kumro continued his repertoire.

When the music changed to what I can only describe as “churchy” sounding (lower pitch, smoother tones than the other pieces), I noticed a change in the resonance in my body.  I tried to sit as still as possible and just listen… and it seemed to resonate in my upper chest and throat area.

I continued to listen as the songs changed back and forth from the Gothicky to the churchy, and each time the resonance was experienced in the same way.  Top of the head for Gothicky…chest and throat for churchy.

So what did I begin to make of that?  I started thinking about how the singing bowls that Mimi used in the reiki session make me resonate with them.  The various pitches seems to reach different parts of my body, activating different chakras.  That’s what the experience with the Italian Baroque Organ was like… activating my chakras.  In this case, I felt the heart and throat chakras in the “churchy” lower pitched pieces, while my crown chakra literally buzzed with the higher pitched pieces.

Once I equated the organ with the singing bowls, my being there for the performance made much more sense on a synchronistic level.   This was my “soul food” that I had been seeking.  I felt more balanced and recharged as I left…a gift that worked well for going on to my aerial arts practice.

I love how the Universe works.

2 comments on “Soul Food at the Art Gallery

  • What a fantastic entry. It was great to meet you on Thursday. I’m flattered by your comments about my playing. It was an equally special experience for me to play 300+ year old instrument. Best luck in everything you are doing. It sounds like you are off to a great start!

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