April 2017 Newsletter


April 2017

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

I have big news to share: we have been approached by an internet celebrity to collaborate in a unique project. Nora, The Piano Cat, is learning to play the organ and we have been invited to help!  (If you have never heard Nora play you are in for a real treat. Check out her performance below of the CATcerto composed for her by the Latvian composer Mindaugas Piecaitis.) Things are still in the early planning stages, but we hope to put together a special, multi-media event that will showcase her incredible achievements as well as highlight the wonders of the organ. You could not find a more perfect performer to catapult the organ out of its dreary, churchy shadows; it’s pretty much a given that whatever Nora does will instantly become a viral internet sensation. What better way to advocate for the instrument we love and raise the profile of our chapter?

If you are wondering: why us? - the answer is simple. It’s that old story of the strength of personal connection. Nora has an old friend here, Schatzi, who has been telling her for years all about the wonderful, friendly, creative people in our chapter. Schatzi is the cat who keeps the Austin Organ factory running so “purr”fectly. It was probably Schatzi’s tales of fun at the factory that piqued Nora’s interest in the first place. Of late, Schatzi has been helping Nora learn organ terminology - so confusing, even to a cat – and giving suggestions for listening that will elevate her taste from old standards like “Three Blind Mice” to the more complex and exciting “Cat Fugue” of Scarlatti, or the inimitable (except by cats, of course) "Cat Duet" attributed to Rossini.

Needless to say, Nora is fascinated by the new challenges presented by the organ. She is eager to develop her pedal technique and practice her swift leaping and pouncing from manual to manual. She has some quite original ideas for specialized (and cute) techniques to play on several manuals at once. Although she taught herself to play the piano simply by observing and listening, she thought, given the complexities of the organ, that a few lessons would be helpful. She applied for a Jolidon Organ Study Grant and her request was immediately granted. Christa Rakich stepped up to take on the daunting task of designing an efficient course of study for the talented feline. Christa’s love of ensemble playing, her interest in new music and her ability to improvise in a variety of styles [plus her love of cats!] make her an excellent match for Nora. Once lessons are underway, Christa will begin the happy work of planning the concert, choosing repertoire, engaging assisting artists, and deciding on the optimum format for what will undoubtedly be a truly spectacular event in the life of our chapter.

We have yet to choose a venue for the event. We will need a comfortable church with a good video setup and sound system, preferably non-carpeted (cat + carpet = catastrophe) and spacious enough to handle the large crowd which be drawn to such an amazing event. Like all cats, Nora likes to climb to a high perch and look down on the rest of the world, so a loft situation might be ideal. Nora refuses a fee and has even volunteered to take care of any vermin lurking in the organ chambers. The date is undecided at this point, but we are thinking that next spring, after Easter, would be ideal. Nora will of course need some time to develop her skills, but we want to be sure to catch her talent at its fresh, original best. She is currently enjoying only the fourth of her nine lives, so no worries there.

This exciting journey for the Greater Hartford Chapter is just beginning; there will be much more to come. Right now only one additional thing needs to be said: “April Fool’s!”

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CATcerto. ORIGINAL PERFORMANCE. Mindaugas Piecaitis, Nora The Piano Cat
CATcerto. ORIGINAL PERFORMANCE. Mindaugas Piecaitis, Nora The Piano Cat

Next Chapter Event - Choral Conducting Masterclass with Jeffrey Douma, Yale University

Saturday, May 6
9:30 - 11 am
St. James's Episcopal Church
1018 Farmington Ave., West Hartford

Yale University choral conductor, Jeffrey Douma, will lead a masterclass designed for church musicians. Three volunteer conductors will work with a choir on his or her choice of two anthems, and will receive helpful suggestions and methods to improve their skills and technique.

Ave Verum Corpus - Byrd; Locus Iste - Bruckner; Justorum Animae - Stanford   

Antiphon (5 Mystical Songs) - Vaughan Williams; Jubilate Deo - Britten; Christ the Lord is Risen Again - Rutter

Each conductor will choose a piece from Group 1 and Group 2. If you would like to be one of the conductors, email Peter Niedmann at

This promises to be an informative and inspiring morning, whether you are conducting or observing. See you there!

