October 2016 Deanery

October 2016 Deanery


By Kari Miller

October is undoubtedly one of the loveliest months of the year in these parts. As the dog days of summer give way to crisp mornings and pleasant sleeping weather, we begin the transition to a more inward and introspective time. We celebrate the harvest with delicious soups and hot apple cider and enjoy the brilliant show of fall leaves. And then, of course, there is Halloween.

Halloween is the second highest grossing commercial holiday in America (Christmas is first), with Americans spending $6 billion annually on candy, costumes and decorations. This popularity is easy to explain, I think. The holiday melds ancient, non-Christian traditions with the solemnity of All Saints Day in a heady mix that has something for everyone. The celebration can be as fun or funky, goofy or ghoulish, silly or sacred as we wish to make it; and yet, one way or another, it brings us face-to-face with that most universal and compelling of human mysteries: death.

Here in the Greater Hartford AGO we celebrate in pretty light-hearted fashion with our annual “Pipescreams” Halloween extravaganza. AGO chapters all over the country, as well as many college music departments, hold similar events, some quite elaborate. The Halloween/All Saints Day Concert put on by The US Naval Academy, featuring the organ, is billed as an over-the-top show of music, light, drama and dance, “celebrating the triumph of good over evil.” Obligatory on every concert, of course, is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the “unofficial theme-song of Halloween,” but beyond that, there are plenty of other great pieces, both original and in transcription, to entertain an audience and demonstrate the organ’s wide range of expressive possibilities from dramatic to quirky to creepy.

I was a bit surprised to discover that there are also a fair number of churches that put on a regular Halloween show. For instance, Old South Church in Boston presents an annual “Scared for Good” organ concert “sure to rattle your bones,” benefitting a local food pantry. Perhaps one of the more unusual church events I came across (organ-less, alas) is the “Fright Night” presented by Church of St. Andrew, a historic Episcopal church on Staten Island. Held not in the church proper but in an attached stone building and the cemetery, it offers an unabashed “haunted house” experience, as visitors are led through and accosted by parishioners costumed as ghosts and ghouls. Then again, this is a church accustomed to strange goings-on; in 2008 they were investigated by The Eastern Paranormal Investigation Center on account of unexplained noises such as chimes ringing in the middle of the night – and “that feeling you get when your hair stands up.”

When it comes to haunted churches, self-ringing chimes do appear to be a common feature, as well as other strange noises such as organ music playing at weird times. (an insomniac music director, perhaps?) Another church plagued by rogue ringing is Most Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn, reputedly haunted by two ghosts: a former pastor and a bell-ringer who was supposedly murdered in the bell tower. I think I might prefer to spend some time in Old Rock Church in St. Olaf, Texas. Abandoned since 1917, it is apparently inhabited by a whole congregation of gentle and faithful spirits who make odd noises and sometimes sing ghostly hymns. I would like to hear that.

June 2016 Deanery

June 2016 Deanery

by Kari Miller

There are many ways to listen to music. The music student taking a dictation exam listens in a very different way from the casual listener enjoying a favorite piece at the end of a long day. We bring different ears to a new or challenging work than we might to a familiar pop tune. Our listening can be active or passive, critical or curious. We can listen intently for certain things or we can wait for something to catch our attention. We can focus on the details or bask in the big picture. We can let ourselves be taken beyond the sound to those memories and associations which sometimes rise up spontaneously and unexpectedly.

The DeaneryNone of these listening modes is right or wrong in itself, but it is important, and certainly useful, to be aware of how we are listening and to be able to change our way of listening if it is not appropriate to the occasion. This can be harder to do than one might think. As trained musicians, many of us have spent so many hours and so much effort learning to fully engage our critical listening that we seem unable or unwilling to turn it off even when it gets in the way. We spend our days teaching, practicing and rehearsing. We can get stuck – comparing and measuring, noting every irregularity, suffering over every deviance from our “ideal,” sometimes feeling very intelligent and superior even as we deprive ourselves of whatever listening pleasure might be had.

It would be sad to think that the uneducated listener enjoys music more than most of us do. Yet sometimes it seems to be so. It can be so very hard to let go, to lighten and loosen up, and to just allow a performance or a piece of music be what it is and take one where it will. I once worked with a wonderful musician who became irate after a performance when I told him that I “enjoyed it.” He considered that to be a woefully inadequate response. He wanted a blow-by-blow rundown of his specific superlative qualities; he wanted me to wax poetic about his tone and phrasing and articulation. Stupid me – I thought my “enjoyment” was a big part of what it was all about. He just thought I hadn’t been listening very carefully.

Don’t take me wrong: I am not suggesting that we should abandon our discriminating standards, give up hoping to hear that “perfect” performance or pretend things are great when they are not. But until we can learn to listen with an open mind and generous heart there is faint chance we will ever experience music as in these beautiful lines from T. S. Eliot’s The Dry Salvages: “…music heard so deeply /That it is not heard at all, but you are the music/While the music lasts.”

Justin Murphy-Mancini Organ Recital

4491ab07ced14872f9b23310e7d74585Hartford AGO/Quimby Competition Winner Justin Murphy-Mancini in recital United Methodist Church571 Farmington Ave., Hartford   Please note: this recital was originally scheduled for May 4, but has been rescheduled for Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 3:00 pm. 

The next Chapter event is planned for Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 3 PM at the United Methodist Church of Hart- ford, 571 Farmington Ave (corner of South Whitney and Farmington). Justin Murphy-Mancini (b.1989) is the recitalist. He won the Hartford AGO/Quimby Competition last year and was invited by the Board of the Chapter to perform this concert.

