March 2016 AGO Chapter News

Northeast Region

Berkshire, MA

September 19, the chapter held a Pedals, Pipes & Pizza event, featuring various exhibits, at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsfield. The organ was dem­onstrated by Scott Bailey (dean), Matthew McConnell presented a harpsichord demonstration, John Terauds presented a brief history of the organ (in 20 PowerPoint slides), and Joy Mullen (sub-dean) provided information about the Guild and its programs. Children present were able to sit at the console and try out the instrument. Pizza was provided afterward.

• October 17 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lenox, the chapter and the Cantilena Chamber Choir presented a concert titled “O Be Joyful in the Lord: Sacred Music for Choir and Organ.” It was preceded by a conducting workshop, presented by Jennifer Lester and titled “Beyond Beat Patterns: Truly Musical Gestures,” that explained how the technique of chironomy could be used to draw out musical line and shape from one’s choir. The evening concert featured John Terauds, Tim Weisman, Ed Lawrence, Anita Stuart, and Scott Bailey accompanying choral selections and performing solo organ works. AGO members were also invited to sing several selections with the choir.

—Scott Bailey

Worcester, MA

November 20, the chapter offered a hymn festival with organ preludes at Salem Covenant Church. The program consisted of ten hymns from The Covenant Hymnal, led by nine organists from the chapter: Kurt Blomstrom, Leonardo Ciampa, Dorothy Frisch, Stanley Hanson, Kris Layton, Kevin Murphy, Marjorie Ness, Will Sherwood, and John Weit. Each organist played a hymn prelude based on the selected hymn—followed by the hymn itself, with the assembly singing all verses. The group of about 75 people sang enthusiastically; wonderful part-singing was heard as well as strong unison stanzas. The variety of hymn preludes, some of them improvised or written by the participating organists, showed the lovely tone colors of the three-manual Reuter instrument to good advantage. In addition, the organists present gleaned good ideas for service music. After the event, attendees were given the opportunity to donate to the Worcester AGO Scholarship Fund (to fund organ lessons for promising young people); more than $250 was raised.

—Dorothy Frisch

Binghamton, NY

December 5, Jonathan Biggers hosted “Ho, Ho, Ho! A Holiday Celebration for Organ and Voice” with guest artists Timothy Perry (clarinet), Margaret Reitz (piano), Christopher Bartlette (piano), Stacey Geyer (soprano), Lindsay Brown (mezzo-soprano), and the Binghamton University French Horn Quartet. Despite recent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, Biggers played solo works by Craig Phillips and Richard Purvis, and led the audience in five seasonal carols.

• December 6, Nancy Wildo­ner, organist at First Congregational Church, played a dedication recital on the church’s three-manual, 33-rank Aeolian-Skinner (1932), including works by Bach, Searle Wright, Leroy Anderson, Hermann Schroeder, Clérambault, and Wildoner. The occasion for the recital was the dedication of the organ after extensive restoration work had been completed by the Stuart Organ Company (Richard Hedgebeth, proprietor). It is said that the organ was one of the first Aeolian-Skinner instruments produced under the direction of G. Donald Harrison. The installation was led by Ernest M. Skinner. A frequent bystander of the installation was a high-school student, Searle Wright, who later became the organist at the church for many years, as well as president of the AGO (among many other accomplishments).

• December 20, Craig Johnson organized and led the inaugural St. Andrews and Friends Christmas Concert, featuring several instrumental and vocal soloists and choral ensembles performing an extensive program, highlighted by excerpts from Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.

—John Holt

Buffalo, NY

September 13, the program year began with a service of renewal at St. Joseph University Church, with host Roland E. Martin directing St. Joseph’s choir and the Freudig Singers of Western New York, and Peter Gonciarz, organist. The Rev. Jacob C. Ledwon was the presider, and the Rev. Stuart Buisch (chapter chaplain) assisted with the liturgy.

