October 2016 Newsletter


October 2016

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

October is undoubtedly one of the loveliest months of the year in these parts. As the dog days of summer give way to crisp mornings and pleasant sleeping weather, we begin the transition to a more inward and introspective time. We celebrate the harvest with delicious soups and hot apple cider and enjoy the brilliant show of fall leaves. And then, of course, there is Halloween.

Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday in America (Christmas is first), with Americans spending $6 billion annually on candy, costumes and decorations. This popularity is easy to explain, I think. The holiday melds ancient, non-Christian traditions with the solemnity of All Saints Day in a heady mix that has something for everyone. The celebration can be as fun or funky, goofy or ghoulish, silly or sacred as we wish to make it; and yet, one way or another, it brings us face-to-face with that most universal and compelling of human mysteries: death.

Here in the Greater Hartford AGO we celebrate in pretty light-hearted fashion with our annual “Pipescreams” Halloween extravaganza. AGO chapters all over the country, as well as many college music departments, hold similar events, some quite elaborate. The Halloween/All Saints Day Concert put on by The US Naval Academy, featuring the organ, is billed as an over-the-top show of music, light, drama and dance, “celebrating the triumph of good over evil.” Obligatory on every concert, of course, is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the “unofficial theme-song of Halloween,” but beyond that, there are plenty of other great pieces, both original and in transcription, to entertain an audience and demonstrate the organ’s wide range of expressive possibilities from dramatic to quirky to creepy.

I was a bit surprised to discover that there are also a fair number of churches that put on a regular Halloween show. For instance, Old South Church in Boston presents an annual “Scared for Good” organ concert “sure to rattle your bones,” benefitting a local food pantry. Perhaps one of the more unusual church events I came across (organ-less, alas) is the “Fright Night” presented by Church of St. Andrew, a historic Episcopal church on Staten Island. Held not in the church proper but in an attached stone building and the cemetery, it offers an unabashed “haunted house” experience, as visitors are led through and accosted by parishioners costumed as ghosts and ghouls. Then again, this is a church accustomed to strange goings-on; in 2008 they were investigated by The Eastern Paranormal Investigation Center on account of unexplained noises such as chimes ringing in the middle of the night – and “that feeling you get when your hair stands up.”

When it comes to haunted churches, self-ringing chimes do appear to be a common feature, as well as other strange noises such as organ music playing at weird times. (an insomniac music director, perhaps?) Another church plagued by rogue ringing is Most Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, reputedly haunted by two ghosts: a former pastor and a bell-ringer who was supposedly murdered in the bell tower. I think I might prefer to spend some time in Old Rock Church in St. Olaf, Texas. Abandoned since 1917, it is apparently inhabited by a whole congregation of gentle and faithful spirits who make odd noises and sometimes sing ghostly hymns. I would like to hear that.

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Next Chapter event - Pipescreams!

We still need organists to perform for this year's Pipescreams! This year's "spook-tacular" concert will be held on Friday, October 28 at 7:00 pm at First Church of Christ, Congregational, Glastonbury using their wonderful Schoenstein organ. Contact Mary DeLibero at to tell her what you would like to perform or for more details. Watch your email for a flyer which will be sent out soon for you to print out and post.

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Changes to the 2016-17 Chapter Events

“The Life of a Cathedral Musician”, with Washington National Cathedral organist Benjamin Straley, will NOT take place on February 11, as previously announced.
The event has been rescheduled for next September. Mr. Straley will appear in recital at Church of Christ Congregational, Newington, on Friday, September 22, 2017. On Saturday, September 23, in conversation with Peter Niedmann, he will talk about the life and work of a 21st century cathedral musician. Video excerpts will be included in this fascinating behind-the-scenes presentation.

And an addition to the calendar: On Friday, March 3, 2017, Alexander Pattavina and Daniel Ficarri, two rising talents from Juilliard, will be presented in joint recital at St. James’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford.

Click here to view all of our chapter's events for 2016-17.

