March 2017 Newsletter


March 2017

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

I recently played Richard Purvis’ “Contemplation” as a prelude, and was reminded how lovely chimes can sound on the organ. “Contemplation” is one of several pieces by Purvis featuring a prominent part for chimes; you may know some “chime” favorites by other composers. Depending on the composition and the context, organ chimes can sound mournful, celebratory or exotic. Whatever the mood, the bell-sound stands out strikingly from the surrounding texture and commands our attention - harking back, perhaps, to pre-Twitter days, when the loud ringing of bells would herald an important event such as a birth, death or wedding, or announce a national victory or calamity.

Organ chimes are a gentler affair, of course. Listeners seem to be perpetually intrigued by the sound of chimes, whether they hear the chimes as the voice of angels or as the tolling of John Donne’s bell, and we have probably all been asked why we don’t “use chimes more often.” (We probably answer that if we use the chimes too often they will lose their “specialness.”) As you begin to incorporate chimes into your improvisations or interludes you may quickly discover, to your surprise, that some of our standard “tricks” don’t work well at all. It rarely sounds good, for instance, to simply solo out a hymn-tune melody in the chimes; we aim for a glorious golden moment and instead we get an ugly clanging mess. If you really must chime out a tune, it is usually better to present it in an out-of-rhythm or fragmentary form, with static, slow-moving accompanying parts, if any. But often all that is needed is a well-placed note or two; the chimed notes will be the ornament, the garnish, not the main course. Chimes are at their dramatic best when used sparingly.

Another interesting way to use the chimes is to play a sequence of several notes in succession, letting the natural resonance of the chimes gather to create a tone cluster. Check out “The Little Bells of Our Lady of Lourdes” and “Vesper Processional” by Harvey Gaul for an extensive display of this technique. Gaul uses seventh-chords and pentatonic sequences for his rolling clusters; you can use whatever you like - it is fun to experiment and discover pleasing combinations.

There will always be a bit of mystery to the ringing of a chime. Purvis’ evocative piece, “Communion”, exploits this masterfully, achieving maximum results with a minimum of material. The chime part consists of a repeated eighth-note motive, played a total of six times, all on the same pitch. Twelve notes in all, simple yet so richly suggestive – is it just a distant bell? a call to prayer or remembrance? the quiet knock of destiny? the acceptance of grace? a final benediction? dinnertime? It’s up to the listener to decide; such is the charm of the chimes.

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Next Chapter Event - Joint Organ Recital

On Friday, March 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm, Alexander Pattavina (left) and Daniel Ficarri (right), two rising talents from Juilliard, will be presented in joint recital at St. James’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford featuring works of Johann Sebastian Bach and Felix Mendelssohn

The performance will be followed by a festive sherry reception.
Free admission, with donations accepted and appreciated.

Nominating Committee - Slate of Officers for 2017

The Nominating Committee has submitted the slate of officers to be presented at our Annual Dinner/Meeting on Tuesday, May 23. Chapter members have the opportunity to offer additional nominations by petition of at least five voting members in good standing, to be received by the Secretary no later than April 1, 2017.
  • Dean: Peter Niedmann
  • Sub-Dean: Vaughn Mauren
  • Treasurer: John Coghill
  • Registrar: Mark Child
  • Secretary: Noah Smith
  • Member- at Large (term ending 2018): this is still open - completion of Vaughn Mauren's term
  • Member-at Large (term ending 2019): Alan MacMillan
  • Member-at Large (term ending 2020): Susan Carroll
Nominating Committee members: Scott Lamlein (chair), Robert Gilbert, Christine Melson, Mary DeLibero (Board liason).

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Jolidon Fund Updates

By Suzanne Hertel

We welcome Mike Foley to the Jolidon Committee, and anticipate his insightful contributions to our work. He replaces Deb Gemma who accepted a music position out of state.
Individual Project grant applications for events scheduled between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2018, will be reviewed by April 1, 2017. Announcements regarding these grants will be made by May 1, 2017.
Eight individuals currently are studying with support from Jolidon Private Organ Study Grants. Reports from both students and teachers indicate this program continues to meet the need for study and our expectations for the program. The Committee continues to explore possibilities for extending educational opportunities beyond the keyboard skills of pianists/organists and substitutes. Indeed, an interesting research project.

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FTC and AGO Settlement

By Jerry Davidson, Chapter Professional Concerns Hit Man


What happened?

In the past several months the Federal Trade Commission raised concerns about our code of ethics, salary guidelines, and model contract provisions inasmuch as they appeared to them to be directed toward lessening competition among a particular group – which is against federal law. The executive director of the AGO provides a discussion of this beginning on page 6 of the October issue of The American Organist. Every member should take a look at this article as it will cover all the important parts of this action much better than I can.

