B I O G R A P H Y
Guarantee for musically highest level!
The artist George Fleury in a portrait and interview with Ralf Hoffman, music educator
(Excerpt from magazine OKEY! issue 34, May/June 2000)
George Fleury was born on 27 August 1945 in Basel, Switzerland, into a large family - George has one brother and four sisters. In the house Fleury much was kept to the music. The father was an avid violinist and organist in his hometown Vermes in the Jurassic Switzerland. George's siblings still play the piano today! So George came from childhood to the music and especially with piano and organ in touch. Nature gave him a rare gift - the absolute ear. His musical career began at the age of 7 with classical piano lessons under Ernst Pfiffner, the Swiss composer of contemporary music.
When he was 10 years old, he became increasingly interested in the church organ. On Sunday mornings, George watched carefully the church organist and copied his game on the 3-manual church organ soon amazing. From the age of 14, he received a five-year training on the coveted instrument with Prof. Hartung in the college in Sarnen (in central Switzerland). There he graduated as a business student also the Han delsdiplom. Parallel to classical music, George Fleury has always had a penchant for jazz. Next to the church organ, he played the first trumpet in the College Band ("... I learned to do it myself, at that time I was a Maynard Ferguson fanatic - he used to play pretty high up, I had a flat pot mouthpiece and I could understand my trumpet sound was not very nice, but louder and very high ... "). Also in his dance band "George-Fleury-Soundset", the master often used the trumpet ("... just in carnival, I was blown away like crazy ..."). After completing his commercial diploma, George had a job as an export salesman at the canning factory "Hero", and incidentally founded a rock band - "The Five Kings".
Finally, Fleury busied himself more and more with the music. He went back to Basel and directed the Hammond-Engros-business for the largest Swiss music chain (Musikhaus Hug) from 1968 to 1972. Inevitably, he came in contact with the electromagnetic and electronic organs. The interest in it grew and grew and ultimately did not let go. Soon after, George Fleury was found on concert podiums around the world. He had his own Hammond M 100 with Leslie 251, founded a jazz trio and played in the 7-man jazz rock band "Caleidoscope". For this band he also wrote compositions and won with her in 1971 and 1972 the gold medal as the best group at the International Jazz Festival in Zurich. In both years, he also received the first prize as the best soloist on his instrument - the electronic organ. This was followed by TV appearances and recordings. The highlights of Fleury's career are many!
In 1972, the global corporation Yamaha became aware of George Fleury. Fleury successfully participated in the annual Yamaha Electone Contest - an international competition for young organists. In the national elimination of Switzerland and in the European elimination, he emerged as the winner of the festival and thus went to the International Electone Festival in Japan, where he won the Grand Prix "Special Award for Outstanding Performance" from 22 organists from all over the world. At the Frankfurt Spring Fair in 1974, the collaboration between Fleury and Yamaha began after these successes. Yamaha Europe hired George as concert organist, projectionist and music teacher. There followed countless concerts in Europe's most famous concert halls (from Ireland to Spain and Israel, in the Eastern bloc ...), countless concert visits in Japan (including several concert tours with its number one drummer Inomata), in addition to concerts in Hong Kong, Manila The Philippines .... This (unusual for Yamaha) alliance should last for more than 20 years. Unusual because at Yamaha (unlike most other e-organ manufacturers) it was never part of the company's policy to protect certain organists. There have been other guest organists at Yamaha events over and over again - yet, Fleury has been the undisputed "number 1" for Yamaha throughout the years!
No wonder that so much talent is not hidden - the German band leader Ambros Seelos became attentive and engaged him for his International Show Orchestra. Guest tours have taken George Fleury across Europe and twice to Asia with this band. Three sold out solo concerts at the Old Opera in Tel Aviv and the Amphi Theater of Caesarea followed. In the English Blackpool Fleury was chosen by the audience twice as "Pollwinner". It had never happened before - a non-English pollwinner - twice!
Through his education and his broad musical spectrum, George always brought out everything feasible from the electronic instruments and soon presented the whole Yamaha range from the smallest to the largest organ. In April 1975 Fleury caused a sensation on the legendary Yamaha Electone GX1. The GX1 was the first organ in the world with a built-in polyphonic synthesizer. Which organist is still thinking about polyphonic or monophonic voices today? George Fleury was in his element in this instrument (about DM 140,000). With his technical and musical brilliance, he perfectly conveyed to the audience the illusion of hearing natural instruments. An excellent musician on a futuristic instrument - the audience was thrilled!
