November 2015 Newsletter


November 2015

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

When did you last check your “default settings?” A default setting is a preselected option adopted by a computer program when no alternative is specified. Lately I’ve been thinking that we ourselves, not just our computers, operate on default settings for all sorts of things.
I know that I have a default breakfast menu, several default Sunday morning church outfits, default driving routes, exercise routines and much more. Defaults certainly come into play in our musical lives, where good default settings can be life-savers, something to rely on when we are nervous or distracted, or when we feel underprepared or intimidated in a particular situation. They faithfully center us and carry us through difficult moments, black moods and strange circumstances.

Bad defaults are another story; they bring only frustration as we are led into the same troubles, dead-ends and mediocre outcomes again and again. Some common bad defaults might be: choosing difficult postludes (or preludes) without having the time to properly practice them, waiting until Sunday morning to look over the hymns, using the same few registrations for everything to save time and effort, and of course any technical shortcomings that hamper us on a regular basis. Bad settings, once acknowledged, can be supplanted by something better or more useful. But even our “good” settings should be examined periodically to be sure they still serve their purpose and offer the most pleasing options. No one drives a car indefinitely without a tune-up, oil change or tire rotation; likewise we should be willing and ready to adjust, fine-tune and rearrange.

Even our finest defaults are not meant to comprise the whole range and repertoire of what we hope to achieve in our music-making on this most colorful of instruments. But we need the stability, security and peace of mind that comes with having some basic things established and decided. We also need to remain aware of what we do, to never stop listening to what we do, and every now and then, to stop and ask ourselves “why?” If the answer is, “I’ve always done it that way,” “I never thought about it” or “I haven’t the faintest idea,” perhaps some reevaluation is in order. Even if the answer is “I think it sounds good that way,” “it’s the easiest” or “that’s the way X plays it on my favorite recording” it might still be worth exploring other options. Whether the issue involves organ registrations, hymn playing, articulation or rehearsal techniques, it can be tremendous fun to test the validity of one’s defaults by deliberately trying something different as a point of comparison. (It can wake up a sleepy congregation, too!) There is certainly nothing to lose. Don’t like it? Simply “restore defaults.”

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Next Chapter Event
Organ Recital and Masterclass
Isabelle Demers

Trinity College Chapel
300 Summit Street, Hartford

Co-sponsored by Greater Hartford Chapter AGO and Trinity College

Friday, November 13 at 7:30 pm

John Williams (b. 1932) – Harry Potter Symphonic Suite (arr. Demers)
J.S. Bach (1685-1750) – Trio-Sonata in G Major, BWV 530 
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) – Sheherazade, op. 35
       IV – Festival at    Baghdad – The Sea – The Shipwreck
(trans. Demers)
Rachel Laurin (b. 1961) – Three short studies, op. 68
       Flight of the hummingbird
       Dialogue of the mockingbirds
Max Reger (1873-1916) – Fantasy on the chorale “Wachet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme,” op. 52 #2 
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) – Romance, from Lieutenant Kijé, op. 60 (trans. Demers) 
Sir Georges Thalben-Ball (1896-1987) – Variations on a Theme by Paganini


Saturday, November 14, 9:30 - 11:30 am

Organists interested in playing for this masterclass should contact Vaughn Mauren and provide the title of the piece you would llike to play. A list of pieces will be compiled and given to Isabelle Demers in advance.

Click on the video link below to hear and watch this amazing artist!

Organist Isabelle Demers performs Étude héroïque by Rachel Laurin
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Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival News

by David Spicer, Artistic Director

The Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival is moving to its new home at Trinity College in Hartford! After enjoying eighteen glorious years of this annual Festival at the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield — we look forward to an even greater community participation moving forward.
I want to thank the First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, for allowing the Festival to take place at the church for these eighteen years. It has been wonderful to have so many talented young artists and the adjudicators with us and to use the church’s magnificent Austin pipe organ. The graciousness of the congregation, staff, and the community was truly a blessing!
Many thanks to Bon Smith of Austin Organ Service who served as “babysitter” for the competition, in case something went wrong. Nothing did! Thanks also to Alex Belair and Michael Tanguay from Bon’s company, who serviced the organ prior to the Festival.

This year's festival featured judges Diane Meredith Belcher, Peter Richard Conte, and John Walker, and opened on Friday, September 11 with a Festival Choir composed of representatives from Center Church in Hartford, the Cathedral of Saint Joseph (also in Hartford), and the First Church of Christ. Ezequiel Menendez accompanied, and I conducted.