• October 10, about 24 chapter members and guests took a bus trip to Rochester for tours at the Memorial Art Gallery to see the Italian Baroque organ, and at Christ Church to see the Craighead-Saunders and the E. & G.G. Hook & Hastings organs. Stephen Kennedy, director of music at Christ Church and a member of the faculty at the Eastman School of Music, guided the tour. A lunch at the Gate House restaurant was enjoyed by all. The event was host­ed by Ed Witul, chapter sub-dean and program chair.

• November 21, Hector Olivera played an eclectic program of classics and transcriptions, ably assisted by Harry the Lutheran frog perched on the music rack of the Fisk organ at the University at Buffalo’s Slee Hall. The audience enjoyed the unusual approaches Olivera used in his programming choices, and also appreciated the introductory remarks he provided. The improvisation that closed the program was a rousing interpretation on the submitted theme of “O Canada.” Phil 
Rehard was the event host, and Christine Snyder presented a scrumptious array of cookies for the postrecital reception.

—Caryn Lawler

Eastern New York

November 20, the chapter hosted an organ recital by AGO President John Walker at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, where chapter members Alfred and Susan Fedak are ministers of music and arts.

—Kate Storms

Suffolk, NY

November 15, Suffolk and Nassau members took part in an “Organists’ Pilgrimage: Members’ Recital and Organ Crawl” in Glen Cove. More than 150 attendees visited three churches: St. Paul’s Episcopal, First Presbyterian Church, and St. Rocco’s R.C. Church. Program coordinator Paul Eschenauer provided detailed information on the history of Glen Cove, the particular congregations, and the instruments in each church. At St. Paul’s Episcopal, Joseph Roenbeck, Rossina Zacarias, and Raymond Henderson (sub-dean) played the Gress-Miles organ (1990). The pilgrimage continued to First Pres­by­terian Church, where Mat­thew Luca, Theresa Bissex, Deanna Muro, and Eschenauer played works appropriate for the Reu­ben Midmer organ (1905). Then it was on to St. Rocco’s to hear the Peragallo/Elsener instrument (1977/2014), played by Maureen Husing (the church’s organist), Kevin Warnken, and Martha Regelmann. The final work was an improvisation played by Mat­thew Koraus (dean). After the program, the congregation of St. Rocco’s generously hosted a reception and an opportunity for “meet and greet” with the players. The organ-crawl committee members included Chris Cusu­mano, Maureen Husing, and Paul Elsener. The event drew the attention of a local newspaper, which helped publicize the program. Thanks to the pastors and congregations of each church, and to the players who made the program a huge success.

—Paul Elsener

Mid-Atlantic Region

Metropolitan New Jersey

November 14, the chapter sponsored a masterclass led by Alan Morrison at Christ Church, Short Hills (Andrew Moore, host organist); four students of chapter members participated. The following day, Morrison played a recital on the recently restored Aeolian-Skinner organ. His program consisted 
of selections from the works of Bach, Duruflé, Widor, Dupré, Stover, Callahan, and Weaver. A reception followed.

—Yvonne L. Sonnenwald-Melin

Northern New Jersey

December 7, the chapter met for its Christmas party at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Fair Lawn. Following a light dinner, four members played a favorite holiday piece, and then Brian Tricoli played several solo handbell Christmas pieces as Karen Schmidt accompanied. Scrumptious desserts and coffee followed.

—Karen Schmidt

Chambersburg, PA,

November 14, the chapter met at Shippensburg Presbyterian Church, hosted by Douglas McCulloh (dean). Each member was invited to bring Christmas music—organ, piano, or choral—to share with the group. This gave everyone an excellent opportunity to try the refurbished Möller organ, to listen to the new digital additions and see other console updates. A nice variety of music was presented by various members.

