August 8, 2008
NEW YORK CITY—The 2008–2009 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE ORGAN was officially launched at the National Convention of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) held recently in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. Nearly 2,000 members of the organ and choral music community attended the week-long event, which took place in the Twin Cities and featured a variety of organ concerts, workshops, exhibits, and regional meetings of AGO chapters from around the country.
A New Year’s Eve-style celebration, complete with noisemakers, fanfare, and a wide variety of organ music performed by internationally renowned organists and guests, was held at Wooddale Church in suburban Eden Prairie, Minn., to herald the start of the International Year of the Organ (IYO). A year-long celebration that will continue through June, 2009, the IYO will feature a multitude of activities ranging from organ concerts and recitals to organbuilding workshops and special organ music appreciation classes for students.
"It was very uplifting and exciting to see so many people celebrating a year set aside to honor the King of Instruments," said James E. Thomashower, executive director of the AGO. "We are thrilled to have this opportunity to introduce the organ and organ music to those around the world who are not aware of this amazing instrument and its many contributions to our society and culture and the impact it has had on music as a whole."
Highlighting the IYO will be an "ORGAN SPECTACULAR," a daylong celebration scheduled for October 19, 2008. On that day, more than 250 concerts will be held around the world to showcase the organ, its colorful history and its ability to enchant young and old alike. The organ’s roots date back some 2,000 years to ancient Egypt, making it the world’s oldest keyboard instrument.
Excitement continued throughout the convention as AGO President Frederick Swann honored three award-winning composers. The AGO Distinguished Composer Award, presented biennially to recognize outstanding composers of organ and choral music, was presented to Stephen Paulus of St. Paul, Minn. The AGO/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition, carrying a cash prize of $2,000, publication provided by the ECS Publishing Co. and a performance at the AGO National Convention, was presented to Stephen R. Fraser of Ontario, Canada. The AGO Award in Organ Composition, with a cash prize of $2,000 provided by the Holtkamp Organ Co., publication by Hinshaw Music Inc., and a performance at the AGO National Convention, was presented to Rachel Laurin of Ontario, Canada.
In addition to honoring these three award-winning composers, the AGO bestowed its two highest awards of national distinction during the convention. The AGO Edward A. Hansen Leadership Award, honoring the memory of the Guild’s distinguished past president, was presented to Marianne Webb of Carbondale, Ill., for her outstanding leadership of the AGO. The AGO President’s Award, presented biennially to recognize outstanding contributions to the art of the organ, was given to Mr. and Mrs. Wesley C. Dudley of Williamsburg, Va. The prestigious award recognizes the Dudleys’ dedicated support of the AGO and generous patronage of the King of Instruments, particularly through Pipedreams broadcasts, bringing the voice of the organ into American homes from coast to coast and beyond.
Also announced at the convention were newly elected officers of the 2008–2010 AGO National Council, including eight national councillors and nine regional councillors. The newly elected AGO National Council, led by President Eileen Guenther, dma, and Vice President John Walker, fago, dma, will serve a term of two years, beginning July 1, 2008, and continuing through June 30, 2010.
The results of the AGO National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) and the National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI) also were announced at the convention. The National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance serves as a springboard for emerging young organists who develop their performance ability by participating in the various competition stages.
From a pool of 24 official NYACOP competitors, three finalists participated in the final round held at St. Mark’s Cathedral in downtown Minneapolis. The prizewinners were determined following two performance rounds after submission of recordings and applications outlining their recital experience and demonstrating their readiness for the rigorous performing demands required of the first place winner. The $2,000 Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize and two years of management by Karen McFarlane Artists were awarded to first place winner Michael Unger from Rochester, N.Y., who also won the audience-choice prize. The second place prize was awarded to Andrew Kotylo from Bloomington, Ind., and third place prize to Monica Harper from Ocilla, Ga.
The National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI), which was also featured at the convention, advances the art of improvisation by recognizing and rewarding superior performers in the field. The NCOI held its semifinal and final rounds at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul and at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. The competition concluded with the presentation of the $2,000 first prize to Jason Roberts from West Hartford, Conn., second prize to Steven Ball from Ann Arbor, Mich., and third prize to Herbert Buffington from Atlanta, Ga., who also won the audience-choice award.
The AMERICAN GUILD OF ORGANISTS is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. Founded in 1896 as both an educational and service organization, it sets and maintains high musical standards and promotes the understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. The mission of the AGO is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. The Guild currently serves approximately 19,000 members in more than 300 local chapters throughout the United States and abroad. The American Organist Magazine, the official journal of the AGO and the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, reaches an audience of more than 20,000 readers each month.
This information is submitted by F. Anthony Thurman, Director of Development and Communications at the National Headquarters of the American Guild of Organists and The American Organist Magazine. For further information, please contact Dr. Thurman by TEL (212) 870-2310, FAX (212) 870-2163 or E-MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org.