First & Grand

Christoph Bull

The premiere recording of the one-of-a-kind pipe organ at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles with music that's as trailblazing and forward-looking as the instrument itself.

Below please find listeners comments + interesting background info about how this record came about.


Wonderful, wonderful. The organ sounds incredible, the recording is superb. A self-produced album with the quality of the biggest record company. – David Muller

WOW!!!!!!! Three works of art, The Organ, The Disney Hall and Christoph Bull. I was particularly interested in hearing the CD, because I knew one of the architects who worked for Frank Gehry, in constructing the facility. . . . When I received the CD and found that you were playing "Adagio For Strings" I was completely blown away. – Larry Wilson

Christoph Bull. Beautiful organ. And if you don't like organ, you'll change your mind after hearing this! – Tom Schnabel, KCRW

I've very much enjoyed listening to it. You certainly explore the organ wonderfully. Am glad you include "When you wish upon a star". I managed to work it into an encore when I played the inaugural recital on the organ in 2004 - and the crowd really appreciated the appropriateness. – Fred Swann

Congrats on the stunning Disney Hall CD, Christoph! It was really worth the wait. After all this time, we finally have a recording on our own concert hall organ. The physical presentation alone won me before I even got home and loaded it into iTunes for my iPod and iPhone. It was wonderful. Thank you so much! – Marcus LaCroix

I am thoroughly enjoying your recording on the Disney Hall organ. I particularly appreciate the variety of classical pieces and improvisations, mixed with The Beatles and Disney. . . . Your performance at Segerstrom and your CD have been a wonderful perspective on technique and the creativity of registration and improvisation. The POE this summer inspired me to get back into organ lessons, and your CD has been an excellent reference for ideas and guidance. I particularly like the Recit de Cornet and A Minor Trance . . . – Phil Chap

After having two weeks of listening to your new “First & Grand” CD, it is clear where your future is. Your registrations and playing are spot on with new ideas like your version of the Beatles' “A Day In The Life”. I almost feel that the song was written for organ and the Beatles could not figure it out, but you did. An organist that can sing and especially with a good voice, is also a new idea. Are you sure that was not John Lennon reincarnated making an appearance on this CD!!!! On top of all this between your voice, registrations and playing method, there is a certain relaxing confident tone to your finished work. Both organica 3 and First & Grand have it. I look forward to more of your work coming out in the near future. – Earl Zausmer

How this record came about:

The contract to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall Organ was signed in 1999 – the same year I started my concert and album series organica.

The instrument is a collaboration between German-based Orgelbau Glatter-Götz (located near beautiful Lake Constance where I went with my family when I was a child), Rosales Organ Builders from Los Angeles, and the hall’s architect Frank Gehry who made the innovative façade an integral part of the space. The project became a reality with the help of a generous donation from Toyota Motor Sales.

The organ’s visual design stunned audiences when the hall opened in 2003, but it took another year to install, voice, and tune the instrument. One night during that year, I had visitors from Germany. On a whim I called organ builder Manuel Rosales who worked another late-night shift at the hall and he invited me over to play the work in progress. That was the first of many times I had the opportunity to play this one-of-a-kind instrument.

The first official performance on the organ was given by my former teacher Cherry Rhodes to an audience attending the national convention of the American Guild of Organists – serendipitously held in Los Angeles in 2004.

That same year, I gave my first public performance at the hall, as part of the first annual Grand Avenue Festival. Since then I’ve performed there numerous times – both in solo performances and in collaborations with interpretive painter Norton Wisdom, electronic musician Steve Nalepa and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

It was while preparing for one of these performances with the Chorale in early 2009 that I decided I had to make an album that featured the beauty of this instrument. As I discovered, it was easier dreamed up than done – but it was not impossible. I secured the support of a few main backers and also of many supporters from my e-mail list (which has been growing and growing ever since those first organica performances in 1999) and of my people at First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.

Kindly, I was given access to the hall for practicing in the summer of 2009 while the building was in maintenance mode. It was fun to rehearse as the workers removed and replaced chairs, enthusiastically applauding and cheering me on when I finished one of the pieces.

The recording sessions took place on August 3-4, 2009, and on January 10-11, 2010. I collaborated with highly esteemed recording engineers Allen Sides and Fred Vogler as well as mastering legend Bernie Grundman, using state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Sound Spot Music’s Alejandro Leda was invaluable as engineer and production manager.

In terms of repertoire I decided that I wanted to show variety and color – the strength of the pipe organ as an instrument in general, and of this one in particular. As in my organica concerts, I wanted to include top-notch traditional composers (Bach, Bruhns, Barber), classic popular art music (the Beatles masterpiece A Day In The Life), cinematic music (Martin Boettcher’s Winnetou-Melodie) as well as original compositions and improvisations (Beethoven-Improvisation and more). The fact that the last name of all of these composers starts with a ‘B’ was not intentional, but I like it!

Since my own writing is influenced by rock music and cinematic scores, I wanted to make sure that my classical selections were the most rocking and cinematic I could find – Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A minor and Bruhns’ Prelude in E minor representing the former, Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings the latter.

Just like Jazz musicians improvise on well-known standards, I decided to improvise on themes from classical composers such as Beethoven and Couperin. To that I added my original composition A minor Trance and my re-reading of the 14th-century piece Retrové. For the closing piece, it was a no-brainer to tip my hat to Walt Disney with a new organ arrangement of When You Wish Upon A Star.

I hope you’ll enjoy this album and this instrument as much as I have. Many thanks to all who made it possible.

Christoph Bull, Los Angeles, September 2010.

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