—Helen Wingert

Duquesne University, PA

November 20–23,the chapter, in conjunction with the Church Music Association of America, presented a conference on L’Orgue Mystique, the monumental organ work by Charles Tournemire. Visiting artist Richard Spotts lent his passionate expertise on the music of Tournemire to the proceedings of the conference. Spotts has his undergraduate and master’s degrees in sacred music and organ from Westminster Choir College. He has presented L’Orgue Mystique extensively across Can­ada and the United States, in both liturgical and lecture forums. The Duquesne conference opened on Friday morning with a masterclass; eight students from Duquesne’s sacred-music program played selections from L’Orgue Mystique and received coaching from Spotts. The conference continued on Sunday with a Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary form in the Du­quesne Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The Duquesne University Schola Gregoriana sang the chants for the XXIII Sunday after Pentecost, and Spotts played the corresponding selections from L’Orgue Mystique in the context of the Mass. The day continued with attendance at 
an organ recital by Jonathan Rudy at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, followed by sung Compline at the University of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Chapel. On the final day of the conference, lectur­- ers presented on various aspects of Tournemire’s life and music: “An Introduction to L’Orgue Mystique: Practical Aspects of Performance” (Richard Spotts), “Practical Aspects of Teaching Tournemire’s Improvisatory Style” (Ann Labounsky and Kevin Lyczak), “Spectral Implications in Tournemire’s L’Orgue Mystique” (Benjamin Cornelius-Bates), and “Recent Research in Charles Tournemire’s Music: A New Biography” (Kevin Faulk­ner). A late-afternoon session featured demonstrations by organbuilders Peter Luley and Joseph Tuttle of two newly rebuilt organs in the Duquesne Music School. The final session of the conference hosted the monthly dinner of the Pittsburgh AGO Chapter, followed by a recital by Richard Spotts on the new Dan Jaeckel organ in the Duquesne Chapel. The recital featured L’Orgue Mystique, selections from Sundays after Pentecost. An enthusiastic standing ovation for the music of Charles Tournemire concluded the conference.

—Beth Svendsen

Erie, PA

September 26, the chapter and Allegheny College, Mead­ville, presented a workshop and recital by Charles Callahan at the college’s Ford Chapel. Workshop topics covered registration, hymn accompaniment, and repertoire; there was also a question-and-answer session. After a lunch buffet in the campus center, Callahan presented a recital featuring American organist-composers. He beautifully used the large array of tone colors in the three-manual Walker digital organ. Rebecca Borthwick-Aiken was the coordinator and host for the event.

—Kathrine Swanson

Reading, PA

October 10, members and friends of the chapter traveled to Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, for an organ encounter. The day included three hours at the Aeolian organ in the ballroom, accompanied by an enthusiastic audience. Participants enjoyed lunch together and had the afternoon to walk around the gardens at their own leisure.

—John Brewster

Southeast Region

Atlanta, GA

December 4, the chapter met for a recital and festive holiday reception to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Flentrop organ at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church (host Joyce Schemanske, director of music). The recitalist was Harry Huff, minister of music at Boston’s historic Old South Church and music director and lecturer on ministry at the Harvard Divinity School. Huff featured music for the Advent and Christmas season with works by J.S. Bach, Daquin, and Dandrieu. Following the recital, a reception was held, during which Huff played Christmas songs on the piano, and everyone enjoyed singing along.

—Rachel Ficklin

Savannah, GA

December 7, chapter members enjoyed their annual Christmas Party at the home of Timothy Hall (dean). The evening included good fellowship, a time for sharing Christmas memories, and wonderful refreshments by the notable Savannah food critic Damon Lee Fowler.

—Justin Addington

Spartanburg, SC

December 14, the chapter had its annual Christmas party at the historic Inn on Main, operated by Wayne and Susan Sease. Members enjoyed good food, drink, and companionship. After dinner, members played Christmas music on the inn’s Steinway grand piano and sang carols.