What does it mean to me?

By voluntarily agreeing to a settlement the Guild will change its operating procedures to conform, i.e., we will no longer be able to issue salary guidelines or provide model contracts for our members. Past practices of maintaining a "blacklist" of churches which were in conflict with AGO members were abandoned several years ago and , in my opinion, abandoning was a good thing as these were not always administered with an even hand. I was peripherally involved (I was supportive of the clergy) with one of these a number of years ago and will be happy to share my observations with any of you.

For some of us the most telling part of this change will be that we no longer have a set of salary guidelines to present to churches searching for a new musician. I've not ever been sure how effective the old salary guidelines were as I've never had any feedback from anyone who has used them. In my 65 years as a church musician I've gone the gamut from unpaid positions to a full-time position that paid a decent salary but none of my positions has ever been involved with anyone seeking out the AGO salary guidelines. I suspect that many of us have been in the same boat.

What can I do about it?

I have served as dean of four chapters, a state convener, and a nominee for regional counselor, always standing on my soapbox and maintaining that the most important function of an AGO chapter is the professional connections that one makes. I bewail the fact that I so infrequently am able to make it to chapter meetings as there are many, many of you that I would love to meet and get to know well. It is in our personal relationships, our shared knowledge, and our willingness to help one another in difficult times that our greatest strength lies. We won't need national salary scales so much if we can get information from one another as to the average pay for a wedding or funeral in our area, or what pay scales are like in various churches where the duties are similar. Do you have the connections to do this? Is there someone to whom you can turn for commiseration, encouragement, and/or guidance when things are tough? If not, then attend chapter meetings and start widening your musical and human horizons. My favorite phrase at coffee hour at Trinity, Torrington when I spot somebody I don't know is, "are you new, or am I?” I bet it’ll work at a chapter meeting, too. You may meet someone who has just the answers you seek and has weathered the storms you may face.

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Alfred Q. Isaacson

We recently learned of the death of Al Isaacson, husband of former chapter member Becky Rosendahl Isaacson, and vice president at Austin Organs for over 30 years. A service of celebration of his life was held on Saturday, February 18, 2017, at Trinity United Methodist Church in Springfield, MA. To read his obituary click on:

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Upcoming Educational Events

Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza

On Saturday, March 18, 2017 the Waterbury Chapter AGO will be sponsoring a Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza event. This program is designed to teach students with basic piano skills about the organ. Pianists from second grade through high school are invited. The program will be at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Bristol from 11 am to 3 pm. Kids will be introduced to the instrument; then they will have time to ask questions and explore the instrument, so be sure to bring some fun music! Register at Email Ally Barone ( or Bill Degan ( with any questions!

Pipe Organ Encounter

Our chapter's Pipe Organ Encounter takes place July 16 - 21, 2017. Hosted at Trinity College, the event will showcase many of Hartford's finest organs, the Austin Organ factory, and the many great instruments at Yale University. POE is designed for teenagers, ages 13-18, who have achieved an intermediate level of keyboard proficiency. We will need many chapter members to volunteer to help make this a great success! For more details or to volunteer contact Vaughn Mauren at

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The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

For centuries, pipe chambers were faced with a façade of organ pipes. Sometimes these were speaking pipes, sometimes not. Such facades are expensive and are therefore often eliminated from some new organ installations. Starting in the 1950’s, when church interiors decided to take on a modern look (regardless of how old the building was), facades were often discarded and replaced with the less dated grille cloth. Most of these cloths are little more than facings for speaker cabinets and, as such, their weaves are tight or dense. They let sound out but usually resist letting any heat in! Any pipe organ owner is painfully aware of the importance of the chamber temperature at tuning time. All too often, pipes living behind grille cloths are in fact cold when the sanctuary temperature is a luxurious 70 degrees. Plain and simple, there’s often no heat convection into the chamber(s).

What to do: In a perfect world, you could convince the church to install a pipe façade or at least, tear down the grille cloth. Neither usually happens but one thing you can do is to ask the organ tuners to vacuum each side of the grille cloth. With the chamber light on, the vacuumed sections become very evident as the dirt is removed from the cloth facing. Clean cloth has a mild chance at letting heat through. In some cases, divisions of pipes are placed in front of the grille cloth. This often makes it possible to virtually cut out the sections or areas of cloth that are masked by the pipes. This can make a nice difference, but in these days of reduced heating, it still often requires added sanctuary-heating time.

At one time, there were cloths made of fiberglass. These had much more open weaving and let heat get through. Those cloths were not fire-resistant and were (naturally) later outlawed. I’m always looking for a better substitute for today’s grille cloths. If anyone has one, please let me know.

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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
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