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Greater Hartford Chapter AGO Annual Meeting

Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Time: 6:30 - 9:15PM
Location: The Pond House at Elizabeth Park
1555 Asylum Ave., West Hartford, CT 06117

The Event Schedule

6:30PM Cash Bar opens
6:45PM Passed Hors D'Oeuvres
7:15PM Salad, Pasta Course, Entrees Served* (Buffet Style)
8:00PM Dessert - Havana Torte with Chocolate Buttercream and Ganache
8:15PM Conversation/Business Meeting/Acknowledgements
9:15PM-9:30 Departure for Home

Entree Choices* (Choose One)
  1. Apricot & Grain Mustard Glazed Salmon served over Herbed Polenta with a Roasted Grape Tomato and Charred Asparagus Salad
  2. Rosemary Grilled Chicken Breast served over Shallot and Herb Roasted Potatoes, topped with Sweet Charred Red Onions, Stilton, and Bacon Marmalade
  3. Grilled Asian Flank Steak with Chef's Choice of Vegetable and Starch
Cost - $20 per person

Reservations with Entree choice due to John Coghill by Monday, May 15, 2017.
Sign up by clicking on this button:
Sign-up for Annual Meeting

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.
  • Dean: Peter Niedmann
  • Sub-Dean: Vaughn Mauren
  • Treasurer: John Coghill
  • Registrar: Mark Child
  • Secretary: Noah Smith
  • Member- at Large (term ending 2018): Darlene James
  • 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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Member Milestones Sought

We would like to recognize and celebrate the anniversaries and achievements of our members. If you think you or someone you know should be acknowledged at the Annual Dinner/Meeting let us know. Send an e-mail to Kari at no later than April 30.

Jolidon Fund March Meeting Update

By Suzanne Hertel

Performance grant applications for events and projects scheduled between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018 have been reviewed. Announcements regarding these grants will be made by May 1, 2017.

Eight individuals continue to study with support from the Jolidon Private Organ Study grants. The program assists beginning and novice organ students. There is no deadline for application. See the chapter website for additional information and application forms.

Additional information regarding an interactive program to introduce children and adults to the mechanics and building of an organ was presented and discussed. The sponsoring organization will hold a hands-on workshop at the July convention in Montreal which a committee member will explore.

Three members of the committee are reaching the end of their terms. Replacements will be needed.

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Concert Review

By James R. Barry

Many AGO members, along with other members of the audience, braved the cold of a March Friday night to attend a recital by two rising organists. St. James’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford, was the location of the concert, featuring the church’s Austin organ with its recently installed (hooded) tuba stop.
Resident organist Vaughn Mauren introduced the two performers: Alexander Pattavina (Boston) and Daniel Ficarri (Pittsburgh). There were many similarities between the two young organists: both study with Paul Jacobs at The Juilliard School; they played from memory; both participated in an eighteen-hour Bach organ works marathon in Manhattan; and they already have a growing list of organ recitals as part of their professional accomplishments. The audience was treated to a concert that not only showed their impressive keyboard skills, but also their ability to use the many colors of the organ to highlight the structure of the concert repertoire.
Mr. Ficarri played the first half, an all-Bach program. He started with the Prelude and Fugue in G Major BWV 541, and ended with the P&F in A minor BWV 529. The A minor clearly showed the bravura style of the work, and Ficarri carried this off with ease. Between the two works was the Trio Sonata No. 5 in C Major BWV 529, well-played with delightful registrations and clear articulation.
After a brief intermission, Mr. Pattavina played an all-Mendelssohn second half. The ever-popular four-movement Sonata in C minor was the opener, and Pattavina had a refined approach as he delivered the Romantic-era portion of the evening. The tuba was used in the louder sections, employing the full resources of the organ. Following the Sonata was Pattavina’s arrangement of Consolation from Songs Without Words. Closing the program was the Sonata in A Major and the Prelude and Fugue in C minor, both played well.
A standing ovation was given to both performers at the close of the evening, as the audience showed appreciation for excellent performances by these accomplished musicians. A sherry reception was provided by the church, affording the opportunity to socialize and greet the performers in person. Braving the cold again upon leaving, the audience felt it was worth the effort to attend and enjoy hearing two talented performers who have a long distinguished career ahead of them.

