Review of 2018 National Convention
By Michelle Horsley
During the first week of July, the sunny city of Kansas City, Missouri, was filled with organists coming together to meet, sing, listen, and be inspired by great music. If it were possible to describe, for example, the sound of a symphony hall filled with 1,300+ organists singing hymns together, I would try to find the words. But the experience of the 2018 Convention of the American Guild of Organists was, at least for myself, singular. It was a time of music-making, camaraderie, and artistic/ministerial exploration which brought together minds and music in a glorious jambalaya of hymn festivals, organ recitals, masterclasses, seminars, workshops, reading sessions, organ crawls, and a maze of convention exhibits. The churches and concert halls of Kansas City offered noteworthy instruments that roared under the hands of recitalists Douglas Cleveland, Vincent Dubois, James Higdon, Christopher Houlihan, Chelsea Chen, Diane Belcher, Todd Wilson, Nicole Keller, Jennifer Pascual, Hector Olivera, Marie Rubis Bauer, and Damin Spritzer. The events were plentiful and varied, often featuring some of Kansas City’s own prominent choral ensembles – Cardinalis, KC Vitas, Kantorei, Kansas City Chorale Te Deum – whose singing made grown men and women weep. I was particularly inspired by the Spire Chamber and Baroque Ensembles (under Maestro Ben Spalding) in a performance of Bach motets that was so crisp and excitable, even the church pews themselves seemed to breathe. Another personal highlight was the closing hymn festival The Peaceable Kingdom, a lovechild of the marvelous James Bobb, Tom Trenney, and Anton Armstrong. It was an extremely thoughtfully-prepared program which opened our hearts to the cries of refugee populations around the world, stretching our imaginations of how hymnody can be offered in new ways to uplift this diverse and challenged 21st century world. Every performance I attended was of addictively high quality that I was left continually asking myself, among other questions, “How can I limit my basic food/sleep needs today so that I can squeeze in just *one* more of these events before I collapse?” Isimply had to take it all in. Soli Deo Gloria!
Todd Wilson Recital at Community of Christ Temple (Independence, MO) Richards, Fowkes & Co., Op. 22
Closing Ceremony with Thierry Escaich and Kimberly Marshall at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, (Kansas City, MO) Casavant Freres Op. 3675
TeDeum Choral Ensemble and Ben Sheen at Village Presbyterian Church (Prairie Village, KS) Casavant Freres Op. 3700