—Bill Cooper

Great Lakes Region

Southern Indiana

October 31, members played in a “Pipes and Pumpkins” program at St. John Presbyterian Church, New Albany (Charles Mitchell, organist and choir director). Organists who played included Mitchell (who coordinated the event), Theresa Bauer, David K. Lamb, and Judith E. Miller. The program included handbell music by the St. John Youth Handbells and by the Adult Handbell Choir, and a song medley by the Chancel Choir of St. John, all directed by Mitchell. Several youths also participated by playing the organ and singing. There were Halloween carols plus a costume parade and contest. Pastor Allen Colwell presented a Halloween story and led the contest.

—Judith E. Miller

Canton, OH

November 23, the chapter held its annual organist/clergy banquet at Massillon Woman’s Club. After dinner, special recognition was given to two chapter members: Betty Davis has been the church organist with the same congregation for 70 years, and Betty Gross has been the organist for 62 years and handbell director for 30 years. Entertainment for the evening was a wonderful performance by the Harmony Ring­ers, a bell choir from Canton.

—Elaine Vaughan

Youngstown, OH

November 16, Mary Ann Bilas Bush (organ) and Christopher Krummel (trumpet) presented a recital at Holy Family Catholic Church, Poland. The program included works by Eben, Bernstein, Mat­thias, Hovhaness, Hindemith, Torelli, and Widor.

—Gary P. Richards

North Central Region

Riverland, WI

November 14, the chapter and the La Crosse Area Music Teachers Association presented a Pedals, Pipes & Pizza event. Sixteen students plus parents and teachers were introduced to the Möller organ at Wesley United Methodist Church. Students aged six through 17 brought piano pieces to play at the organ; handled sample organ pipes supplied by Hendrickson Organ Company (St. Peter, Minn.); enjoyed Rex: The King of Instruments, which demonstrated the many capabilities of the organ; and much more. All agreed this was an event to be repeated.

—Louise Temte

Southwest Region

Central Arkansas

October 16, the chapter met at First Presbyterian Church, Little Rock (Scott Seidenschwarz, organist-choirmaster). A social hour was followed by a catered dinner. After a brief business meeting, the chapter adjourned to the sanctuary to hear a recital by Brian Jones (organ) and Bruce Adami (organ and piano). The program included works by Demarest, Wesley, Bach, Merkel, Kloppers, Arndt, and Chopin. It was a benefit for Out of the Woods Animal Rescue of Arkansas, which assisted in publicizing the program.

—Betty Cohen

Baton Rouge, LA The chapter and the Music Club of Baton Rouge cosponsored two fall events at First United Methodist Church. Sept. 22, Richard Webb presented a multimedia lecture “What a Feat! Four Hands, Two Feet: The Nearly Lost Art of the Concert Organ and Piano Duet,” illustrated with dozens of rare images, and audio and video excerpts. Beginning with many early instruments that enabled accomplishing duets with one’s self, he traced the subsequent history of keyboard ensemble playing to the contemporary renaissance of the organ-and-piano duet as both concert vehicle and compositional genre. This study program was followed on Oct. 13 by a concert of “Daring Duets for Dynamic Duos: A Recital of Romantic Rarities for Organ and Piano,” played by Webb and pianist Marianne Parker.

—Richard Webb

Tulsa, OK

October 22, the chapter met at Christ the King Cath­olic Church. Following a dinner, members Joseph Arndt, Casey Cantwell, Ron Pearson, Paul Pinkosky, Anne Roberts, and Tom Starnes (host) presented a recital of “Music for the Fall Festivals.” • Nov. 23, the chapter met for dinner and a meeting at Trinity Episcopal Church. Afterward, Bruce Neswick presented an entertaining and informative workshop titled “Improvisation Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry!”

—Karen Rich

Alamo, Tex.

