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In This Issue
From the Dean
Next Chapter Event
Members From the Past
Can You Identify This Member From the Past?

From the Dean

  David Enlow, Dean, NYC Chapter, American Guild of Organists
  David Enlow, Dean


Dear Colleagues,

October Program

You’ll see later in this newsletter the details of our program event with Paul Spicer this month, which promises to be a great opportunity for developing conducting and musical skill for the master class participants and auditors alike. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Cult of Busy vs. the Day Off

The Rector of my church once told me about a conversation he had, when younger and a new priest, with a much older cleric. Much advice was given by the older fellow, but one line he remembered well was “the priest who doesn’t take a day off takes every day off.” He was advising Father Swain to guard jealously the time he took for himself, to put something back in the ‘bank’ of energy and personal strength, lest his ability to help others should suffer. The priest cannot celebrate services, visit the sick, counsel the weary, administer the affairs of a parish church, and so on, without a break for personal time. True enough!

Another little story: Late this past spring, it happened that my wife Loraine and I had no particular work engagements, rehearsals, meetings, services, or whatnot for two days in a row. On the morning of the second day we realized, laughing, that this was what people who work in offices call a ‘weekend’, and that some people have one every week!

What about musicians? Performances and rehearsals draw our energies, more than office work or meetings. I think it’s important to take time regularly to have rest and recreation, to restore the energy we all spend in leading music, and making music, and making music better.

In our fair city, it is common to say, “busy”, proudly, in response to “how are things?” or a similar question, and the pace of life here has always been (and should be!) formidable. We have much to do, and it is important. All the more vital, then, to take time to walk in the park, go for a drive, read something interesting, cook a tasty meal at home, whatever it is that puts energy back in the tank.

As many of you are involved in concert preparation and the Jewish holidays just now, and many also have Christian holidays staring at us meaningfully from a short distance, please let me encourage you all to take a day off. If you can, take two!

Yours truly,

David Enlow,

Arthur Lawrence   David Enlow FAGO

Next Chapter Event

  Paul Spicer
  Paul Spicer

TUESDAY • 21 OCTOBER 2013 • 6:00 PM

Conducting Master Class with Paul Spicer

Church of St. Joseph – Yorkville
408 East 87th Street near First Avenue
Host: Alistair Reid

Admission: Free to NYC Chapter members; $20 general

Paul Spicer, conductor of the UK-based Finzi Singers and teacher of choral conducting at the Royal College of Music in London, will lead a conducting master class on October 21st. Mr. Spicer is legendary in his field, widely known as a conductor, educator, and composer, and is the author of the seminal biography of Herbert Howells. The Chapter will provide a choir of volunteers and professionals, and we welcome applications from our members to act as the conducting "guinea pigs." Those interested in singing and/or conducting should be in touch with James Kennerley.

Please also make a note of our upcoming events: the Improvisation masterclass and concert with David Briggs on February 3, 2015, and Eroica, our Presidents Day Conference centered on German Romantic music, taking place on February 15 and 16, 2015. More details will follow shortly!

David Lloyd ben Yaacov Klepper   Best Wishes to All from Yvonne L. Sonnenwalk-Melin
Robert Owen, organist
Robert Owen at the console of the new Aeolian-Skinner organ in Christ Church, Bronxville, shortly after its installation in 1949.

Members From the Past

Donald McDonald correctly identified Robert Owen in last month's issue.

Robert Owen served as organist and choirmaster of Christ Church, Bronxville, for 45 years until his retirement in 1988. He was from Longview, Texas, where his father was the minister of the First Presbyterian Church. For his first organ lessons he traveled a ten-mile dirt road to Kilgore to study with Roy Perry.

After graduating from the conservatory of music at Oberlin College, he returned to Texas where he taught at the University of Texas at Austin and commuted to Houston where he was organist and choirmaster of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine. At the beginning of World War II he served in the U. S. Navy until he received a medical discharge in July 1943. While convalescing in Philadelphia he made several weekend tips to New York where he ultimately learned that Christ Church was looking for an organist, thus beginning a remarkable partnership that carried the musical life of the church to a new level.

Robert Owen's first undertaking was the organ, a four-manual, 90-stop Hall in continual need of repair. In short order a contract was signed with Aeolian-Skinner for a new organ, and delivery was set for December 1948.

In February 1947 the Dean of the American Cathedral in Paris offered Owen the job of reorganizing and directing the cathedral's music program which had been in disarray since the German Occupation. Since the Christ Church organ would not be ready for some time, the vestry agreed to give Owen a leave of absence and Gordon Jones, an Oberlin classmate of his, assumed his duties for a year. While in Paris Owen became the first student at the Paris Conservatory on the G. I. Bill, and he studied with both Marcel Dupré and Nadia Boulanger.

Returning to New York, Robert Owen played the opening recital on the new Christ Church organ on Trinity Sunday, June 12, 1949. According to the local paper 800 people attended, including the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, with temperatures in the high 90s.

In the ensuing years Owen recorded for the Aeolian-Skinner "King of Instruments" series and on RCA. He maintained an active concert career himself, and brought many of the world's leading organists to play in Bronxville. He also maintained a vigorous choir of men and boys, and later, girls and mixed voices as well. Several of his former choirboys became clergymen, including the Rev. Peter Hawes, Rector of St. George's Church in Germantown, Tennessee, who in 1991—on the occasion of the installation of officers of the Memphis AGO chapter—reminisced about being a boy soprano in the choir of Christ Church:

" . . . tonight I dedicate my remarks and much of my ministry to Bob Owen, who showed me all the wonders of God without ever opening a Bible, without ever preaching a sermon, without being anything other than who he was, a superb musician."

At Robert Owen's retirement the vestry voted to install a set of stained glass windows in the clerestory of the nave to honor his 45 years of service. Robert chose in turn to honor the French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen, who had recently died and whose compositions Robert had frequently played at Christ Church. Known as the Revelation Windows, they consist of nine lancets arranged in groups of three which celebrate the roles of art, music, and literature as sources of God's revelation in the world. They were created by renowned stained glass artist Ellen Miret, and fabricated at the Rohlf Studios in Mt. Vernon, New York, and were completed in 1994.

Note: most of the material for this sketch, including the photograph, is taken from Built Upon A Rock by David T. Andrews, the 100th anniversary history of Christ Church.

Can You Identify This Member From the Past?

. . . now deceased?

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The next chapter newsletter is the October 2014 issue. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2014. Material may be submitted to Neal Campbell, Editor. Nine issues are published through the year on a monthly basis with combined issues for December/January, May/June, and July/August. To make changes in your email address or to subscribe to the e-newsletter, please contact Larry Long, Registrar.