C h a p t e r   N e w s l e t t e r
  V o l .  5 9 ,  N o . 6

M a r c h   2 0 0 9

Message from the Dean

Dear Colleagues,

Our Presidents’ Conference was a great success!  Special thanks are due to Paul Murray and the Program Committee for all of their work, and to our distinguished presenters: Peter Conte, Alan Morrison, and Thomas Murray.  Thanks are also due to the participants in the master class: Keenan Boswell, Stephen Price, Kalle Tovino, and Anthony Rispo – all of whose playing gave one great hope for the future of the organ!

Lastly, special thanks to Fr. Robert Robbins, Paul Murray and the Choir of the Church of the Holy Family, and Rob Ridgell, assisting organist, who closed the day with sung Evening Prayer. An audio recording of the service can be heard at: www.churchholyfamily.org/vespers.html, and Fr. Robbins’ homily is reprinted in this issue of the newsletter. A reception provided by the parish followed. We are grateful to the pastor and staff at Holy Family for hosting this year’s Presidents ’ Day Conference, and for making us feel so welcome!

Please mark your calendars for Oliver Latry’s master class and recital on April 14 and 15.

As the Easter/Passover season approaches rapidly, I wish you successful and inspiring music making, and opportunity to be inspired and enriched by the music making of others.

With All Good Wishes,

Frank L Crosio, FAGO

  Olivier Latry

Next Chapter Event: Master Class with Olivier Latry; Tuesday April 14th

Olivier Latry, titular organist of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, and on the faculty of the Paris Conservatory, will lead a master class on Tuesday, 14th April, at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. This program is free to NYC Chapter members. Click here for details.
Boston AGO Landmarks Convention

Click here to download the registration form for Boston's AGO Regions I & II Convention, July 1-3, 2009.
Presidents' Day Vespers Homily – The Rev. Robert J. Robbins

Following is Fr. Robbins' address to the AGO chapter.  This homily was given at the Presidents' Day Vespers celebrated at the Church of the Holy Family.
Memorial of Onesimus, Martyr
16 February 2009
With the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists

    When your Sub-Dean and I met for the first time to plan for this evening’s Vespers, as is our custom, we consulted the Church’s Universal Calendar commonly called an “ordo.”  Throughout the world, the Roman Church today is observing “Monday of the Sixth Week of the Year.”  Our first reaction was, “that is certainly not grand enough for the American Guild of Organists (especially the New York Chapter).”  We next consulted the venerable “Butler’s Lives of the Saints” which contains everyone whose feast day is celebrated today though not necessarily throughout the world.  When I opened to February 16th, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself:  “God has a great sense of humor!”  Along with Juliana (who was boiled in oil by her own father), Elias and Jeremy (who were tortured and beheaded by Emperor Maximus in the fourth century), Gilbert of Sempringham (who founded the only medieval English order which wouldn’t survive Cromwell’s dissolution of the monasteries), and at least three others, the primary saint of the day is none other than Onesimus.  Believe it or not, Onesimus is at the very heart of St. Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon.  I chuckled at the coincidence because the letter to Philemon is, perhaps, the least known Pauline Letter and Onesimus himself was a slave.  Now, how many times in your life have you ever heard a church musician say:  “the pastor treats me like a slave?”  Well, then, happy feast day!
    My priesthood classmates and I always pride ourselves on the fact that our seminary, St. Joseph’s in Dunwoodie, was probably the only seminary that ever studied Philemon with any seriousness.  A mere twenty-five verses long, Paul writes to his friend, Philemon, begging him to take back his slave, Onesimus, whom it seems had stolen from his master, fled the country, ended up meeting Paul who instructed him in the faith and baptized him during one of Paul’s imprisonments.  As musicians sometimes feel enslaved to a parish, so we as seminarians felt enslaved to our seminary for far too many years and so I think we can all—musicians and clergy alike, find a consoling message in this letter of scripture.
    Much of the lesson to be gleaned from the Letter to Philemon can only be enjoyed if we return to Paul’s play on the Greek words he uses.  The name “Onesimus” itself means “Useful.”  You can easily understand how anyone who had a slave would want that slave to be “useful.”  Now, in Onesimus’ status as rehabilitated because of his baptism in Christ, Paul encourages Philemon to receive him back as a free man because “formerly he was useless to you but now he is indeed useful (Onesimus) to you and to me.”  Paul even says that he would have kept the now useful slave for himself to be his support in prison but recognizes that justice requires him to send him home.
    Yet, the most profound lesson to come to us from this letter is Paul’s use of the word slave.  He very consciously uses the Greek word “doulos” which quite specifically means someone who is “a born slave” as opposed to a slave who was taken in war.  Also quite consciously, this word meaning “a born slave” is specifically applied to Jesus of Nazareth throughout the New Testament.  By the will of his father, Jesus is born into the slavery of service to the work and the will of God.  Because of Baptism, Paul now regards Onesimus as a “born slave” who has become “useful” in his servitude because of his newfound faith in Jesus Christ.
    Since Christ Jesus is proclaimed as a “born slave” for the purposes of God’s designs, it might not be so awful to think of ourselves as slaves as well—clergy and musicians.  We have been each born with different but complementary talents.  There are two ends to each church and the happiest congregations in the world are those who have men and women of talent taking care of the sanctuary and the loft.  The saddest thing for any church musician or any member of the clergy to say is, “I don’t really believe in any of it—it’s just a job for me.”  Remember that Paul’s lesson to Philemon is that slaves reborn in the waters of baptism are now really freed persons enabled to give completely of themselves for all the right reasons, one of which is proudly displayed on the crest of the American Guild of Organists as well as the Society of Jesus—“Soli Deo Gloria,” “Solely for the glory of God.”  A perfect theme for musicians and clergy alike.

Reverend Robert J. Robbins
Church of the Holy Family
The United Nations Parish
New York City

From the Registrar

We welcome the following new members to the NYC chapter:
Jeffrey P. Cubeta
Eric R. Hepp
Stewart P. Holmes
Drew L. Kreismer
Dan Rousseau
David Grant Strickland

Paul Sanner
The next chapter newsletter is the April 2009 issue. The deadline for submissions is March 15th. Material may be submitted to the 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 Paul Sanner.