May 2016 Newsletter


May 2016

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

I recently discovered a fascinating web page dealing with the depiction of the pipe organ on film. John Karl Hirten, composer and organist, has compiled an extensive list of over a hundred films featuring scenes with pipe organ, complete with detailed comments about the movie plots, music, organs and performers. A quick perusal yields some predictable results: scenes set in cathedrals and country churches, funeral and wedding scenes, plenty of blood-curdling horror scenes and quite a few scenes in which the famous Toccata is performed by various types. But there are also many descriptions of quirky scenes with organ that beg to be investigated. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

Carnival of Souls (1962) is one of the few movies featuring a church organist as the central character. This creepy cult classic was produced in connection with Centron Studios, a Lawrence, Kansas film company, and the film has scenes which take place in the Reuter Organ Shop and Trinity Episcopal Church, both in Lawrence. While the lines of the plot are quite simple, the interwoven themes and sub-themes - music, the church, the soul, the sacred and the profane, the nature of reality - are presented in a way that leaves many possible interpretations. This strange film has a dream-like, nightmarish quality which is unsettling, perhaps, but quite compelling. The score by Gene Moore is composed entirely of solo organ music.

The protagonist of Joseph Vilsmaier’s Schlafes Bruder (Brother of Sleep, 1995) is a young man, Elias, a transcendent musical genius, who leads a difficult, painful life in rural 19th century Austria. In the climactic point of the movie (and of his life?) Elias extemporizes on the chorale Komm, O Tod, du Schlafes Bruder in an improvisation competition, filmed at St. Barbara’s Church, Kutná Hora, Czech Republic. This extraordinary scene, with striking original music by Enjott Schneider, performed by Harald Feller, is an “in-your-face” depiction of raw talent and elemental music-making; we see the young genius, overwhelmed and possessed by his gift; we see the listeners, enraptured and enraged by the audacity of original talent; and we also see the mechanism of the organ as a participant in the performance. Although the whole film is in German, this scene speaks for itself, loud and clear.

To end on a lighter note, I offer this excerpt from Federico Fellini’s Roma (1972), a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama dealing with Fellini’s youth in Rome. I was delighted by the irreverent freshness of this “ecclesiastical fashion show”, although the organ, played in duet by two nuns, is only fleetingly prominent in the score by Nino Rota.

Explore some more on your own at

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Next Chapter Event
Annual Meeting & Dinner


Monday, May 23, 2016 at 6:30 pm


Reservation and Payment Deadline: May 16, 2016


Seasons Restaurant
Avon Old Farms Hotel
279 Avon Mountain Rd (Rt. 44),  Avon, CT
Directions: At the foot of Avon Mountain
on the southeast corner of Routes 10 and 44
6:30-7:15 Cash Bar/Appetizers (Antipasto Stations)
7:15-8:00 Dinner
8:00-8:45 Meeting and Dessert

Appetizer - Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta
Salad - Classic Caesar
Entree Options (choose one):
  1. Fillet of Sole with Seafood Stuffing
  2. Penne Pasta Tossed with Broccoli, Dried Tomatoes, Eggplant, etc.
  3. Kentucky Bourbon Sirloin
Dessert - Flourless Chocolate Torte, Coffee/Tea

Cost - $20 per person

This year you can make your reservation online. Click on the button below to fill out and submit a reservation form. Submitting your form will take you to a web page where you can select payment options. Information is included to pay by credit card, PayPal account or check. Reservations are due by Monday, May 16, 2016. No reservations can be honored after this date if payment has not been received.
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Organ and WHAT?

