One More Day?

Free Press Summer Fest is itching to expand.

He brought U.K. punk legends the Vibrators in last month, and has up-and-comers Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands and NYC's Spirit Animal booked for November.

Many organ-related deaths seemto happen around funerals.

The venue also enlisted "Senior Jukebox," the former Mango's barkeep, into its ranks; his animated love for music automatically gives the place character. Flores and Rodriguez have friends and family in long-running local bands like Always Guilty and FUSKA, and have leaned on those ties to strengthen their position in drawing hometown acts to the venue.

All this know-how hasn't gone unnoticed by patrons.

Eastdown's spacious interior resembles a more upscale version of Walters.
Jesse Sendejas Jr.
Eastdown's spacious interior resembles a more upscale version of Walters.
Historically, pipe organs like this one have been a not-so-silent killer.
Nico Retro via Flickr
Historically, pipe organs like this one have been a not-so-silent killer.

"The staff at Eastdown is very friendly, laid-back and easy to work with. Everyone appears to be very knowledgeable about what they're doing," says Jennifer Lunn, who helped organize this past month's installment of Fuzzy Fest, which Eastdown hosted. "It's very spacious on the inside compared to some of the smaller venues — there's enough room for people to be comfortable.

"I really like that it's an indoor venue, which is a huge plus on account of Houston's constant humidity and unpredictable weather," she adds. "For the most part, it's just a really nice place."

"As far as a new venue, they have really made their mark on the Houston music scene," agrees Whitney Flynn. Her band, Decathect, has played Eastdown, and she hopes to bring touring shows there through her grassroots booking service, Sweater Weather.

"It always seems like something is going on there," Flynn says. "The atmosphere there is always welcoming and I'm excited to see their progress. They are great people with a great venue."

Classically Speaking

A Grave Position
A century ago, playing the pipe organ could be hazardous to your health.

Jef with One F

My day gig is as a clerk in pretty much Houston's last full-service sheet music store, so if you ever want to come down and comment in person, I'm there most days explaining to people the difference between a violin and a fiddle. The difference is no one gets mad when you spill beer on a fiddle.

One of the more interesting aspects of my job is that I get obscure music-professional publications, and on the rare occasion when it's not so busy, I'll flip through them. Last month we got an issue of The American Organist, which has been providing church organists with church organ-related articles for 140 freakin' years.

I discovered reading this issue that playing the organ apparently can kill you. Though it doesn't happen so often these days, an article on the last page of the magazine revealed that a century or so back, at least seven people died in the middle of performance from ailments brought on by overexertion while playing.

In a move that can only be described as an attempt at humor by a capricious god, Professor Henry A. Foster, the organist at St. Andrew's Church in Meriden, Connecticut, was playing "Te Deum" on February 5, 1888, when he was struck with immediate paralysis. He had to be carried home, with the entire left side of his body immobilized. Though an exact date of death resulting from the incident wasn't recorded, The New York Times reported his recovery as doubtful.

God does tend to be pretty attendant in His house. Another man, Dr. Clare W. Beams, was known to have said that he wished to die in the midst of music. He got his wish on June 12, 1887, when he suddenly collapsed while playing the Sunday service at First Reformed Church of Nyack, New York. Beams had suffered from a heart condition all his life, and just before he passed, with his last performance unfinished, he remarked, "I feel it coming now. The end is very near this time."

An ironically macabre organist death happened in Paris of that same year at the church of St.-Honoré d'Eylau. A funeral was in full swing, and one M. Covin was sending off the deceased with an original funeral dirge he had been playing after a soulful rendition of "Dies Irae." Suddenly the music stopped, and after a few moments of awkward silence someone noticed that Covin had fallen to the floor senseless. It was eventually determined that he had died of an aortic aneurysm.

At least Leopold de Grandval of St. Michael's Church in Jersey City, New Jersey, finished the funeral he was playing in 1902. Once the funeral services he was performing for had concluded, the elderly organist decided that he could use a little practice. Moments later, the sexton ­noticed silence and found Grandval dead at his keyboard.

Ask Willie D

He Got Served
A reader returned from the military to a most unwelcome discovery.

Willie D

My heart is aching so badly that I barely have the strength to write this letter. I'm a proud soldier in the United States Army. Iraq was my first war. I was deployed there in 2003 and had to leave my new wife and son behind in California. Although it was difficult to be so far away from my family, the pictures my wife posted of her and the baby on social media and the video calls kept my spirits up.

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