A History and Reflections on the Chapter Newsletter

A History and Reflections on the Chapter Newsletter

By Edward Clark

In September of 1957 the Hartford Chapter AGO published its first monthly newsletter which was called “AGO NEWS.” The editor was Frank K. Honey at First Church of Christ, Congregational in New Britain. Frank continued editing through the May 1961 issue in which he announced he was leaving for a new position in North Carolina. The incoming Dean of the chapter, William Gable of Central Baptist Church, Hartford, took over as editor, starting a tradition that lasted through the deanships of John Bullough, David Harper, John Holtz, Raymond Glover, John Doney, Richard Einsel, and Edward Clark.

In 1975 the new Dean, Lorraine Revelle at First Church of Christ, Congregational, New Britain, assigned the job of newsletter editor to Tom Schmutzler. Tom renamed the newsletter “The Chatter Vox” and his issues frequently contained copies of “items dug up out of old music mags to help keep things in perspective for us.” Tom also added frequent witty editorial comments to the content such as the following paragraph from the Dean’s greeting in their first issue:

“If you noticed the new look about the newsletter, it’s thanks to Tom Schmutzler, our new newsletter editor. (Hear! Hear!, if you haven’t you better look again. ed.) I want to welcome him officially with this issue and express my appreciation for his talent and his time. (All this before she even saw it – what faith! ed.)”

In 1977 the editor’s job went back to the chapter Deans: Gail Pedersen, James Frazier, Bruce Henley and Janet Morse. The next big change came in November of 1984, when Phillip C. Simmons took over as editor. Phil was the first editor to use desktop publishing software and as he described his tenure: “I like to think that [the Chattervox] has developed into a house organ (a publishing term) that is at once appealing to the eye, easy to read, informative, and entertaining.” He created the legal-size paper format – two sheets folded in half to make eight pages. Phil also introduced the small toolbox graphic that has accompanied Mike Foley’s articles ever since then. Phil’s last issue was March 1990 and once again the Dean, Jim Barry, had to step in for a few issues.
That brings us to September of 1990 and the start of my tenure of twenty-nine years as editor with constant help from my wife, Joan Pritchard, as co-editor. We were given charge of the newsletter with two conditions: we were to get it out on time and we were not to editorialize.
Back then, information about chapter doings were submitted to us by the Dean, and sometimes items of interest were sent to us by chapter members. But much space was left to us to craft as needed.  In the early days Joan wrote articles on various topics, including interviews with Gillian Weir, Michael Lankester of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, John Rose, Meg Irwin-Brandon, David Connell – then a staff member of Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music, James Biery on handling the funeral for Archbishop Whealon. Most memorable was an ongoing series on “How did you get started?” in which Joan discovered that many members had started out on the Hammond organ. Chapter members often contributed advice in a Reader’s Column or wrote about their conference and convention adventures. Eventually the Board took responsibility for producing most of the material, thus easing the burden on the editors. But throughout, Joan doggedly compiled endless lists of events every month from material submitted by members. The inclusion of printed advertising flyers for a small fee opened a new publicity source for both organizations and members, and added to the stuffing chores for our earnest Chattervox Assemblers.
The newsletter changed radically in 2015 with the decision to go all digital and use email, which reduced the workload enormously and introduced the wonders of full color. This change allowed others with computer skills to easily lay out the newsletter with a professional look and email it instantly. No longer did we have to figure out how to fit everything exactly into eight pages and then run to the 24-hour Kinko’s in Hartford to get the newsletter printed in time for the envelope stuffing.It was the privilege of producing this newsletter that launched our careers in desktop publishing. Joan and I both learned skills in graphic design and layout, digital photographic printing, writing, editing and print production that we have since used with other organizations. Plus, we had a front row seat to the happenings of the chapter. I am grateful to the chapter leadership for putting their confidence in us.

I also want to thank the many individuals who have helped to make the newsletter succeed.

  • Mike Foley, for his monthly Toolbox articles, which began prior to my tenure.
  • Dale Eberhardt, our staff photographer, for all the excellent photos he took (and continues to take) of chapter events.
  • The various chapter Deans for their monthly columns, which almost always have been thoughtful and well-written.
  • The Chattervox Assemblers who for the twenty-five years before the digital editions took over had to fold and stuff the newsletter and flyers into envelopes that then needed a label and sealing before delivery to the post office. We didn’t always have the print copy ready for them to easily process and mail by the first of the month, which sometimes involved some heroics. Those that we remember include Peter NiedmannMichael Wustrow’s ladies at St. Mary’s in Newington, Will KanutePat Wilson and Joyce Wagner, and most recently Meg Smith who got smart and put US on a deadline!
  • All the members who have submitted articles, reviews, event listings and more.
  • And the chaplains who provided their perspectives for a period of time.
After thirty-one years (twenty-nine since 1990 plus the two years when I was Dean), I am happy to turn over the editor position to Scott Lamlein knowing that he will do a great job!