By Jim Gower

The weekend of April 9 and 10 offered our members and the Greater Hartford public two outstanding concerts, each unique in its own way, yet featuring concepts so similar that one might think it was a planned theme weekend. I remember the days when the discovery of a piece for organ-and-flute, or organ-and-cello, seemed new and daring. Back then I wouldn’t have imagined organ-and-percussion, let alone organ-and-modern dance! These two recent performances pairing organ with the unlikeliest of media showed that there is no limit to the versatility of the organ.
On Saturday evening, St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford brought together Bach’s The Art of Fugue and the fluid and expressive movement of New York City’s SYREN Modern Dance. Organist Rick Erickson, Director of the Bach Society Houston and Cantor at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, deftly played the substantial collection of fugues (and one chorale prelude) which are widely considered to be among Bach’s crowning achievements, written during his last years.
While a couple of the movements were played on the harpsichord, the musical star was St. John’s Austin Organ which is celebrating its 20th birthday. Performances of The Art of Fugue can often be more academic than engaging, but such was not the case in Erickson’s hands. The music was further brought to life by the magic of the five dancers of SYREN Modern Dance. The choreography was at times poignant, at times light hearted, but never sentimental or shallow. The five beautiful dancers, four women and one man, used the entire sanctuary and captivated the audience for the entire 75-minute performance. Brief introductory remarks by the organist gave insight into the music and its origins. Choreographer Kate St. Amand talked about how these two art forms came together, citing as a major inspiration, this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Never lose an opportunity to see anything that is beautiful. It is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament.”
Sunday afternoon took us to South Church in New Britain, where the two world-class artists of Organized Rhythm dazzled a delighted audience. British organist Clive Driskill-Smith and percussionist Joseph Gramley have been working together for nearly twelve years, honing a level of ensemble that is seamless. The program featured the duo’s own arrangements of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, and Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals.” These two orchestral favorites were punctuated by a charming recent piece written for organ and percussion by Thierry Escaich.
Driskill-Smith found all the colors of the Gress-Miles organ, showing the heft of “The Planets” and the varied sounds and images of Saint-Saëns’ animals. If you closed your eyes during the Holst, you would easily believe that the entire percussion section of a symphony orchestra was at work. But don’t close your eyes! The visual aspect of Gramley’s playing is in itself a dance, whether it’s his mallets floating on the marimba keys or himself gliding among a phalanx of over a dozen instruments that filled the chancel. The artists’ fun side showed as well. Each movement of “The Carnival of the Animals” was preceded by the reciting of a corresponding Ogden Nash poem!
Saturday’s Bach/SYREN Modern Dance performance was co-sponsored by the Chapter, and Organized Rhythm was supported in part by our Marjorie Jolidon Fund.

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Membership Renewal

For most of us, this is membership renewal time. You may already have received an invoice from AGO National inviting you to renew. We do hope you will renew your membership with the Greater Hartford Chapter AGO and when you do, please take a moment to review the personal information on file, to be sure that it is correct and complete. We depend on you to provide us with valid, up-to-date e-mail addresses and phone numbers so that we can be in touch with you. It is also important to fill in your birth date, not to leave it blank, so that when you reach the age of 65 you will automatically receive the “special” rate. If your address or employment information has changed, you need to click on the “View/Edit Address Information” tab to make those changes.

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Nominating Committee Report

The slate for election at the Annual Meeting on May 23rd, 2016 is as follows for next year:
  • Dean, Kari Miller
  • Sub-Dean, Peter Niedmann
  • Treasurer, John Coghill
  • Registrar, Mark Child
  • Secretary, Douglas Duca
  • Member-at Large term ending in 2017, Mary DeLibero
  • Member-at-Large term ending in 2018, Vaughn Mauren
  • Member-at-Large term ending 2019, Alan MacMillan
Respectfully submitted, GHCAGO Nominating Committee: Cheryl Wadsworth, Chair, Eugenia Sullivan and John Parsons

Free Organ Related Recordings and Books

Remnants of John Holtz's library will be offered free to Hartford AGO chapter members; these items, which had been stashed in closets at Hartford's Center Church, will be available for browsing at the Annual Meeting on May 23rd.
What is left:
Recordings of Bach cantatas, English church music, some major works on LPs.
Four 45rpm recordings of European organs
Books on church music, organs, rare book of French organ builders from the Ninth century forward, Studien zu Artikulations-problemen bei den Tasteninstrumenten des 16-18 Jahrhunderts German text by Ludger Lohmann; Toward an Authentic Interpretation of the organ works of Franck, etc.  
Selling one somewhat rare book "Christ and Architecture" Bruggink $25.  Best price for a like new condition book. 

The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

Darn those reeds, they’re never in tune!
You’re not alone. If your instrument was well constructed and the reeds used to hold, have them professionally reconditioned. There are firms throughout the land that specialize in just reeds! One of the best is right in East Granby. This isn’t cheap but the results can be really good. 
If your tech offers that the reeds are of a vintage that cannot be made to hold tune (indeed, there was such a moment in the history of pipe construction) then have them replaced. Indeed, this is expensive but, done by the right firm, you can end up with reeds so stable that you seldom tune them….period. Can you imagine it? Talk to your tech.

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Chapter Board

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

Newsletter Editors
Edward Clark
Joan Pritchard

Job Listing Service
Kari Miller

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

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