Volume 62, No. 10
August 2012

In This Issue
From the Sub-Dean: Why Belong to the AGO?
News from AGO Headquarters
News from Grace Church
Members from the Past
Can You Identify this Member from the Past?
Annual Summer Organ Series at The Riverside Church   jdavidwilliams.com

From the Sub-Dean: Why Belong to the AGO?

  David Enlow - Sub-Dean, NYC Chapter, American Guild of Organists
  David Enlow, Sub-Dean
Why indeed! I’ve heard people in other chapters describe their membership as an expensive magazine subscription. I don’t think that’s true anywhere, but it is certainly not so in New York: this season, we offer you admission to all kinds of programs including recitals, workshops, lectures, and catered receptions – the benefits NYC AGO members receive are far in excess of the dues!

If you like to hear organ music, and to learn about it and the instrument itself, you should belong to the Chapter, even if you’re just coming for Presidents’ Day.

The first event this year is an organ and architecture crawl of the West side, including The Church of the IntercessionThe Cathedral of St. John the Divineand St. Michael’s Church on September 24th. A reception is to follow.

This is followed on October 30th by an Organ-Building Knowledge Base with noted organ builders and chapter members John Bishop and Sebastian Glück. Imagine being able to ask organ builders anything about maintenance, building, construction, mechanism, etc., with no holds barred! Both of these Fall events end with a reception and open bar.

Highlights of the program year include our annual February conference held at The Riverside Church in cooperation with J. Michael Barone of Pipedreams, this year titled Transcriptions Alive!, with lecture sessions by Peter Richard Conte and Mr. Barone, and a closing recital by International Performer of the Year Thomas Trotter, gala reception, and much more, over Sunday and Monday, February 17th and 18th 2013. Again, our Monday breakfast will be catered by Balthazar Bakery, one of the best breakfasts it’s possible to have.

Peter Conte will also join us for our Improvisation Symposium with Professor David Hurd; Mr. Conte lately has been retained to teach improvisation at Westminster Choir College, and Dr. Hurd is of course known to us all by reputation. Then there is an opportunity for you the members to play in an improvisation members’ recital. Requests to play on the recital will be taken in the Fall.

The Chapter is also co-sponsoring two important recitals, the dedication of the Skinner organ at St Malachy’s Church by David Higgs on April 20th 2013, and a recital at the Casavant organ of Brick Church by Nathan Laube on November 18th 2012; Professor Higgs needs no introduction, and Nathan is a fast-rising talent in the organ world who has not been heard often in the city. If you don’t know his work, it’s high time to become acquainted with it. Members are admitted free of charge to both events.

The year is capped off with a dinner cruise around the harbor on Monday May 20th; this is quickly becoming a beloved annual tradition and drawing our friends from beyond the immediate Metropolitan area. This is the only event with an additional charge; even that is subsidized from chapter funds.

So, membership is your ticket to all these events and programs. If you are not sure of your membership status, write to registrar@nycago.org or if you know you need to join up, visit www.nycago.org and follow the links to renew or join. You may do so online by credit card or by check and post.

I am very grateful to your colleagues on the chapter board for their support of this program year; they and I look forward to seeing you at our events!

With best wishes for a restful or a productive Summer, or even both,

Yours truly,

David Enlow

John Conner, Available for Substitute and Interim Work

News from AGO Headquarts


Distinguished Composer Award Presented to Craig Phillips

AGO/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition Presented to Alan Smith

AGO/Marilyn Mason Award in Organ Composition Presented to Nicholas O’Neill


First Place—Daryl Robinson
The Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize: $3,000 cash award and career development
assistance provided by Karen McFarlane Artists; a CD recording by Pro Organo;
and a performance at the 2014 AGO National Convention in Boston, Mass.

Second Place—Malcolm Matthews
$3,000 cash award provided by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

Third Place—Thatcher Lyman
$2,000 cash award provided by Kegg Pipe Organ Builders

Audience Choice Prize—Daryl Robinson
$1,000 cash award provided by the Martin Ott Pipe Organ Company


First Prize—Robert Nicholls
$3,000 cash award provided by McNeil Robinson

Second Prize—Patrick A. Scott
$2,000 cash award provided by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders Ltd.

Third Prize—Douglas Murray
$1,500 cash award provided by Pamela and Steven Ruiter-Feenstra

Audience Choice Prize—Patrick A. Scott
$1,000 cash award provided by David and Robin Arcus


The mission of the American Guild of Organists is to enrich lives through organ and choral music.

To achieve this, we:

• Encourage excellence in the performance of organ and choral music;

• Inspire, educate, and offer certification for organists and choral conductors;

• Provide networking, fellowship, and mutual support;

• Nurture future generations of organists;

• Promote the organ in its historic and evolving roles; and

• Engage wider audiences with organ and choral music.

The Guild’s prior mission statement was developed early in 1998. Over the last three years, the AGO National Council and various task forces have reviewed AGO members’ responses to a long-range planning questionnaire to determine what is most important to members and consider afresh what the Guild should plan to achieve organizationally.


Election Results Announced at AGO National Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Eileen Guenther, DMA
Vienna, Va.

John Walker, FAGO, DMA
Baltimore, Md.

Lois Z. Toeppner, MM
Westborough, Mass.

Calvert Johnson, DM
Decatur, Ga.

Joyce Shupe Kull, FAGO, CHM, DMA
Arvada, Colo.

Christian Lane, MM
Cambridge, Mass.

