Review of Pipescreams 2014

by Mary Rose DiGiovanna

The mood of the 2014 Pipescreams was set with soft lighting, candles and greetings from the ushers of Church of Christ, Congregational in Newington. The event opened with a warm welcome from Hartford AGO Chapter Dean Kari Magg to a crowd of about 130 while our host Peter Niedmann was busy with last minute details of surprises to come.

Image 36Our MC or rather MS, Mistress of Sorrow-moan-ees according to the program, was none other than the chapter’s incomparable Meg Smith AKA the “Wicked Witch” for this eerie night. Meg carried the program offering interesting facts and tidbits all the while seam- lessly educating us and amusing us with her clever wit, humor and play on words.

As has long been tradition, the program opened with J. S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor played by Brian Parks. Brian, who first participated in the event last year and is now organist at First Church of Christ, Congregational in Suffield, returned to play costumed as the “Wolfman.” Many boos and hisses were heard at the conclusion of this and the other selections throughout the program as an alternative form of applause – another Pipescreams tradition.

For the audience’s viewing pleasure, the program was projected onto the big screen and special lighting affects, which we’ve come to expect, added a special touch.

Image 13Do you remember the Mozart Effect? Those baby boomers, who played classical music for their children in utero, do! Peter Niedmann was dressed…well…as himself – a dad – and reenacted this when he walked out with a very life-like baby doll, placed it in a crib and proceeded to play Mozart’s variations on the childhood nursery rhyme, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Lo and behold, what effect did it indeed have on the infant? The baby rose from its crib and danced and swayed for the duration. Then she went back to blissful sleep at the conclusion of the lullabye thanks to last minute fill-in puppeteer Eric Sherlock, associate minister of our host church, who didn’t miss a beat!

Image 12Belgian composer Joseph Callaerts (1838-1901) was an unfamiliar one to me, but Kari Miller, dressed as the Lone Ranger (relevant later on) pulled out all the guns to play this exciting and difficult Toccata in E Minor.

Ed Clark stepped up to the console for the next two numbers appropriately costumed in the garb of the honky tonk piano player. We were treated to the music of “Dixieland” on the organ for a nostalgic transcription by Fats Waller of W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.” Next,
Ed took us down memory lane to the circus and the merry-go-round’s calliope with a piece called “Funny Folks-Ragtime March & Two-Step and thanks to midi, produced some special affects like the xylophone, typical of the theatre organ.

Our youngest performer of the night was no newcomer. Meg Smith’s student Francesco Blackmore delighted us with his mixture of original and “decomposed” music incorporating the B-Flat Major & G Minor Preludes BWV 560/558 of J.S. Bach. Francesco is in his second year at Manchester Community College, and is a member of their Phi Theta Kappa honor society and a founding member of their music club. His interests include both computer science and music. He is organist of Christ Church Episcopal in Waterbury, and supplies keyboard to worship combos at one or two other churches. The AGO always loves to see the up and coming generations of church organists participate in this event.

Image 62The Parade of Costumes, always a delight, especially when the young and young at heart join in, processed to the “Morris Dance” by Edward German, transcribed by Edwin Lemare and played by Kari Magg accompanied by Peter on the tambourine and bells. Especially notable were the infant in an adorable peacock costume and the most creative costume, which was created by our own Member-at-Large board member Mary DeLibero. She turned herself into a living pipe organ, the Casketvant which included draw knobs sporting stop names such as Subterrain 16’, Scario 2’, and Bloody Loud to name a few.

Who doesn’t love a good cavalry marching into battle? Well, the excitement just built up to a frenzy as the Lone Ranger, aka Kari Magg flew through the familiar notes of Rossini’s ‘William Tell’ Overture.

Next, was it going to be “clowns, puppets, dolls or terror?” screeched MS Wicked Witch Meg as she introduced Brian Parks returning to play Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette.  I think the highlight of the night however, was Peter Niedmann playing the all familiar toccata from Boëllmann’s Suite Gothique dressed as a bellman acting in imitation of funny man Jerry Lewis and toting some luggage tossed aside as he slid onto the organ bench and played that instrument as only he could. With technique to spare, he played like the wind with accuracy and style!

The evening ended with the Wicked Witch melting away to the netherworld as a scarecrow came forth to throw a bucket of water on her as told in the beloved movie, The Wizard of Oz.

Image 60A plentiful, delicious and festive reception awaited all who proceeded to the guild hall following the concert. Special thanks to Peter Niedmann, Sub-Dean and the Board of Music at Church of Christ for hosting Pipescreams.

Hold on to your hats in readiness for next year’s ghoulish gathering.