From 1980 to 1983 George Fleury excelled on the Yamaha D85, followed by a new Electone generation with Registration Memory and sampled sounds (FX-20 ...), as well as the HX / HS generation and finally in 1990 the EL-90 her smaller sisters. George was deeply involved in the development of the EL series. Numerous rhythms and accompanying patterns come from his pen. This was associated with a very considerable amount of time. George commented: "After two and a half months of preparation at home, I spent nearly six weeks in the development department in Japan."
George Fleury and the stage - here comes another, special aspect into play. Anyone who has ever experienced George in a concert will never forget this combination of virtuosity and typically Swiss humor. It's worth not only listening but also watching. Most gag hunts the next. Pieces of music with cabaretistic deposits? - For George a matter of course. Longtime fans will certainly remember his persiflage on the first violin lesson, the Muppet show, the Oscar-Peterson or Jimmy-Smith imitations, his (minute exact) minute waltz by Chopin, Amorada hinted at in the foot pedal both real raindrops and the thunder in the song "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" or the "history of the electronic organ" .... By the way, George is not only on stage a humorous figure, the humor runs through his whole life. A sad party with George Fleury - just unthinkable!
That George Fleury is not a loner, he has proven several times by working with other musicians. Well remembered are the bluesy sessions with the singer Betty Dorsey. In addition to the sensitive interpretation of standards, they had a lot of fun using words that the audience called them to create a blues. In 1988, Fleury designed a multi-week tour with the Mannheim "rock tube" Joy Fleming. Again, the musical spark jumped effortlessly from the musicians to the audience, e.g. at the "Neckar Bridge Blues". A tour with Bo Hart (keyboarder Klaus-Lage-Band) and the singer Lisa Cash was just as successful. A promising project is coming up in the near future: George Fleury will perform with singer Freda Goodlett and other musicians (drums, bass, guitar). The US-singer, who now lives in Bern, has sung "Porgy and Bess" in Riga, worked among others. also together with Tina Turner and Inga Rumpf. As a program, George promises a compelling mix of jazz, funk and pop. It will be interesting - Fleury feels at home in these styles and is by no means a lonely oldie on the electric organ, in this project it is called "Let's fetz!"
George Fleury also has a "pedagogical side": he used to conduct product training for Yamaha dealers and presenters; today, as a guest lecturer in electronic music at various institutions, he offers master classes for music students who want to further their education in pop, funk and jazz , As a music school lecturer at the Yamaha Music School, he has been responsible for the training of Swiss teachers since 1995, who teach according to the worldwide Yamaha music school system. In the meantime, there is also a collaboration with the German Organ and Keyboard Teachers Association DOLV and the OKEY! Readers have been benefiting for years from the column "Learn With George".
George Fleury also owns its own software company: In 1995, he founded the HitSoft GmbH with the organ and computer specialist René Witschi, which creates sophisticated music and MIDI files for music schools and private customers. Many musicians now enjoy the publications "Hit of the Month!", "Easy Play Collection", "Play With George!" Or "Rhythm & Sound Registrations". The combination of perfectly arranged sequences and tuned notes will satisfy many musicians. As a music educator and author at Schott's Söhne Verlag in Mainz, Fleury is well acquainted with the demands on musically and methodically sound sheet music.
He's got seven albums and recordings to date. The last CD "New Aspects" contains own compositions in the direction of Jazz, Jazzrock, Funk and Crossover. For some of these titles sheet music and corresponding software for e-organ as well as MIDI files are also available. In addition to the organ, Fleury has recently been increasingly using electronics in conjunction with an acoustic grand piano/piano. The Yamaha disk piano and the GranTouch offer him technically and musically optimal conditions to realize his music.
In recent weeks, George Fleury's new collaboration with Dirk Flügge (importer of the organ brands Lowrey, Mantova and Viscount Sakral) has caused a sensation and amazement. Lowrey's preset instruments are aimed at the dedicated home organ player with the slogan: "Make music - don't program". In the best sense of wellness and relaxation, the home organist should primarily have fun and variety with the instrument. The operation of the instruments is simple, the sound warm and soft. Fleury presents the Lowrey instruments in the current tour "The Renaissance of Organ Legends". After more than 20 years of collaboration, the star musician suddenly leaves his own brand Yamaha? OKEY! was able to find out more about the background to the collaboration and the next plans after the first few days on tour:
How did the collaboration with Dirk Flügge come about? Contact was established via the new Lowrey branch in Zurich. Dirk Flügge had been interested in me for a long time, but my collaboration with Yamaha was always a bit of a hindrance due to the time problems involved. Other organ companies had also "knocked" on my door. After a long period of consideration I have now agreed with Mr. Flügge. The cooperation between me and him is for a longer time and secured for both sides.