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Some Thoughts about Membership (as renewal time approaches…)

By Kari Miller

Clearly, in this month’s Deanery I was having some fun and letting my fertile (and feline?) imagination run wild and free. But, truth to be told, our chapter really is special in many ways. We have a great location, wonderful organs and beautiful churches, lots of talented people, and unlike so many chapters, we are not short of money. We are poised to take advantage of  opportunities to do things that can really make a difference – both in the lives of young (and old) organists, and in how the concert-goer or the man in the street views and appreciates our instrument. We are looking forward to hosting our first POE (Pipe Organ Encounter) this summer. We are thrilled by the success of the Jolidon Organ Study program. Our chapter continues to offer high-quality concerts and workshops.

Things seem to be full of promise, and yet, one question always remains: will we have the robust, vibrant membership needed to bring our plans into action? The answer, unfortunately, is not a given. This past year has seen a drop in our membership, even though we have seen quite a few new members, some of whom were actively recruited, others not. The area where we seem to be having the most trouble is in retaining members, and/or in getting them to renew in a timely way. I am not speaking of those who join for a year or two, try us out, and then move on. Rather I am speaking of some who were members for years, who are still playing in the area, still coming to events, but who have not renewed their membership.

We hope to soon appoint a dedicated “membership person” whose sole duty will be to follow up with the stragglers as well as to contact prospective new members. We may need to find new ways to make membership in the Greater Hartford Chapter relevant, useful and desirable. In the meantime, I know that many of you do a wonderful job of spreading the word, like Schatzi did, supporting and advocating for the AGO amongst members and non-members alike.

Schatzi says:
Don’t delay!
Please renew your membership when the invoice arrives!

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Pipe Organ Encounter Updates

By Vaughn Mauren

Many thanks to the generous donors who've already contributed to our chapter's POE, held this July 16-21 at Trinity College Chapel: Richard Coffey, Robert Bausmith, Anna Joyce Pan, the Waterbury Chapter AGO, Kari M. Magg, Robert J. Dinallo, Suzanne Gates, Melissa Cheyney, Christa Rakich, the Springfield (MA) Chapter AGO, the Merrimack Valley Chapter AGO, Suzanne M. Hertel, James D. Burr, the Worcester (MA) Chapter AGO, Mark Kasmin, Daniel R. Kingman, the New Haven Chapter – AGO, Mike Foley (Foley & Baker), and Gabriel Lofvall. There is a need for additional contributions. If you have not already, please consider joining this effort by making a gift to the POE. No amount is too small and every gift has an impact.

If you would like to make a contribution, checks can be made out to "Greater Hartford AGO" with "POE" in the memo and sent to John Coghill, POE Treasurer, Sacred Heart Church, 26 Wintonbury Avenue, Bloomfield, CT 06002.

On another note, we are very pleased that Joshua Stafford has graciously offered to join the POE faculty this summer. Josh is the 2016 winner of the $40,000 Pierre S. DuPont First Prize at the Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition.

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The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

A most important part of the process happens when you decide to go see/hear/play a similar pipe organ. Do all possible to hear the salesman’s product in an acoustical space that’s very similar to yours. We often hear how grand the old European organs sound. Much of that’s due to the reverberant stone rooms in which they live. Anything would sound good in such a space. But….is yours like that?  Probably not. Most of our American churches have pretty dead acoustics and if yours is one of them, don’t fool yourself by listening to a builder’s sample in a room that’s reverberant ---when yours is not.
Ask to do sampling in a similar acoustic.
GOT GRILLE CLOTH? (continued from last month)

Organs without a pipe façade or pipe case, often have grille cloth stretched across the chamber opening. If yours is one of them, consider the following:
1. Ask your service tech to vacuum the cloth. Usually after 10-20 years it becomes clogged with dust. Cleaning it out will open up the grille cloth’s material (weave) and let lots more sound through. The huge organ at Wanamaker’s (now Macy’s) in Philadelphia came alive when its grille cloths were vacuumed a few years ago. 
2. By its usually dense weave, grille cloth also restricts the natural convection of heat into the organ chamber. A cold chamber makes an organ’s pitch go flat. Clean cloth will better assure passage of heated air into the chamber.    
Talk with your technician.

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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
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Ally Barone
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