Mark A. Babcock, MM
Des Moines, Iowa

Marlene Hallstrom, CAGO, MM, MMUSED
Wichita, Kans.

Cheryl Duerr, AAGO, MM
Lexington, Mass.

Agnes Armstrong, CAGO
Altamont, N.Y.

For more information click here.

David Enlow, F.A.G.O.   Best Wishes from Yvonne L. Sonnenwald-Melin

News from Grace Church

Our colleague Patrick Allen invites us to check out the progress of the new organ under construction for Grace Church:


Arthur Lawrence D.M.A., A.A.G.O.   David Lloyd ben Yaacov Klepper

Members from the Past

  Edward Nies-Berger with Albert Schweitzer in 1959
  Edward Nies-Berger with Albert Schweitzer in 1959

Edouard Nies-Berger, sometime organist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and protegé of and collaborator with Albert Schweitzer, was the member from the past in last month's issue.

Nies-Berger was born in Strasbourg in 1903 when that region was still part of the German empire. At 15 he saw the French army reclaim the city and the surrounding provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. In 1922 he came to New York at the age of 19 and remained in the United States professionally for the rest of his life, although he maintained an apartment in Colmar.

He played in various churches and synagogues in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. During his Los Angeles years he found work in the movie studios and recorded the organ music for “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Border Town.” “They had me play Bach’s great Toccata in D minor while Karloff carried Elsa Lancaster to her execution” Nies-Berger told an interviewer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1991. “It was not my proudest moment artistically.”

Nies-Berger aspired to be a conductor, so in 1937 he left the United States for Salzburg where he studied with Bruno Walter and Rudolf Baumgartner. He was preparing for his European conducting debut when the Nazis took over Salzburg. He moved to Riga, Latvia, and from there to Brussels conducting opera and summer concerts. Shortly after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Nies-Berger caught the last boat out of Rotterdam and returned to New York.

He kept his conducting dream alive for a few years in New York where he founded an orchestra comprised mainly of freelance musicians. These concerts were characterized by progressive programming, often featuring Nies-Berger conducting works for organ and orchestra from the console in Town Hall. He earned the respect of Olin Downes writing in the New York Times. T. Scott Buhrman, writing in The American Organist (no relation to the present day journal of the same name), was particularly effusive in his praise of Nies-Berger’s offerings. “But after renting the halls and paying the stagehands and hiring the musicians, there was no money left. I had married and had a son. It was time to be a responsible father” Nies-Berger acknowledged in the aforementioned interview. In 1940 he moved to Richmond, Virginia, and to relative stability as the organist of Centenary Methodist Church. Attempts to start a symphony orchestra in Richmond had recently failed, and Nies-Berger was frustrated in his attempts to organize musical groups in the city. After only two years, he again returned to New York and began what turned out to be the most fruitful years of his career.

Artur Rodzinski, the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic, tapped Nies-Berger to be the orchestra’s organist, a position he held for several years playing and recording under such conductors as Walter, Szell, Reiner, Stokowski, and a young Leonard Bernstein.

Albert Schweitzer was a family friend when Edouard was growing up in Strasbourg. His father and Schweitzer had been students together at Strasbourg University where they were each disciples of Professor Ernst Munch, leader of the Bach circle, and father of the conductor Charles Munch. By the time Edouard moved to New York in 1942 , Schweitzer was established in his missionary work in Africa. However, Schweitzer made a trip to the United States in 1949 where he and Nies-Berger were reunited. “To meet Schweitzer again after so many years was a wonderful event for me” Nies-Berger recalled.

Their rekindled friendship culminated in a project that cemented Nies-Berger’s and Schweitzer’s association. Schweitzer had collaborated with Widor in a new edition of Bach’s organ works, the first five volumes of which were published by Schirmer before Widor died and before the outbreak of World War II interrupted the project. Schweitzer asked Nies-Berger to be his collaborator in the remaining three volumes which contained the chorale preludes.

“For the next six years, three or four months each summer, I went to Alsace or Africa to work with Schweitzer. He made a little time every day for Bach. It wasn’t easy–he’d won the [Nobel] Peace Prize already, and everybody in the world was after him for one thing or another. He was too kind to say no. To work with Schweitzer was almost like working with Bach. To know him at such close range was the great spiritual experience of my life. I have never thought the same, or made music the same way, after Schweitzer” said Nies-Berger. By the time the project was finished in the 1960s, Schirmer's Widor-Schweitzer / Nies-Berger edition of Bach’s organ works represented the most current scholarship and was widely used by students and performers.

The demands of professional life in New York became more pressing and Nies-Berger left New York for the last time, as he moved again to Richmond to be the organist and choirmaster of St. Paul’s Church, where he served from 1960 until he retired in 1968. He continued to live in Richmond (and in Colmar) until his death in 2002.

Much of his retirement time was spent writing treatises on music and philosophy, as well as a memoir about his time with Schweitzer. After multiple rejections from American publishers the memoir (written in English, which by now Nies-Berger considered his primary language) was published in 1995 in a French translation titled Albert Schweitzer m’a dit as part of a series Memoire d’Alsace by the small French firm Editions La Nuee Bleue. Rollin Smith has since prepared an English translation published by Pendragon Press. Nies-Berger was also a composer with several published compositions to his credit, one of which, Resurrection: An Easter Fantasy, is still in print in an anthology published by H. W. Gray.

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The next chapter newsletter is the September 2012 issue. The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2012. 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.