January 2017 Newsletter


January 2017

In This Issue


By Kari Miller

Many organs these days boast a dizzying array of bells and whistles. Row upon row of couplers, pistons and toe studs, memory levels numbering in the hundreds, recording and play-back mechanisms, unusual digital stops which make the organ sound (sort of) like a harpsichord or string orchestra, as well as traditional extras like zimbelstern and chimes are only some of the wonders that may greet a modern organist. This astounding panoply of riches, seemingly endless in scope and possibility, is for many a large part of the instrument’s appeal, and figuring out how to use it all to full advantage can certainly be a lengthy and highly interesting process.
It may surprise you, then, to learn that my current self-improvement project at the organ involves a quite basic feature, encountered by almost every organist: that is, the lowly swell pedal. I speak solely for myself in saying I am often guilty of using the swell pedal only when it is convenient or easy - but I would venture that there are many others out there who could say the same. My own hesitation is caused, nine times out of ten, either by fear (that I will mess up or something bad will happen) or by pure laziness (lack of preparation.) The laziness can hopefully be rooted out by a bit of mindful planning and practice, and the fear will likely be assuaged by the same means.

I usually have no trouble identifying the places in the music that would be enhanced by the use of “expression” or figuring out how that might affect my pedaling or phrasing, but it does take some time and effort to get it right. Not a lot, really, but without some planning there are no guarantees, and there is indeed plenty that can go wrong. Being “spontaneous” and “winging it” doesn’t always work. A hasty lunge at the expression pedal can lead to unexpected consequences such as a painful stubbed toe, total flubbing of the regular pedal part, the unintended triggering of a piston or general, or, perhaps worst of all, the accidental engagement of the crescendo pedal. This last is usually so shocking that it is, hopefully, something one does not often repeat. Another less disastrous but still undesirable result of poor planning might be that we get stuck for an extended period with the swell shades too far open or closed, but with our feet too busy to make any adjustment. And, of course, there can always be too much of a good thing; nobody wants that seasick, “ocean swell” effect which comes with senseless or excessive use of the expression pedal.

In the planning and practicing stage it is essential not to focus on how it feels, but rather to listen closely to how the music sounds. This may be harder than one might think. It may not feel good or natural; the pedal might be stiff or move unevenly or the actual increase of sound may come much later than expected. The physical action and the musical gesture are often quite out of sync and one has to keep reminding oneself to gauge by sound and not by feel. Sometimes the actual sounds of the shutters themselves are a distraction as they open and close; I try to just ignore any creaking, moaning or crackling and hope that the listener will not notice anything amiss.

So, for the moment, that is my self-improvement project. What is yours? It is probably good to have one, and also good to remember that improvement doesn’t always mean pursuing things more and more difficult or complex. It can sometimes mean staying right where you are, making an honest self-evaluation and deciding to do better.

Members' Recital on January 28

By Vaughn Mauren

Greater Hartford Chapter members Susan Carroll, Vaughn Mauren, Ezequiel Menéndez, Peter Niedmann, Christa Rakich and Natasha Ulyanovsky will present an organ recital at Trinity College Chapel on January 28, 2017, at 7PM. The performers will play music of Bach, Reger, Callahan, Bairstow, Margaretha Christina de Jong, Duruflé, and Keith Emerson. The concert is free and open to the public, and we strongly encourage you to bring family, friends, neighbors, complete strangers, dogs and cats.

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Jolidon Update

By Suzanne Hertel

A reminder for Grants for Individual Projects:     
  • March 1, 2017 – Deadline for applications for 2017-2018 events, scheduled between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018.
  • April 1, 2017 – Applications reviewed.
  • May 1, 2017 – Announcements of grants.
Events must include the use of the organ.
Application forms are found on the Chapter website.

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Discover the cradle of the organ in North America in a city with an unbeatable nightlife, and European flair. Register now for the 2017 Montréal Organ Festival!

Highlights includeOlivier Latry, Nathan Laube, Cherry Rhodes, Roomful of Teeth, and the new 116-rank Symphony Hall organ (Casavant Opus 3 900).

Pre and post convention days July 1st and 7th with Rachel Laurin, Renée Anne Louprette, gastronomic adventures, tour of Casavant and Létourneau workshops, and more! Additional charges apply.

From our Northeast Region Councillor, Cheryl Duerr: "Please encourage your members to register for the convention and hotel in January, if possible, since our date to adjust the room block with the hotel is January 31st."

Register Now!

Presented by the AGO Northeast Region, RCCO, & CIOC

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Nominating Committee

Election of officers for 2017-2018 will take place at our next Annual Meeting on May 23, 2017. Members of this year's nominating committee are Scott Lamlein (chair), Robert Gilbert, Christine Melson and Mary DeLibero (board liaison). They will submit a slate of candidates, one for each position on the Executive Board. If you would like to be considered or would like to recommend another member, please contact Scott Lamlein by January 15 at or 860-523-5201.

Competitions and Scholarships

Several important deadlines are looming: Back to the top 

Young Organists Encouraged to Apply for
Lutheran Summer Music Academy & Festival

Lutheran Summer Music is a four-week residential training and performance program. Each summer, LSM brings together 150+ 8-12 grade band, orchestra, choir, keyboard and organ students from the U.S. and abroad in a supportive, intentional community. 

AGO members from the Greater Hartford Chapter are invited to refer students for the 2017 convening of Lutheran Summer Music Academy. All students using the application code AGO200 will receive an automatic $200 tuition discount. Other merit and need-based assistance is available.

For more information, go to or contact Dietrich Jessen and Kristina Rodel, Admissions Directors at 888.635.6583 or email at

The Tool Box

By Mike Foley

Happy New Year!
So, how’d you and the organ make out at Christmas? Did it cipher? Did those reeds go out of tune? Did you need the tremolo and find that it really doesn’t work well? Swell shades clunking or perhaps not very effective? You know, all the usual things. What’s that? You had a completely dead key? Perhaps you were one of the lucky organists who had their blower stop running (I know of two that went down just before the holiday). I’ll bet your instrument worked perfectly. 
Pipe organs represent a mountain of mechanical music. We wouldn’t have it any other way but sometimes we pay the price for all those hundreds/thousands of little parts that are moving like mad as you play those hymns. Ain’t it great!! Love your pipe organ. To make all those fabulous sounds, they have to be nearly human. 

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Job Listings are now available on our chapter website. To post a job opening, contact   
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Chapter Board

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
Kari Miller

Ally Barone
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