Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival: 17th Anniversary

By David Spicer

To encourage young organists – this has been our raison d’être for the past seventeen years of the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival – something with which all of us in the profession agree.

We are taking steps to move this festival to a more community based organization. Mr. Robert Bausmith is the chairperson, and a board of directors has been formed. I will remain as the Artistic Director. We are looking forward to having this wonderful event at alternate sites in the future. In our efforts to make
this happen, the two first place winners, Clara Gerdes (High School Division) and Nicholas Quardokus (Young Professional Division) will return to play their recitals at Trinity College Chapel, Hartford,
Connecticut, on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 7:00 PM.

What a treat to hear such wonderfully prepared young organists at the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival in September! It speaks well of them developing their God-given talents, and of their excellent teachers. That, combined with wonderful organ music, set the stage for the 17th annual festival. We are grateful to be able to encourage young organists with this competition. We had some wonderful applicants who sent in out-standing CDs. Judges for this year’s festival were Diane Meredith Belcher, Charles Callahan and Ken Cowan.

On Friday evening, September 5, our traditional opening concert was held. The service/choral portions were played by the writer and the judges played selections of their own choosing. A video camera, via closed-circuit television, projected the organists in the balcony onto a screen downstairs.

Saturday morning, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, the High School Division finalists played the required repertoire. At 2:00 p.m. the Young Professional Division finalists were heard. All finalists were required to play the Hymn Tune St. Thomas (Williams) as well as a piece by J.S. Bach and a second hymn. The contestants’ personal selections included music by Widor, Mendelssohn, Vierne, Messiaen and Franck.

Later that evening, all finalists and judges had a chance for interaction and discussion over a delicious meal provided by Dana Spicer at the Solomon Welles House in Wethersfield.

On Sunday, September 7, in Wethersfield, the finalists played portions of the 8:45 a.m. worship service. In addition, we thank Ezequiel Menéndez, who invited the finalists to play portions of the 11:00 a.m. service at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford. In Wethersfield at 1:30 p.m., a masterclass with the three judges was held. Many important topics were covered, and awards were presented.

This year’s finalists were:

High School Division — First Place: Clara Gerdes from Davidson, North Carolina, presently a student of Alan Morrison at the Curtis Institute of Music; Second Place: Alexander Pattavina from Stoughton, Massachusetts, presently a student of Paul Jacobs at the Juilliard School of Music; and Third Place: Richard Gress from Newmarket, New Hampshire, student of Bruce Adami.

Young Professional Division — First Place: Nicholas Quardokus from Bridgeman, Michigan, student of Janette Fishell at The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University; Second Place: Brian Glikes from Rochester New York, student of David Higgs at the Eastman School of Music; Third Place: Evan Cogswell from Glastonbury, Connecticut, student of Patricia Snyder. Evan is a recent graduate of the Hartt School of Music.

We are grateful to Robert Bausmith and Jill Peters-Gee, M.D. for giving the Young Professional Division first prize of $3500; the Young Professional Division sec- ond prize of $1500, came from several individuals in the First Church of Christ community, and others; Our thanks to the Helen L. Reinfrank Music Fund for the $2000 award for first prize in the High School Division and to Marilyn Austin and family for the High School Division second place prize of $1000. Thanks go to John Gorton and Richard Pilch for providing $1000for the David Spicer Hymn Playing Award, which was given to Young Professional Division finalist Nicholas Quardokus. All underwriting gifts are most appreciated.

Special thanks go to Bon Smith of Austin Organ Service Company of Avon, Connecticut, who was on hand throughout the Saturday competition to offer assistance, should the organ need it. We are also grateful
to Bon Smith for his gracious gift of maintenance for this festival. Alex Belair and Michael Tanguay of Austin Organ Service Company are the regular curators of this instrument.

Our thanks to Linda Henderson, Festival Coordinator and Associate, for so ably performing the organiza- tional work that made the festival run smoothly and efficiently.

We are grateful to these Churches that allowed their instruments to be used for additional practice: The Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Ezequiel Menéndez, Director of Music; First Church of Christ, Glastonbury, Angela Salcedo, Director of Music Ministries; and Trin- ity Episcopal Church, Wethersfield, The Reverend Lois Keen, Interim Rector.

Plans are underway for the 2015 Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival September 11- 13, 2015. Information about the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival and current requirements for the competition are available by tele- phone at 860-529-1575, ext. 209, by e-mail at music@ firstchurch.org, or by viewing the ASOF website: www. firstchurch.org/ASOF.

David Spicer began as Minister of Music and the Arts at First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1986.  In 1996, he and Dr. Harold Robles founded the Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival.  Spicer is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Dr. Alexander McCurdy, and is a graduate of the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Editor’s note – Clara Gerdes is also an inaugural winner of the new Pogorzelski-Yankee Memorial Scholarship program sponsored by the AGO.