November 2016 Newsletter


November 2016

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

Organists often have to explain to the curious that where we sit and play our saintly hymns and wild toccatas is not the “organ” but the “organ console”.  We tell them, perhaps, that the instrument is spread throughout the space which houses it, from blower room to organ chambers, and we might liken the console to the cockpit of an airplane or the command center of a complex operation. Whatever we say, we know that we are not really telling the whole console story.

Some consoles are like magnificent thrones, set in spacious choir lofts, or bathed in soft light streaming through beautiful stained-glass windows. Others are cramped, dark and uncomfortable; just getting into position behind the keys can leave one with bruised and battered knees or elbows and a chip on one’s shoulder. Once the playing begins, again, some consoles feel smooth, comfortable and predictable, with everything just where it needs to be, and others feel awkward, full of surprises, making it all really hard work. Strangely - and this might be the only possible consolation (no pun intended) – the actual music coming out does not necessarily reflect our discomfort. In the end we have no choice but to try to become accustomed to whatever console we must play, friendly or not, and give it our best.

Being human, we usually put our personal stamp on things, consciously or unconsciously, for better or for worse. We have probably all seen organ consoles so cluttered with piles of crumbling music, old bulletins, worn-out choir folders, spare socks and assorted other junk that a whole family of squirrels could live there undetected. At the other end of the spectrum are those console areas so tidy, so bare that the visiting organist in need of something as basic as even a pencil or a scrap of paper to leave a note will find no satisfaction. Obviously, there is a happy middle ground; useful items to have on hand might include pencils, post-it notes, tape, tissues, headache remedy of your choice, metronome and clock. Depending on the season, a pair of fingerless gloves or an extra cardigan may also prove quite welcome. And every console should have a small notebook, an “organ journal” where one jots down those things that need to come to the attention of the organ technicians on their next visit.

If the space is shared with members of a choir, it is a good idea to have strict rules about what may or may not be placed on the back of the organ console. Otherwise you may come one day to find partially completed knitting projects or sections from last week’s Sunday Times living innocently alongside the hymnals and prayer books. Not to worry - any perceived severity in this regard can be tempered by always making sure that a plentiful store of throat lozenges is available. If your choir is “aging”, as so many are nowadays, you can further endear yourself to them by keeping several pairs of cheap reading glasses handy. 

Yes, the organ console is an unusual place, serving in turn as inner sanctum, study center, utility closet and social hub. But it is our place, our special territory –- and we must make our peace with it, whether it eases our way to happy music-making or sets challenges before us. 

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Jolidon Grant Programs

By Suzanne Hertel

During the past two years, the Jolidon Fund has provided grants for individual projects awarded to support the presentation of music programs in the Hartford area which include the organ. These grants seek to bring new audiences to the organ and to deepen an appreciation of the instrument.
The 2017-2018 individual grant program will accept applications for projects and events to take place between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018. The schedule is listed below:
  • Applications will be accepted starting January 1, 2017
  • Deadline for applications: March 1, 2017
  • Deadline for committee review: April 1, 2017
  • Announcement of grants: May 1, 2017
Individual grant application forms are found on the Chapter website.
An education component is new this year, the Private Organ Study Grants Program. This program gives persons interested in learning to play the organ the opportunity for formal study.

These grants are open to anyone regardless of age, and to those with little or no organ experience but some keyboard facility; preference is given to first-time applicants. The applicant may name an instructor or the chapter can suggest one.

A Greater Hartford Chapter member acts as a sponsor. Lessons take place within a six month period. Grants of $500.00 are paid directly to the instructor. Three applications have been approved to date.

See the Chapter website for additional information and private organ study application forms. This program is ongoing; there is no deadline for application.
Jim Barry, Suzanne Hertel, Gabriel Löfvall, Joan Prichard, Christa Rakich (Chair) and Nancy Robbin serve on this committee, John Coghill as liaison to the Chapter Executive Board.
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New Board Member

We are happy to welcome and introduce our new chapter secretary, Noah Smith!

Noah Smith hails from the mountain states of North America. He received his Bachelors of Music in Organ Performance from Utah State University in May of 2015. Noah has worked both as a soloist and in chamber settings playing organ, piano, harpsichord, guitar, accordion, and singing as a baritone. He currently holds the position of choirmaster and organist at First Church of Christ, Congregational in Suffield CT.

The marrow of Noah's drive is to facilitate collaborative dynamics, empower musicians with achieving higher standards, explore novel shades of emotion through art, and enrich spirituality and devotion. He identifies as an interdisciplinary artist.

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Registration Is Open for Montréal Organ Festival

Our Montreal Regional Convention July 2-7 will be a special affair because it is being planned jointly with the Royal Canadian College of Organists. It also coincides with the Montreal Jazz Festival,, The 150th Anniversary of Canada,, and the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal,  It is sure to be an exciting week. 

