10 December, 2008

Erik Nording

Erik Nørding is not only one of Denmark’s top master pipe-makers, but also one of a handful of the world’s most important pipe carvers. Even among the many talented pipe producers in Denmark, Nørding’s keen business sense has helped him carve more than just pipes, but also a unique market niche that has elevated his brand to top billing among collectors.

“Some Danish master carvers make beautiful custom pipes that sell for $1,000 or more,” explains Nørding. “By making pipes in numbers, mine are more affordable, which puts them in the hands of many more pipe smokers. So, Nørding Pipes have become far better known.” This strategy has served Nørding well. When asked, most pipe enthusiasts will mention Nørding’s pipes as being at the pinnacle.

In the early 1960s, Nørding was one of the pioneers in the newly-emerging Danish “freehand” school of pipe creations. Inspired by an artistic interpretation of nature’s shapes, colors, and textures, these briars are totally unlike the rigid rendition of traditional pipes. Upon holding a Nørding freehand-style pipe, the fingers cannot seem to stop stroking and exploring the liquid, compound curves and contrasting textures. Startling changes in symmetry challenge the imagination to put a label on such a smokable museum piece.

It is no exaggeration to call these masterworks museum pieces - even the high-volume, popularly-priced Nørding-designed Freehands that his carvers produce. And, when you get into his “top-drawer,” custom-crafted Freehands, there’s no doubt they could stand on their own in revolving, halogen-lit glass museum cases, for even tobacco non-initiates to admire.

The Copenhagen native’s background would never lead one to predict he’d be a pipe carver. His father owned a blade-making factory, but died when Nørding was 16 and just entering training as a machinist/ blacksmith. In addition to working at the family business, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Machine Engineering, Production Specialty (similar to our Industrial Engineering). “I studied it for our family factory, but ended up using it for my pipe-carving company... tools, machinery, and fixtures.” When Nørding was 15 he discovered the art and pleasure of pipe-smoking from his father. Though he never carved a pipe until his university days, Nørding says he had four or five carvers working for him by the time he graduated.

Soon after, a fellow pipe craftsman was so impressed with his design skills that he asked the young engineer to equip a facility for him. But, when he received the equipment, the pipe-maker was unable to pay for it. The young Nørding was sufficiently business-minded to strike an agreement to enter into a pipe-making partnership. The firm’s name was SON, a contraction of the partners’ names. Later, the partner asked to bow out, leaving the business to Nørding, who continued to operate under that name for several years.

With the Danish Freehand movement’s liberation of expression, Nørding hit his artistic stride. In years hence, the master has had many a present-day Danish master as an apprentice, including some of the custom carvers mentioned earlier.

Healey Willan

Healey Willan was a Canadian organist and composer. He composed more than 800 works including operas, symphonies, chamber music, a concerto, and pieces for band, orchestra, organ, and piano. He is best known for his religious music.

He was born in Balham, London and emigrated to Canada in 1913 to become the head of the theory department at the Canadian Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music) in Toronto. In addition, he took the post of organist and choirmaster at Saint Paul's Church.

Willan became interested in the music program at another Anglican church, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. St. Paul's was an evangelical, low church; St. Mary Magdalene's, while much smaller, was notably high church or Anglo-Catholic. By 1920 Willan was assisting with choir practice. In 1921 he resigned his post at St. Paul's and turned his attention to St. Mary Magdalene's. He set about creating a great many liturgical works for use in the church's services. He remained at St. Mary Magdalene's until shortly before his death, last directing the choir in 1967.

In 1953 he was invited to submit an anthem for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the second, O Lord, Our Governour. This remains one of his most frequently performed pieces. In 1956 he received the Lambeth Doctorate from the Archbishop of Canterbury; he became one of the first members of the Order of Canada in 1967.

People who remember Willan from his time at St Mary Magdalene's like to moderate his somewhat dourly pious public image by quoting him -- it was a mainstay of concert talks by Robert Hunter Bell -- as to his provenance: "English by birth; Canadian by adoption; Irish by extraction; Scotch by absorption."