December 2015 Newsletter


December 2015

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

The other day I saw a message in my inbox from a music publisher, with the heading: “when holiday obligations leave you stressed and scattered…” I absentmindedly clicked on it, expecting to be presented with yet another collection of peaceful, uplifting holiday music or a book of seasonal meditations. Instead I found myself staring at “The Advent Coloring Calendar: a Coloring Book to Bless and De-Stress through the Season.”

In case you haven’t heard, coloring books for adults are the latest, hottest craze. It began a couple of years ago, with the publication of “Secret Garden” by Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford. The initial, modest printing exploded into an international bestseller, selling nearly 6 million copies. Walk into a Barnes and Noble today and you will see a huge selection of coloring books with every imaginable theme, complete with celebrity authors and marketed with claims of therapeutic effects from stress reduction to increased creativity and concentration. And now that the coloring craze has reached the rarefied world of church music, it will probably only be a matter of time until it sweeps into the choir loft and supplants knitting or surreptitious newspaper reading as the preferred form of amusement during a long, cold Sunday service.

Crayon-wielding enthusiasts say that besides being fun and relaxing, coloring can also be a form of meditation which helps them to switch off their brains and focus on the moment. The simple, repetitive act of filling in the lines with colors has a soothing effect. The need to concentrate on the intricacies of the pattern keeps the mind from dwelling on other anxieties. Just a couple of hours of coloring and they feel calm and refreshed. It is these claims of therapeutic benefits that have kept the coloring books flying off the shelves.

So, am I going to buy that Advent coloring calendar? My answer is no. And the reason is -- call me crazy if you will -- I get the same benefits from practicing the organ! I am not talking here about the utilitarian practice we all need to fulfill our daily or weekly obligations. But haven’t you ever been so absorbed in learning, relearning, exploring or fooling around with a piece of music that when you stop practicing (maybe as you suddenly realize you have lost all track of time) you are aware that your mind is free of the clutter and worry and stress you felt when you began? These felicitous encounters may come unexpectedly, but I find that they do occur regularly and reliably if I simply set aside the time to engage with music and patiently practice my art. No deadlines, no particular expectations, just some practicing. That makes a lot more sense to me than taking up coloring, and has the additional advantage of occupying absolutely no space on my refrigerator door.

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2016 National Convention

Save with early registration options!


The 2016 AGO National Convention will be held in Houston, Texas, June 19-23. A quick perusal shows that it promises to be a spectacular convention.

“Super Saver” registration is going on now and will continue until December 31. The website is now open for registration at
The convention hotel is the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston priced at $149/night. The hotel is located across from a park with wonderful places to eat and drink adjacent.
  • Super Saver Registration: $375 (10/15 - 12/31/15)
  • Early Member Registration: $400 (1/1/16 - 3/14/16)
  • Regular Member Registration: $495 (3/15/16 - 5/14/16)
  • Final Member Registration: $545 (5/1/16 -  )
  • Bus Transportation Package: $149 (includes one dinner)
  • Hotel: $145 per night -- up to 4 persons (plus taxes)
  • Banquet: $70​ 
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Isabelle Demers Recital Review