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2016 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival Competition Winners

By Phillip Truckenbrod

Colin MacKnight, a doctoral student at The Juilliard School, won the top prize in this year's Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival Hartford organ performance competition in the Young Professional division. He also won the Prize of the Audience for that division.

Winner of the festival's High School division of the competition was Katherine Johnson of North Carolina, age 16. The Audience Prize for the High School division went to Martin Jones, a student at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.

The 19th annual season of the Festival's performance competition in organ took place at Trinity College in Hartford. Judges were Isabelle Demers, Organ Professor at Baylor University in Texas, Faythe Freese, Organ Professor at the University of Alabama, and Christopher Houlihan, a widely known concert artist.

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2017 Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists

Four chapters in our region are hosting RCYO competitions next winter – Boston, Buffalo, Greater Bridgeport and New York City. Contact information for the centers will be published in the November TAO. The Quimby rules were printed in the September TAO and can also be found on the website. Quimby competitions take place from January to March with the winner of each chapter competition competing on the regional level in Montreal on the Saturday prior to the convention. This is a link to the competition webpage which has rules for chapters and competitors alike.

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Member News

At the recent annual fall meeting of South Church, New Britain, Minister of Music Richard Coffey announced his retirement from that position effective at the end of the current season in June, 2017, after a tenure of forty-five years.

Coffey began his duties at South Church in the summer of 1972, serving first as Organist and Choirmaster, a position that later came to be called Minister of Music. With the support of various committees, boards, staff, clergy, and the greater New Britain community, he established The Music Series at South Church in 1973, the South Church Choral Society (later to be known as CONCORA) in 1974, and the Main Street Children’s Choir in 2002.

The Music Series is one of the region’s principal presenters of outstanding local, national, and international talent. CONCORA was the region’s first all-professional concert choir, established as a cultural outreach of the church, becoming an independent organization in 1985. Coffey was its Artistic Director for forty years, stepping down from that role in 2014. The Main Street Children’s Choir, originally called the Main Street Singers, is a non-sectarian vocal ensemble in the greater New Britain region, providing children and youth musical, vocal, educational, and social opportunities.

Coffey’s role in the life of the congregation at South Church included the design, preparation, and leadership of music for all public services of worship, among those the annual Christmas Candlelight Festival of Lessons and Carols that has come to be a large and popular seasonal observance for the community.

Coffey has been a member of the American Guild of Organists since his student days in the 1960s at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Upon arrival at South Church in 1972 he joined the Greater Hartford Chapter of the guild and has been an active member ever since. His guild activities include having led choral workshops and seminars for the Hartford Chapter and many other chapters throughout the region. He has been a workshop presenter for both regional and national A.G.O. conventions and in 1977 was co-program Chair, with Larry Allen, for the regional convention in Hartford. He has conducted CONCORA at both regional and national conventions of the guild, and as Artistic Director of the Music Series at South Church, he has co-presented with the local chapter a number of world renowned organists and choral ensembles in concert.

The Greater Hartford Chapter wishes Rick well in his final year!
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Upcoming Events in November

This month's Event Calendar features:
  • The Greater Middletown Chorale's performance of the Duruflé Requiem with guest organist Larry Allen.
  • Great Organ Music at Yale with French organist Christophe Mantoux
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

Last month we talked about releathering pipe organs and perhaps the one you play is a candidate? Most all organ techs offer at least basic releathering services. Know that the process is more complex than simply scraping off the old leather and putting on the new. Here are some thoughts for your conversations with various techs:
  • What kind of leather will be used? Today a double-tanned material (usually referred to as “red” or “Morton” leather) is proving very popular. It’s good for most applications and because of the double tanning is much less porous than standard sheep skin.
  • Will any cloth or leather hinges be replaced? Re-hinging is important. Old hinges are like old book binders in that they cannot hold the pieces of the pneumatic together.
  • Will the gaskets be replaced? These should be of leather too. Preferably not cork or paper.
  • How old is the leather to be used? Sounds like a strange question but most shops accumulate years of leather from various jobs and sadly, most shops don’t date their leather. As a result, you may be getting a lot of pneumatics (bellows) that have been newly recovered….but with old leather. Perhaps very old. Ask for new leather. 
  • Glue: This is very important. The most common glue in the industry is still what’s known as hot-hide glue. Properly mixed, it holds beautifully and---important---it’s easily removed when future releathering becomes necessary. Be sure that whatever glue is used that it’s easily removed. 
There are other issues that you’ll have to leave to the honesty and ability of your technician.

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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.
Submit Event
Job Listings are now available on our chapter website. To post a job opening, contact   
Job Listings
Chapter Board

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

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
Copyright © 2016 Greater Hartford Chapter American Guild of Organists, All rights reserved.

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