February 2016 Newsletter


February 2016


In This Issue


By Kari Miller

I love to read. I love to get lost in a good book, to let a skillful writer’s words carry me to another time or place and show me things through another’s eyes. I recently turned the page upon finishing a long, absorbing novel and found a “Reading Group Guide” featuring questions meant to “stimulate discussion, offer new viewpoints, and enrich enjoyment of the book.” I continued reading, expecting to gain further insight into a book that I had enjoyed so much that I hated to see it end. To my dismay, I found that the questions elicited responses from me worthy of a bored seventh grader. Rude, crude responses like: “Well, how should I know that?” or “Huh? Who cares?” or “Why would you ask that? What a dumb question!” or “That’s obvious. Do you think I’m stupid?” Instead of enriching and enhancing my reading experience it felt as if the questions had been diabolically designed to suck out as much life and mystery and emotion as possible.

I slammed the book shut, fuming and sputtering under my breath, but after I had calmed down a bit I thought that perhaps I should take the experience as a cautionary tale to keep in mind the next time I start talking about music. Whether it is in one of those little pre-performance talks, written commentary for the church bulletin or even an informal conversation during coffee hour, it can be all too easy to lapse into that music-school mode and start spouting off all sorts of things that might make one sound smart but really don’t add to the listener’s understanding or enjoyment. The casual listener usually doesn’t much care in what year a piece was written, or that it is one of five such pieces by the composer. More appreciated might be an interesting story about the piece or the composer or any personal observations one has to offer. Most listeners are also unimpressed by drab descriptions stating the obvious - such as that a piece begins with a slow introduction followed by a fast section. Surely they can hear that much on their own! Better to clue them in on some specific things to listen for; this might be something structural (the augmentation of the fugue theme in the concluding section) or something relating to the performance (the use of a distinctive organ stop or an unusual technique). And, really, is there anything wrong in encouraging a listener to just sit back and enjoy?

A musician that I once knew and greatly admired used to say: “The minute you start talking about music, it’s wrong.” While there may be some truth in that, most of us do talk about music, one way or another; we need to be able to share our insights and enthusiasms with our choirs and congregations, families and friends. Hopefully we will speak in a way that honors both the music and the listener.

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Pedals, Pipes and Pizza

Do you know a young pianist who would be interested in learning about the organ in a fun, hands-on session with other kids? 'Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza' is a great event that does just that. Young pianists get an introduction to the organ through fun, informative presentations and hands-on sessions. 
This free event will be at two churches in Glastonbury starting at First Church of Christ, Congregational (2183 Main St.) and ending at St.James' Episcopal Church (2584 Main St.). 
The date is Monday, February 15th (Presidents' Day) from 9:30 am - 2:00 pm. There is no fee for the event, and a free lunch is included. Registration is required (see link to form below). Please help spread the word to your pianist-choristers. Any questions, contact Mary DeLibero at (marydelibero@comcast.net).

Registration Form Link (you can copy and paste to give to others):

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Review: Pianist's Introduction to the Organ

By Ronald Coons

You play the piano. You play it pretty well.

A local church desperately needs an organist. They turn to you. You’ve never played a pipe organ. You refuse. They plead. They offer. You succumb.

So you sit at the organ. And you panic. “Why more than one keyboard? How do I turn the thing on? What are all these knobs? What do all those names and numbers mean: Great, Swell, Choir, Positif, 8’, 4’, 2⅔’, 2’, Mixture IV? What in the name of Zeus is a Sesquialtera? How do I play legato? How do I control volume? How do I play the pedal board? Why did I get myself into this?”

Answers to questions such as these and many others were available to those who braved an uncertain weather forecast and came to St. James’s Church in West Hartford on Saturday, January 23, to participate in a “Pianist’s Introduction to the Organ” sponsored by your Greater Hartford Chapter. Some 14 guests joined a number of seasoned AGO members in the choir loft at 9:30 to be greeted by Dean Kari Miller. After offering words of welcome, she introduced the first of the morning’s three presenters, Cheryl Wadsworth, who lived up to the promise of the session’s title by going through sections of Wayne Leupold’s First Organ Book, copies of which had been distributed to participants upon their arrival. This enabled her to explain the topography of the instrument, how to play an organ and make it sound good, how and where to sit on the bench, and also to demonstrate various keyboard and pedal techniques. There was much to be learned, and not just by neophytes.