Does this mean your total separation from Yamaha? No, I only wanted to work with Yamaha in the past, but the market has changed a lot recently. Various things are developing in directions that seem interesting for young freelancers (as newcomers in this field), but which I don't necessarily have to consider anymore. Since Yamaha will probably no longer produce e-organs, but I would like to continue playing organ, the cooperation with Mr. Flügge came about. With Yamaha there are no problems. My work on the Disklavier is not affected by the cooperation with Lowrey and the Yamaha Music School also has no fears of contact. My work on the new Yamaha keyboard school "Fun Key" continues as normal. Volumes 1 and 2 are already on the market, volume 3 is in preparation. The contact with Lowrey/Mantova does not mean the separation from Yamaha for me. In England and other countries, it has long been taken for granted that the stars play on different instrument brands.
Does the tour only lead through Switzerland and Germany? No, at the moment only the first dates are released, in Austria I will of course also play. Besides the preparations for Holland and France are going on - there is still enough to do. But what is important for me is not the quantity of the dates, but the quality!
What are your experiences after the first days of touring? Well, it's quite exhausting at the moment - we always present the models from 11.00 to 21.00, that's always 10 hours non-stop, afterwards we usually go on to the next venue. After a somewhat annoying start in Zurich (due to problems with the advertising company) we are now completely satisfied. The reactions of the people are really good! In Freiburg between 500 and 600 people came - there was something going on the whole day! As a reaction there is now a new base dealer there. At the moment we are only a small team, but very innovative! I don't know if there will be a renaissance of the organ, but we will definitely set something in motion, that's the good thing! The new task also appeals to me. I present all three types of instruments: Lowrey, Mantova and in between I also sit at the Viscount church organ, I come from this subject. We will soon be at the Mantova factory in Italy, where new plans are being discussed - you can look forward to the Frankfurt Musikmesse! We are also considering a joint presentation of the great Lowrey and the church organ: I could play the orchestral part at Lowrey and the classical organist Jan Overbeek the Viscount. This results in an extremely attractive sound combination. I already did something like this a few years ago with an organist in Hamburg at the music festival "Grenzüberschreitungen": He on the church organ, me on the EX-1 - this synthesis was really great.
You have played almost exclusively on Yamaha instruments for over 20 years; what are your personal impressions of the Lowrey organs? I don't have any fear of touching them at all, I used to get out of even the smallest instruments what was possible at all. When I was with Mr Flügge for the first time, I didn't sit on the biggest but on the smallest Lowrey! I noticed that it impressed him. Of course it's a big change. You might compare that to driving a car brand. If you've been happy with the same noble brand for 20 years and then switch to another top product, you might miss things you're used to with the new brand at first - but if you get involved intensively with the new instrument, you'll find more and more new and interesting things and become familiar with them.
The organ is impressive, sounds fantastic! Curious, of course, I go into the "preserves" - I test the instrument very differently from the "normal house organist" in terms of musicality and the whole structure. In short, I had to get used to the instrument, but I knew from the beginning that it would be difficult to pick up another instrument after Yamaha and make it sound according to my ideas. The Yamahas had an aftertouch, you could influence the tone, they were of sound quality 1a, the guitar and piano sounds, the wind instruments etc.. You always had the best under your fingers and you were spoiled. But now I have the best under my fingers in a different way! I had received the instrument at short notice and only one week to prepare myself, but now there is already a concert program of about 45 minutes. From day to day I got warmer with the instrument. "Fiddle Faddle" is now almost more fun to play than before. I have to compromise on some things, but I also have other advantages, which I make full use of, e.g. the sound. When you hear "New York, New York" or "Play me the song of death" - the dynamics and the warmth that is in this instrument is simply enormous. It never "screams" or sounds tinny; this sometimes sharp or pointed sound, which often sticks to other products, doesn't exist with Lowrey, everything sounds round. The Americans have programmed the instrument top, especially concerning Gospel, Blues and Swing, so all other programmers can still learn a lot. It's true from the groove, you really get this laid-back feeling of the horns or the forward pushing of the bass - that's really great done and causes a lot of fun. I play everything live, without sequences! To get back to the cars: I drove Mercedes for 25 years - now I also drive Rolls Royce.