Alexander Pattavina and Daniel Ficarri
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Review of Hauptwerk Workshop

By Meg Smith and Jerry Davidson

On Saturday, September 17,  a hearty bunch of Hartford AGO members gathered at the home of Ed Clark and Joan Pritchard for a wonderful demonstration of their Hauptwerk set up. For those of you who weren't there, Hauptwerk is proprietary software that will help you build your own digital organ. I could not help but be reminded of the old Zuckerman kits for building your own harpsichord or the companies that made kits to build your own pipe organ. Hauptwerk is the grandchild of those early attempts but is much, much more sophisticated.
Hauptwerk offers you a choice of digital re-creations of a number of significant organs, having sampled each of these pipe–by–pipe and using the wonders of digital computing to reproduce their sounds to an amazing degree of accuracy. Peter Niedmann was kind enough to bring some excellent speakers so that the assembled group could hear. Normally, Ed uses headphones for both himself and a student, which is the optimal use.
We heard amazing demonstrations of four of the six instruments for which he has the Hauptwerk software and were provided with extensive documentation for the sources of the computer, console, pedal board, headphones, etc., and of course, the software.
Following a sandwich buffet provided by the Chapter (and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" for chapter treasurer John Coghill) most of the group relocated to Grace Episcopal Church in Windsor where Mark Child gave a presentation of the Hauptwerk setup at his church. Mark detailed the process by which his parish had to abandon their pipe organ, move to a commercial digital organ, and from there on to their Hauptwerk. Members were given a chance to try the instrument and explore the acoustics of the church. Both Ed and Mark are very knowledgeable about Hauptwerk and I'm sure they'd be happy to share their expertise with anyone who would like it.
The most obvious uses for Hauptwerk would seem to be for constructing home instruments and also for practice instruments at any colleges or universities that might still be teaching organ. For piano/keyboard students capable of learning organ technique and literature, but put off by the organ's strong association with religious institutions, Hauptwerk's capabilities may provide an organization (or teacher) opportunities for students to become acquainted with organ outside of church (or synagogue) settings. A Hauptwerk in a student's home may be currently beyond the financial reach of many households, but this may not continue to be true. Centralized practice locations that do not set the security (or membership) requirements imposed by many churches or concert halls -- or to be enrolled in a post-secondary program -- may be a hospitable avenue for many young musicians to discover the distinct repertoire that the organ represents as a musical instrument in its own right.

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Registration Is Open for Montréal Organ Festival

Registration and pre-registration have opened for The Montréal Organ Festival. This block-buster event will take place in Montréal, Canada, from July 2-6, 2017. It is the joint AGO Northeast Regional and RCCO (Royal Canadian College of Organists) convention presented in partnership with the Canadian International Organ Competition. Highlights include the new 116-rank Symphony Hall organ, Olivier Latry, Nathan Laube, Cherry Rhodes and more.

Montréal is worth a visit just for the beautiful scenery and architecture and its many wonderful restaurants! If you feel like getting a preview this month, check out the schedule of the Canadian International Organ Festival, which features organ events from October 2-30. Combine a concert with some leaf-peeping.  Remember that you will need a valid passport to visit Canada.

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Upcoming Events in October

This month's Event Calendar showcases a great variety of interesting and unusual concerts in our region. You can hear:
  • Organ recitals
    • 2015 Schweitzer Organ Competition Winners
    • Peter Niedmann
    • Christopher Houlihan
    • Our very own Pipescreams event
  • Other
    • Saxophone Quartet
    • Harpsichord, organ and viola da gamba
    • Choral Evensong
    • War Memorial Auditorium Organ Week in Worcester, MA
Check out all the details using the Event Calendar link below! More events are being added all the time so check back often. And be sure to submit your own events - listings are usually posted within a day of your submission.

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The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

Not a word we all like to hear, especially when it’s time to replace it. In case you don’t know, deep within their chassis, some pipe organs have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of little leather bellows…about the size of the palm of your hand. The leather used is very thin/pliable and in time wears out. Depending upon the make of organ, this either causes dead notes or ciphers. The repair process is called “releathering” and usually comes with a significant price. Often there have to be special fundraising campaigns to tackle the job.
Years ago, builders used to have a rule of repair: Put aside 1% of the organ’s new replacement value per year….½% for annual maintenance and ½% to be put in a long-term high yield account that would in future decades pay for the releathering of the instrument. Today, few churches can subscribe to such a venture, but it does give thought to what was originally suggested. If you’re interested to know the approximate figures for your organ, multiply the number of ranks by about $30K per rank. Then take 1% of that. What was that? Did I hear you say WOW!? It’s easy to see why so many churches simply tune the organ and skip the special funds. It would also be nice to see some consider the builder’s rule.

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View Online Calendar to see chapter and other local events

Event Calendar
Submit your event with our online form by clicking on the button below or from our chapter website.
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Job Listings are now available on our chapter website. To post a job opening, contact   
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Chapter Board

Dean - Kari Miller
Sub-Dean - Peter Niedmann
Secretary -

Treasurer - John Coghill
Registrar - Mark Child
Alan MacMillan
Mary DeLibero
Vaughn Mauren

Newsletter Editors
Edward Clark
Joan Pritchard

Job Listing Service
Kari Miller

Ally Barone
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