copyright 2000
Cleveland Chapter
American Guild of Organists

Dean's Message September 2000

Seattle, beautiful, hospitable city of wonderful organs and churches was the site of the AGO National Convention in July which I was privileged to attend. Seeing old friends, meeting news ones, talking "shop", and overdosing on organ recitals, is a big part of what convention is about.

The Cleveland Chapter had a strong presence at the convention. Tom Trenney, winner of our local competition, as well as the 1999 Region V Young Organist competition, wowed the audience at the Rising Stars Recital, with his performance of a selection from William Bolcom's "Three Gospel Preludes" and Ives's "Variations on America." At the annual meeting Karen MacFarlane received the Edward A. Hansen Award for her work in providing management of the winner of the Young Artist Competition. At the same meeting, Chris Holtkamp presented the Holtkamp-AGO Award in organ Composition. Todd Wilson was a workshop presenter.

Other Clevelanders attending were Sub-Dean Carol Neff, Carmen Massaro, Patricia Genchi, Ruth Brintnall, Gratian Nugent, Warren and Margaret Scharf, David Boe, and John McElliott. Highlighting the week's events was the inauguration of the new Fisk organ at Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. In addition to the events connected with our convention, public tours and demonstrations, some geared for children were held throughout the week. We heard a recital by Guy Bouvet, and a program of organ concertos with the Seattle Symphony. Before the concert, Gerard Schwartz, conductor of the Seattle Symphony presented AGO President, Philip Hahn, with an award from ASCAP for the AGO's role in commissioning new works. Two new works were presented on the program, both stunning. It was quite impressive that an ensemble with the stature of the Seattle Symphony had learned new pieces for our convention.

In addition to the Fisk organ at Benaroya Hall, impressive organs, both in sound and aesthetics were the Fritts Organ at Pacific Lutheran University, the Flentrop organ, with renovations by Fritts at St. Mark's Cathedral, and the two organs of St. James Cathedral, one a 1907 Hutchings-Votey, the other a beautiful 1999 Rosales organ.

A Baroque concert of the Bach B Minor Mass was a highlight of the week. Martin Haselbūck, masterfully led Seattle ensembles, the Northwest Baroque, and the Tudor Choir, for a sublime experience. Lending variety and a break from organ music was an evening of a capella choral music by Opus 7, and a congregational sing led by Alice Parker. Alice, in her own inimitable style, led us in exploring what could be done creatively with simple hymns and the unaccompanied human voice.

Organ recitals which I particularly enjoyed were by Bruce Neswick, Christa Rakich, and Christopher Young. I really enjoyed John Weaver's playing of the eleven Brahms Preludes. Much virtuoso playing was heard during the week, and hearing these beautiful pieces played masterfully was a lovely interlude.

Attending beautifully planned, professionally presented worship services is another highlight of convention. This year's worship services were organized to demonstrate the major denominational styles: Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Protestant, and Jewish. The singing of commissioned anthems is a highlight of those services. I was most impressed by the singing of Cantor Roslyn Barak, and the commissioned "An American Kedusha," by Alice Parker.

Convention is a heady experience. I returned with ideas for our own Regional Convention in 2003, new ideas about listening to and playing the organ, lists of pieces I would like to learn and memories of a beautiful place. It is not too soon to start thinking about Philadelphia in 2002. Maybe that will be your year for convention. I assure you it will be time well spent.

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