By John Coghill

"Elle est petite, charmante et FORMIDABLE!" Those who had the good fortune to attend Isabelle Demers' recital on November 13 at Trinity College Chapel were treated to a very interesting program played with such skill and joy, a true pleasure for the listener -- and played completely from memory!
The recital began with the Chapel in darkness except for the lights on the console and in the chambers to add to the drama of the "Harry Potter Symphonic Suite" by John Williams arranged by Demers. The themes of the piece familiar to aficionados of the Harry Potter series were certainly attention-grabbing with "lots of noise" and a riveting way to begin a recital.
An eternally favorite composer, J.S. Bach, was featured next in the Trio Sonata BWV 530 in G Major written for one of Bach's sons. A heavenly work beautifully and sensitively played with a dance-like quality in the final Allegro movement -- a listener's treat.
Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade, op. 35; IV" featured "The Sultan's Theme" and for the most part didn't sound Middle Eastern, according to Demers. The work was played with élan using wonderful registrations.
Rachel Laurin's two brief "Bird" pieces involved both the Hummingbird and the Mocking Bird. In the "Dialogue of the Mockingbirds," one of the birds sticks to the basics while the other goes wild as Demers said after perhaps attending too many organ recitals! The pieces were charming.
Reger’s works certainly make one sit up and take notice as was the case with the recitalist as she played the "Fantasy on the Chorale 'Wachet auf! Ruf uns die Stimme' op. 52 no.2" which finally develops the oh-so-familiar theme. This work required great skill on the part of the recitalist and close attention from the listener.
The "Romance from Lieutenant Kijé op.60" by Prokofiev was a "very Soviet" work and interesting to hear for a first time listener.
For the final work of the recital, Demers played "Variations on a Theme by Paganini" which is certainly a 'tour de force.' The initial phrases with fiendishly difficult pedal passages were played skillfully and seemingly effortlessly. It was a superb choice to end her program. A brief, "light" encore by Tchaikovsky again brought pleasure to the listeners.
The audience rose to its feet in a well-deserved ovation for such a musical recital so well rendered on the magnificent Trinity College Chapel organ. Isabelle Demers is certainly one of the world's greatest organists. “MAGNIFIQUE!

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January Workshop: Pianist’s Introduction to the Organ

Both members and non-members are invited to our chapter’s “Pianist’s Introduction to the Organ Workshop.” This free event includes a complimentary lunch and will be held on Saturday, January 23, 2016 from 9:30 to 1:30 at St. James’s Episcopal Church located at 1018 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford.

Led by several GHO-AGO organists, the day is especially designed for adult pianists who find themselves in the position of transitioning from playing the piano to playing the organ. With our local churches encountering a shortage of organists, pianists are often called upon to lead a congregation with little or no experience at the organ. If you or someone you know is skilled at the piano keyboard but perhaps intimidated or confused by the organ console, the casual setting of this workshop is an opportunity to ask those questions you may have been embarrassed to ask! There will be a general introduction to the organ as well as sessions on manual and pedal technique, hymn-playing, easy organ repertoire, etc. Method books and a selection of practical organ music will be available for review as well as a take-home music packet to guide a new organist through the early stages of learning to lead a congregation from the console.

To reserve your place or for more information, contact Vaughn Mauren at or 860-521-9620. Chapter members will be receiving more communications about this event. Your assistance will be crucial to getting the word out to those who might benefit from the workshop. We would also like to know if there are members who might be willing to serve as a mentor to a new organist.

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Need Help with Submitting an Event?

Some members have had trouble submitting a flyer into the chapter's Online Calendar.

If your flyer is in a PDF format, it must be converted to an image file such as JPG, BMP, TIF. If you are unable to do that, fill out and submit the rest of the submission form and then you may submit your PDF to the newsletter editors and we will convert it for you and add it to your event listing.

If your flyer is in JPG format, you can upload it yourself along with your other event information. Simply click on the "Add Event Image" on the submission form. In the window that will open up click on the "Choose a local file" button. Locate the JPG in your computer and click "Open" to upload it. Then, if necessary, you can drag the cropping box to select the most useful part of the image. Then click the "Finished Editing" button and continue with the rest of your submission.

Since the image in the the event listing will not be large enough for printing, you can also post the flyer on your website and then add a link to it in the description paragraph for your event listing.

For more details on how to use the calendar and how to submit an event, click here.

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The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

If you’re hearing tuning discrepancies, certainly have the organ tuned. If you aren’t, consider holding off till Easter. Remember, pipe organs aren’t like pianos. There are no stretched strings that loosen up. Pipes that are in good condition and that live in a reasonably friendly (temperature/humidity) environment may hold tune very well and sometimes for years. If you’re only hearing some reeds out of tune, perhaps just have those ranks touched up. Many, if not most, tunings take but a few hours. If yours are taking full days, it’s either a very large instrument or its pipes are in trouble. Depending on budgets, our American organs are often tuned to “death.” Consider giving it a break if possible. As always, talk with your technician.

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Dean - Kari Miller
Sub-Dean - Peter Niedmann
Secretary - Amy Vinisko
Treasurer - John Coghill
Registrar - Mark Child
Ronald Coons
Mary DeLibero
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Joan Pritchard

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