November 22, Madolyn Fallis, CAGO, attended a musical Vespers service in her honor at Madison Square Presbyterian in San Antonio. (Madolyn suffered a serious stroke a year before, and her recovery has not been as quick as many had hoped.) AGO members accompanied at the organ, assisted the choirs, wrote original music, and improvised a postlude. What a treat at the event to see Mado­lyn’s constant beaming smile behind the many bouquets of flowers as she waved across the aisles to people she recognized. The improvised postlude by Mark Marty, AAGO, was based on Madolyn’s license plate and nickname, “MadSue.”

—Jon McMahon

Dallas, TX

November 15, the chapter’s Neighborhood Organ Recital was held on the Schudi tracker organ, Opus 20 (1983), at Walnut Hill United Methodist Church. It featured scholarship recipients David Preston, who studies with Joseph Butler at Texas Christian University, and Henry Webb, who studies with Scott Dettra, director of music at the Church of the Incarnation. Other student performers were YanSun Yu, a student of Jesse 
Eschbach at the University of North Texas, and Richard Gray, a student of Stefan Engels at Southern Methodist University. The esteemed Larry Palmer also played, as did Christine Bouton (director of music at Walnut Hill UMC) with daughter Victoria (violin/organ compositions by Josef Rheinberger). The wonderfully varied program was coordinated by Jonathan Gregoire. The Neighborhood Organ Recitals bring organ music to a wider audience, many from the churches where they are held. It is a part of the chapter’s outreach program along with the Robert T. Anderson concert series.

—William Leazer

West Region

Long Beach, CA

December 1, the chapter presented a celebratory program titled “Singing and Ringing in the Christmas Season,” featuring the handbell choir from Lakewood Village Community Church (Carol Clark, director) and organists Emily Lacina, Vernon Mouw, Leroy Pabst, and David Feit-Pretzer. The audience participated in singing Christmas carols accompanied by organ and synthesizer.

—David Feit-Pretzer

Los Angeles, CA

November 15, the chapter sponsored a masterclass with Frédéric Blanc at St. Edmund’s, San Marino. Blanc is organiste titulaire at Notre-Dame de Auteuil in Paris. His vast knowledge of and insight into the music of Tournemire and Duruflé was inspiring! His natural curiosity and passion for this music nearly swept listeners away. Also, he is a storehouse of informative, interesting, even amusing stories and anecdotes (“histories”) about many famous Parisian musicians we know about only on paper, so to speak. Special mention should be made of USC student Tho­mas Mellan’s dazzling Duruflé Toccata, Rob Hovencamp’s power­ful interpretations of two excerpts from Tournemire’s L’Orgue Mystique, and Ned Tipton, who so elegantly played Duruflé’s Pré­lude sur l’Introit de l’Epiphanie, and his Méditation. Bravo, gentlemen! • Nov. 23, following a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, Blanc presented a recital at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral.  The recital, titled “Liszt in Paris,” was co­spon­sored by the St. John’s Arts Guild.

—Karla Devine

San Jose, CA

October 30, the chapter held a Halloween Concert, featuring Michael Wright and Margaret Kvamme, at Campbell United Methodist Church. Host Elizabeth Pintar did a superb job of shepherding the entire evening. For his performance, Wright was dressed as Dr. Spock—including signature ears and a toy ray gun. Before playing, he made sure there weren’t any death rays emanating from the organ! He knows every piece of music ever composed for Star Wars and the Star Trek TV series. He shared fascinating facts about the shows and the music (his enthusiasm was absolutely contagious!) and played with imagination and gusto. At intermission, there was a costume parade; prizes were awarded later for the winners. The second part of the program was played by Margaret Kvamme. Her first number was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, and she wore an impressive helmet to put everyone in the mood! The second group of pieces, Mechanical Action, was written by a friend, Mark Kurtz. It is a delightful set of pieces that show off all sides of the organ: a Wind-up Monkey, The Mighty Wurlitzer, Clock Dreams, and Locomotion. For the younger members of the audience, Kvamme displayed an LP record and explained some of the problems we used to have in playing them. In the second piece, the needle gets stuck on the record, with obvious results. Her last piece was A Diet of Worms by Michael Horvit—a real tour de force written especially for Halloween concerts. Kvamme more than conquered this composition’s challenges!