Will the work in your music software company HitSoft continue during the tour? Yes, of course, I am a bit stressed, because the "hit of the month" with all arrangements, sequences etc. always takes about 10 to 12 working days and I can't always be in the company at the moment. But thanks to Internet and e-mail it is no longer a problem to exchange scores, data, MIDI files etc. over longer distances via Internet and send them back and forth. My business partner and co-owner of HitSoft GmbH is also present in the company on a daily basis.
A new CD was announced at the end of 1999, but has not yet been released. Is there anything new to report here? Some titles already exist, but due to the cooperation with Dirk Flügge from January on and the preparation of the tour it was simply not possible to keep the release date. For the Musikmesse in Frankfurt we want to offer a top show, beyond that the work at the Yamaha-Keyboardschule is on the agenda, there is a lot to do... The CD, which I will record completely on the EL-90, will come in any case, I hope until April or May. There are many highlights on it: "Piano Concertino in F", "Feel Like Making Love To You", "Strings On Fire", "Fiddle Faddle"... The next one will of course be a CD with the Lowrey, the rough planning is here: Beginning of summer. In addition, I would like (when I have more time again) to publish my own stuff, e.g. ensemble notes and a new keyboard / piano method, where you learn to play bass, accompaniment and melody simultaneously with two hands.
How do your ideas for your own compositions emerge, how does a CD production work? The ideas often arise while playing directly on the instrument - or while driving a car. I always have music paper with me. When I find something spontaneously good and it appeals to me, I simply stop and write down the ideas harmoniously and melodically, sometimes I simply make rhythmic notes. Later I work it out down to the last detail and create handwritten arrangements of all titles. Some titles are spontaneous, like "Cocamba". I was on tour in Italy and the sales manager involved liked salsa, samba, polyrhythm etc., that inspired me. When we then had an afternoon off, I locked myself in the quiet closet of a music dealer - that's how "Cocamba" was created one afternoon. Since I produce and distribute my CDs myself, I can of course determine the content myself. During the recording I work with PC and Emagic Logic. Normally I record everything in one take, then the feeling is right and you have the right groove. Sometimes, of course, additional tracks are added. I usually use Logic to create notes, but I also work with Finale and Sibelius for the notation.
Do you also work as a studio musician? No, not any more - that fails because of my many appointments, I am almost never at home. I used to do a lot in the studio, for example with the Zurich Radio Orchestra. If there was a need for an organ, I took over this part. For example with Bill Ramsey many productions were made.
What distinguishes you from other organists/keyboard players? I think orchestrally, I was born with an absolute ear, I can analyse music well, write it down and therefore don't necessarily need an instrument to create an arrangement. I can empathize with the instruments like an orchestra. When you play orchestral instruments, you also have to interpret them in a way that is appropriate to the instrument so that they sound authentic. You have to know how to write strings so that they sound cheerful and cheerful, for example. You can't just play music motorically, you have to be able to experience and express it inside. I think I have something ahead of some other musicians.
What artistic demands do you make on yourself? I am never satisfied with myself. Of course I am happy about the applause of the audience, that is the bread of the artist! But you must never forget what you can and must learn. The more you deal with music and new tasks, the more you discover your creative and sometimes still unused possibilities and with it things you can realize. There simply must be no standstill; there is no perfect musician in the long run; everything must remain in motion. I know my weaknesses and try to fight them in a targeted way, that brings me forward.
Which music and which musicians do you particularly appreciate? It depends a bit on my respective mood - in general I like every kind of music up to folk music. However, here I think more of instrumental folk music, where the blowing is really good, the instruments and phrasing are right, the tempi and ritardandi harmonize. I can enjoy this as much as I can a well playing Dixieland band. I have to realize that people master their instrument! Then it doesn't matter what kind of music I listen to. But what I don't like are hits and folksy music. Compositionally, I especially appreciate John Williams and Dave Grusin, as instrumentalists the Brecker Brothers do well for me, on drums I like Dave Weckl, among others. Everything that appeared on the GRP label can be bought without hesitation, there is only high quality music.
Thank you for the interview and the open answers. Have fun and good luck on the tour!
Periodic supplements to curriculum vitae GF
Since 2005: Cooperation in the field of electronic organs, digital pianos with the Japanese company ROLAND Elektronische Musikinstrumente - the counterpart to the global corporation YAMAHA.