After a brief pause, Peter Niedmann followed up on Cheryl’s presentation by demonstrating the resources of the St. James’s Austin with an imaginative improvisation, after which he answered questions and offered participants the opportunity to sit at the console and get hands-and-feet-on experience by sight reading pieces from the Leupold book. The volunteers were brave, and they learned from a sympathetic teacher. The group then descended to the Parish Room for a lunch from Panera Bread provided by Treasurer John Coghill. After participants had satisfied themselves with salad, soup, sandwiches, and cookies - but only one cookie per person, as the Treasurer insisted - they returned to the organ loft for a helpful presentation on hymn playing by Vaughn Mauren. Not only did they gain instruction, but they sang, and lustily at that, as they experienced how to accompany hymns with sensitivity to the text.

All in all, it was a rewarding experience that was enriched by handouts on organ literature [click here], hymn playing [click here] and how to set up general and divisional pistons [click here]. In addition an exhibit table contained examples of instruction books and music for the beginning organist. Special thanks are due the three presenters; to Dean Miller, Mary DeLibero, and host Vaughn Mauren, who were instrumental in organizing the event; and to St. James’s for providing facilities and, of special important on a wintry day, heat.

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Jolidon Fund Grants for 2016

In December, the chapter board awarded the following grants from the Marjorie Jolidon Fund for events and projects happening in 2016. A goal of this round of funding was to encourage a new audience for the organ, which is reflected in the interesting variety of projects. Chapter members are encouraged to check out some of the concerts mentioned and let us know how we are doing.
  • $4,000 to Springfield (MA) AGO Pipe Organ Encounter, July 10-15.
  • $1,500 to The Music Series at South Church for a concert by Joseph Gramley, percussionist and Clive Driskill-Smith, organist on April 10.
  • $2,000 to Connecticut Virtuosi Orchestra and Friends of Music at Emanuel (Emanuel Lutheran Church, Manchester) for an organ and orchestra concert featuring two organ concertos with soloist Woosug Kang. May 7 at Emanuel Lutheran and May 8 at South Church, New Britain.
  • $2,000 to Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival to sponsor the first place prize in the High School Division. The festival is September 29 to October 2.
  • $1,200 to Christa Rakich to commission a new work for organ and cello from Dutch composer Margaretha Christina de Jong.
  • $1,500 to Somers Congregational Church for an organ recital/informance by Keith Reas on April 3 or 10.
  • $1,500 to Somers Congregational Church for a duo organ recital by Matthias Schmelmer of Berlin, Germany and Dawid Slusarczyk of Wroclaw, Poland in the fall of 2016.
  • $1,000 to the New London Chapter AGO to support a second scholarship award for their Roberta Bitgood Scholarship program.
  • $700 to St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford for their monthly organ recital series on Sundays at 12:30 pm. January to June.
  • $1,000 to St. John’s Episcopal Church, West Hartford for a performance of Rutter’s Requiem with organist Ralph Valentine on May 22.
  • $1,350 to the Hartford Chorale to cover the organist’s fees for their performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah on April 14.
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Local Events Now on Home Page

The chapter's website (http://www.hartfordago.org) has been tweaked so that upcoming local events now appear prominently on the home page. Check it out!

We hope that this new visibility for the local events listings will encourage more of you to submit your own events by using the middle button below or by going to the Programs & Events/Local Calendar of Events menu on the website.

Do check the list often because more events are being added all the time.

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The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that some organs get better care than others. It’s usually the ones that have a long-time dedicated church member who loves the instrument, knows every inch of its history, won’t let you change a wire and generally watches over it like a hawk. This person almost always greets us at the site. He/she makes absolutely certain that the room is at proper temperature and quiet. This person is interested enough to question any possible work conceived or proposed. They know just where the blower is and any switches controlling it. They’ll tell us about their recent survey of the chambers. They’re the ones that first find the roof leak or a pipe about to fall over.  Incredibly….they’re most always on target. The ones most dedicated can sometimes become annoying. After all, it’s obvious that he/she is overseeing the church’s investment and isn’t always interested in what we may be cooking up for the organ’s future. At times it’s tough to acknowledge their list and take the time to open the console and repair that one top octave coupler contact, but….
I’ve also found that this is sometimes the person who’s putting down the money to pay for regular service. Is your instrument one of the very few with such an organ angel?  Count your blessings.

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View Online Calendar to see chapter and other local events

Event Calendar
Submit your event with our online form by clicking on the button below or from our chapter website.
Submit Event
Job Listings are now available on our chapter website. To post a job opening, contact kari.magg@snet.net   
Job Listings
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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