—Carolyn Pryor

Ventura County, CA

November 7, the chapter held a practical improvisation workshop at Living Hope Church in Port Hueneme. Burns Taft first gave a brief history of the church’s Abbott & Seeker organ, built in the 1960s; Manuel Rosales then gave a description of the upgrades and additions that he has made to the instrument. Recitalist and re­cording artist David Wheatley, cofounder of the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program, shared practical improvisation hints with participating members. A light lunch followed the program.

—Ivan Shobe

Southern Nevada

December 6, the chapter presented its annual Advent and Christmas recital at Christ Church Episcopal, Las Vegas. Members played an interesting program of organ music that included guest soloists Lisa Elliott (soprano) and Steven Trinkle (trumpet). An appreciative audience responded with a standing ovation. A festive reception followed. The Schantz four-manual pipe organ is located in the rear choir loft, and to enhance the listeners’ experience, Jeff Colman, a member spouse, set up several TV cameras and projected images on a screen in the front of the church. Pictured are (front) Paul Hesselink, Eugenia Burkett, Lisa Elliott; (back) Ron Richardson, Kathi Colman, David Dorway, Steven Trinkle, and Bruce Behnke.

—Dorothy Young Riess

Portland, OR

October 11, the chapter presented a program with the theme “Three under 30,” featuring younger members Hannah Brewer, Samuel Solano, and Colin Frey. The program included works by Bach, Böhm, Frescobaldi, Buxtehude, and an organ sonata by Colin Frey. A dinner welcoming new members followed the program.

—Karl Jurisons

Seattle, WA

Last summer, the Seattle chapter was well represented at the 2015 West Region Convention in San Diego, Calif. Eighteen members and one nonmember spouse enjoyed the hospitality, activities, learning opportunities, and astounding performances in San Diego. Douglas Cleveland, Carole Terry, and Susanna Valleau were most visible, playing in concerts on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday respectively. The Seattle and Olympic Peninsula chapters cosponsored Sunday’s concert, which featured composer Mel Butler and the Seattle Symphony’s principal clarinetist, Ben Lulich. Cleveland also taught a masterclass, and William Bryant, the convention’s social-media reporter, was an exemplary student in another masterclass. Behind the scenes, Carl Kishline served as coordinator and Carole Terry as a judge for the Regional Competition for Young Organists. A special pleasure was hearing a recital on the 1986 Fritts-Rich­ards organ built just outside the neighborhood, near Tacoma. Many thanks to the San Diego chapter for a wonderful time!

—David Nichols

Tacoma, WA

December 7, members and friends gathered at the Tietjen home to celebrate the chapter’s annual festive Christmas party. The evening began with music as organists took a turn “in the pews” to sing great Advent and Christmas chorales. Retired Rev. Richard Tietjen led the singing in unison, parts, and canon, while his wife, Sandy, presided ably at the beautiful two-manual seven-stop house organ. Lovely organ music of the season—by Bovet, Brahms, and Bach—and wonderful traditional carol settings were shared by Ha­ruka Nakaminami, recently of Ferris University in Yokohama, Japan, and Pascal Weber of Bremen, Germany (both spending time in the United States for study), and by Una Hwang. The house cuckoo clock occasionally provided amusing commentary. The pleasant musical evening was finished off with a reading of a “surprise” anthem led by Tho­mas Clark and was followed by the enjoyment of good company and delicacies both solid and liquid, savory and sweet.

—Una Hwang


  1. Ronald E. Coons says:

    The recent issue of the TAO boldly states that the recording with Searle Wright “is available on the AGO’s website.” Interesting. Where is it? I cant find it and would like to read it.

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