John Walker, adjudicator, writes:
Emerging from the six brilliant finalists in the eighteenth annual Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival, Monica Czausz won first place in the young professional division and Adrian Binkley took top honors in the high school division. All contestants played at an impressively high level, everyone therefore being declared a winner. Having been nurtured for almost two decades by its founder, David Spicer, ASOF is far more than a performance competition: featured events of the weekend included a festival concert with massed choirs and organ, the competition, opportunities for all contestants to play in services of worship at the First Church of Christ (Wethersfield) and the Cathedral of St. Joseph (Hartford), an organ masterclass with the adjudicators, a field trip to the Austin Organ factory, and shared meals with competitors, adjudicators, and board members of ASOF. Following that memorable weekend, everyone departed with renewed inspiration and confidence in the future of our chosen vocation. 
The finalists this year were:
High School Division —
  • 1st Place ($2000) - Adrian Binkley from Madison, Wisconsin.
    This prize is provided by The Marjorie Jolidon Fund of the Greater Hartford Chapter, American Guild of Organists.
  • 2nd Place ($1000) - Aaron Patterson from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
  • 3rd Place ($500) - Elena Baquerizo from Miami, Florida
Young Professional Division —
  • 1st Place ($3500) - Monica Czausz from Houston, Texas      
  • 2nd Place ($1500) - Robin Ericksen from Macon, Georgia
  • 3rd Place ($750) - Mary Pan from Burlington, Connecticut
The David Spicer Hymn Playing Award ($1000) –
  • Adrian Binkley from Madison, Wisconsin
Save the dates — The Festival is moving to the last weekend in September— Friday, September 30 to Sunday, October 2, with an opening concert at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford. The competition will be held at Trinity College on Saturday, October 1, and — new — the 2015 first-prize winners will return on Saturday night and play a recital at St. John's Episcopal Church in West Hartford. A masterclass will end the Festival and will be held on Sunday afternoon at Trinity College. Exact times will be published in a forthcoming release.

We are grateful to the Marjorie Jolidon Fund of the Greater Hartford Chapter, American Guild of Organists, for supporting, in part, The 2015 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival.

For more information about the Festival weekend, please see our website at or contact us at 860-529-1575, ext. 209.
Finalists: (left to right) Elena Baquerizo, Aaron Patterson, Robin Ericksen, Adrian Binkley, Mary Pan, and Monica Czausz. (Photo by Marla Darius)

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Jolidon Fund Applications are Due

Applications for grant requests for events and projects taking place in 2016 are due by Sunday, November 15. The Jolidon Fund Sub-Committee is especially interested in first-time applicants from our chapter who may have never sought a grant before or who have no other source of funds. This is an opportunity to dream about a special project or event for your institution. We are also interested in events that will attract a wider audience to the organ. For an application form, click here.

Pipescreams 2015 Scares a Big Crowd

The Church of Christ, Congregational in Newington was once again the scene of AGO mischief at the chapter’s annual Pipescreams program on Friday, October 23. This year’s version included some creative use of videos and lighting as well as the traditional spook music. Chapter members who contributed their skills at the organ include Mark Child, Mary Rose DiGiovanna, Deb Gemma, John Coghill, Kari Miller, Jerry Davidson, Scott Lamlein, Eugenia Sullivan and Peter Niedmann assisted by percussionist Sal Ranniello. Meg Smith served as “Mistress of Sorrow-Moan-Eees.” Many thanks go to Peter Niedmann and his church for hosting the concert and providing a reception afterwards.

Check out the photo album from Pipescreams 2015 posted on our Facebook page! Photos were contributed by Dale Eberhardt and Chuck Hasbrouck.

And click the link below to hear Peter Niedmann's Pipescreams performance, "Tribute to John Williams!"
'Tribute to John Williams' (arr. for organ & percussion by Peter Niedmann). Live recording from "Pipescreams" concert, Oct. 23, 2015, Newington, Connecticut.
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Upcoming Chapter Events

  • Saturday, January 23, 2016 – Pianist’s Introduction to the Organ – a practical multi-session workshop for adult pianists led by several organists. St. James’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford.
  • Monday, February 15, 2016 – Pedals, Pipes and Pizza – Fun and informative, hands-on introduction to the organ for young pianists. First Church of Christ, Glastonbury and St. James Episcopal Church, Glastonbury.
  • Saturday, April 9, 2016 – The Art of Fugue – The modern dance ensemble, Syren, performs to Bach’s The Art of Fugue. St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford.
  • Monday, May 23, 2016 – Annual Meeting and Dinner

The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

ONE MORE TIME ON HUMIDITY or lack thereof:
Remember that organs and pianos are made of wood and now, with the heat back on, your instruments are again starting to shrink. Few places in the nation can rival New England for humidity swings. The fibers of the wood are drying out and shrinking as we progress into the heating season. The results can be damaging: tuning stoppers fall down inside wood pipes; cracks form in wind trunks and wood pipes and tracker sliders get pinched by the wood surrounding them. Is yours one of the bench tops that develops a nice big crack in winter? Ouch! Possibly one of the most common problems is audible air leaks that occur as the chest wood shrinks opening fissures that use up all that extra air. That’s right....some organs become leaky enough that during the winter, full organ simply isn’t. Dry organs also like to cipher.
Purchase an inexpensive Hygrometer at your local hardware store and keep track of this on-going drama. If the reading you see ever dips below 20%, that’s quite concerning. Call your tech and at least talk about it. Help’s available in the form of in-chassis humidity systems...worth every cent of their cost.

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