Justin will play works by Sweelinck, Schumann, Price, Fischer, and BWV 550 by J. S. Bach. The first printed organ music, the Salve Regina of Arnolt Schlick, is planned for the second half and Karg-Elert’s Chorale Symphony on “Jesu, meine Freude” will conclude the concert. Justin is a candidate for an MM in historical keyboards at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He
is also completing a BM in composition and organ, and he holds a BA in philosophy from Oberlin College. Currently, he studies with James David Christie, Josh Levine, and Webb Wiggins, and he has also studied with Jack Mitchener and Marie-Louise Langlais, among others. He has performed as an organ soloist on the Malmgren Recital Series (Syracuse, NY) and Emmanuel Church Series (Chestertown, MD), and is a laureate of the Taylor Organ Competition, Arthur Poister Organ Competition, and Westfield Harpsichord Competition. Justin is fortunate to have had his composing sup- ported by residencies at the Akademie Schloss Soli- tude (Stuttgart, Germany), the Banff Centre (Alberta, Canada), and the soundSCAPE and Atlantic Music Festivals. His music has been performed by the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble SurPlus, and the JACK Quartet, as well as by Oberlin student ensembles. A frequent collaborative musician, Justin has performed on tour with Oberlin Baroque and Collegium Musicum Oberliniense in Quito (Ecuador), Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York City (Oberlin in NYC Illumination Tour) and Boston (Boston Early Music Festival). He has commis- sioned and premiered six new concert pieces for organ by young composers and recently premiered his own first work for the instrument. He is originally from Wilbraham, MA.

The organ is a 1964 Casavant with an Austin console and full reed chorus as well as a lovely solo Flute Har- monique and a Trompette de Fete in the rear gallery. The church is celebrating the organ’s 50th birthday this year and welcomes the opportunity to host this recital. A reception is planned following the concert. Parking is located on the streets nearby, behind the church off South Whitney and in the Bank of America lot on the opposite corner of Farmington Ave.

Hope to see many of our Chapter members at this event!

-By Cheryl Wadsworth


Be Our Guest! Anthem Reading Session

Be Our Guest!  Anthem Reading Session

AGO pic 1Our Chapter will kick off the 2013-2014 season on Saturday, September 21st with an Anthem Reading Session from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2080 Boulevard, West Hartford. We are encouraging you to bring yourself, bring an anthem, and most importantly, bring a guest who is not a chapter member.  A lovely lunch of sandwich platters, salads, sides, and cookies will be provided at no cost…something you can be proud to offer to a guest.  (Vegetarian options will be included.)  The program will provide plenty of time for singing and socializing.

The anthem reading session will emphasize works for the smaller choir. Pick an anthem that has worked well for you and bring copies to share. Participants will serve as the choir, sight-reading each piece. An accompanist will be available as needed. A list of titles and other ordering information will be compiled as a resource for all.  Guests may also bring an anthem, and people may attend even if they choose not to bring an anthem. Reaching out and inviting a guest is an important focus of this event.  At first thought, it is easy to think you don’t know anyone who would be interested and you might decide to come alone.  But don’t dismiss the idea of inviting a guest. Examples of people who might be interested include:

  • – Church/synagogue musicians in our towns who do not belong to the Guild
  • –  School music teachers who also serve a church or synagogue
  • –  Musicians who are primarily choral directors and may not know that our mission includes    the choral arts
  • – Choir members who also are interested in and supportive of the organ
  • –  Organ, piano, and voice students
  • –  Musicians new to the organ who think the Guild is only for degreed professionals!
  • Take a chance and invite someone to join you. If the first person you ask is unavailable, ask one or two others. Prepare to be surprised at how receptive and appreciative people can be to receive a personal invitation!
Suggested RSVP information: In order to facilitate planning, it would be helpful to get a head count for lunch and a partial list of anthems by Monday, September 16th.  Email Kari Magg at kari.magg@snet.net with name/number of attendees and if possible, anthem title, composer, voicing, publisher and pub- lisher’s item number.  Late RSVPs will still be helpful, and walk-ins are also welcome.
Regions I and II Convention – Hartford 2013

Regions I and II Convention – Hartford 2013

THE CONVENTION IS HERE!   Join us for the Regions I and II AGO Convention in Hartford from June 30 to July 3, 2013.  We have taken the phrase,  Appear and Inspire from W.H. Auden’s poem, Anthem for St. Cecilia’s Day as our conference theme.  This sprang from a desire to make our convention as inspirational as we could vision, and has resulted in a four-day convention full of incredible recitals and concerts, more than 21 workshops, a marvelous exhibit hall and plenty of time for rest,  relaxation and renewing friendships with colleagues.   Several concerts are free and open to the public,  so consider inviting friends to these top notch performances!


Site Launch – Welcome!

Welcome to the Greater Hartford Chapter of the American Guild of Organists website!   The AGO is a national organization that seeks to promote the pipe organ and its music,  so if you love the sound of the organ then the AGO is for you.  The Greater Hartford Chapter is quite active and made up of a very welcoming group of musicians.  We present workshops and concerts, offer educational opportunities for young musicians and host social events so that we can share ideas with our colleagues.  Check our “Chapter Events” calendar for upcoming programs in the Hartford area.  The “Regional Calendar” features events presented by our members and by members of nearby chapters of the AGO. While you’re here, check out our forum where any topic related to the organ can be discussed, or browse the “Organs of Hartford.” We hope you’ll be sufficiently impressed to join our chapter, in which case you may find all the information you need under the “Join us” menu!