Volume 73, Number 5 March 2023
Thank you to all who attended, performed at, or helped organize the 2023 Presidents’ Day Conference at Saint Paul’s Chapel – Columbia and the Riverside Church. We had a remarkable turnout, with perhaps 250 attending the closing recital. The day’s sessions were recorded for our archives, and we plan on publishing them on the Chapter’s YouTube page later this spring.
The Chapter offers a consistently high standard of performances and presentations at this, our grandest of annual events. Although a lot of work for David Shuler, myself, and the Program Committee, planning the Conference is always a great deal of fun and an enormous privilege. The responsibility, both artistic and financial, entrusted to us to engage such stellar artists and to formulate a program which is both informative and entertaining is not something we take lightly. Further, it is gratifying that the Chapter remains committed to supporting what is essentially a mini-regional convention and to offering it free of charge.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
Even more than the electrifying playing or the edifying lectures, the thing I enjoy most about Presidents’ Day (or a Regional or National Convention, for that matter) is the camaraderie. I would argue that the stereotype of registering for a convention only to then skip out on half of the events to go to a bar with your comrades is not only amusingly accurate, but not all together a bad thing. For example, I spent more time with some fellow New Yorkers while in Seattle than I usually do in New York. In our work-focused, results-driven, emails-answered world, the actual social aspect of society is often demeaned or forgotten. This is dehumanizing and unhealthy.
Our bite of the Big Apple
New York, perhaps only equalled by London and Paris, is a metropolis brimming over with talented organists. The kind that when they play a recital in another city, it is a big deal. One might assume that because our Chapter is so full of busy, high-profile people engaged with a concert career or demanding church job or academic position (or, more likely, some combination of the three and more beyond), its membership might be forbidding, removed, and unsupportive of local events. Quite the contrary! Here, these folks are, well, just folks. Just one of the gang. As we stood at the back of the sanctuary, I remarked to David Shuler and Chris Creaghan, our host at Riverside, that, if one of our performers or panelists for whatever reason had been unable to come, there was an audience full of major league players who could pinch hit. The same could be said of Olivier Latry’s recent recital at Saint Thomas, co-sponsored by the Chapter. That we have such a supportive, collegial, approachable, and helpful membership is worthy of commendation. To know people capable of this superior artistry and to count them as friends allows us to connect with and appreciate the art all the more. It is at once humanizing and ennobling.
In recent editorials, we have been considering the purpose of the American Guild of Organists: to advance our art form and to remember those who have gone before. To this expanding list, I would like to add: to grow in fellowship. This is why, both for church and for concert, I am generally against live-streaming. The Guild is meant to build a community, and that can only truly be done in person. No one looks forward to seeing someone on Zoom or to realize that someone else is watching a YouTube video at the same time. There is a vitality in a gathering, especially one of colleagues dedicated to a single purpose. This promotes professional advancement and authentic cooperation. One of the primary reasons I remain involved in the Guild is because I genuinely enjoy the company.
James D. Wetzel, Dean
Reger Anniversary Lecture
The lecture-demonstration on the music of Max Reger scheduled for Saturday, March 18 at 1:30 PM at Saint Joseph’s Church – Yorkville has been postponed. A new date will be announced in April.
Festival of Psalms
Friday, April 21 – 7:30 PM
Church of the Heavenly Rest
1085 Fifth Avenue at 90th Street
The Church of the Heavenly Rest has commissioned a work by David and Kerensa Briggs that will be premiered by the Church’s choir conducted by Janet Yieh, with brass ensemble and David Briggs at the organ.
NEWLY ANNOUNCED: Recital in honor of Walter Hilse
Tuesday, June 6 – 7 PM
Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church – Citicorp
619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street
To mark the passing of the late Walter Hilse, the Chapter will close out the Program Year with a recital celebrating the life and music of this long-time member. The evening will feature some of Walter’s own compositions and music associated with his career. Performers will include former students and colleagues. The Klais organ at Saint Peter’s has recently been reinstalled after flood damage. More information will follow.
All NYCAGO events are free to Chapter members.
Events around Town
Juilliard Organ Department Recital
Thursday, March 30 – 7:30 PM
145 West 46th Street
Organ students of the Juilliard School (Paul Jacobs, chair) will perform a varied program with music from the Baroque to the present day in their annual department recital which is free and open to the public. For more information, visit Juilliard’s website.
Music for Passiontide: A Choral Festival
Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street
NYCAGO members may use the code AGO20 here to receive a 20% discount for all concerts in the Saint Thomas Church series.
The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys (Jeremy Filsell, conductor) joins forces with the Choir of New College, Oxford (Robert Quinney, conductor) for an extravaganza of choral masterpieces for Holy Week. Both choirs will be featured individually, performing at various places throughout the nave, but will combine to perform as one for a grand finale.
Consider adding your events to the Concert Calendar for the season. Email submissions to Sam Bartlett here.
Email suggestions and comments for the Program Committee here.
We are working to resolve some technical issues with our website. It has been down several times lately and (inexplicably) will occasionally revert to an older version of itself. For example, it recently was displaying information from 2016. The Board and webmaster Sam Bartlett are in the final stages of preparing a completely new website for the Chapter. It will go live sometime this spring. In the meantime, thank you for your patience.
NYCAGO Annual Directory
Historically, the Chapter has published its annual Directory early in the new calendar year; the 2021-2022 Directory was, for example, compiled on January 1, 2022 and was mailed to the membership in March of last year.
The Board decided that henceforward it would publish the Directory according to the program year instead. This way, regional concert series and church music programs may advertise events for their upcoming season. More information will be forthcoming and ads will be solicited later this spring, with a publication date of late August or early September.
Advertising in the Monthly Newsletter
We are once again accepting ads for this monthly Newsletter (hence the Kotzschmar ad below). Consider advertising your upcoming events here; we enjoy a readership of over 1,500. Please write to the editor for rates and details.
Regional AGO Convention
The 2023 AGO Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Dual Regional Convention is being held just north of the City in Westchester County from July 3-6. The area is replete to world-class instruments, impressive architecture, and exquisite dining and shopping – all within the beauty of the lower Hudson River Valley.
A number of our own NYCAGO Chapter members will be performing, including Justin Bischof, David Enlow, John T. King, Renée Anne Louprette, Jennifer Pascual, Craig Williams, and Janet Yieh.
Visit the website for more information. A full schedule will be posted there shortly.
A Pipe Organ Encounter (POE) is a six-day "summer camp" designed to introduce the organ to young musicians aged 13-18. Participants receive private instruction, learn about the construction and mechanics of pipe organs, perform on world-class instruments, and are introduced to careers in music. More than 100 Chapters have hosted a POE, and thousands of students have participated since 1988.
This year, two POE events will be offered: June 18-23 in Wheaton, Illinois, and June 25-30 in Wichita, Kansas. The registration deadline is May 15.
Visit the website for more information.
Francis P. Brancaleone of White Plains, died on February 21. He was 86. Dr. Brancaleone was professor of music of Manhattanville College for 40 years and was Chair of its Music Department from 2009-2014. He also taught at Baruch College, the University of Bridgeport, the Manhattan School of Music, in the Pre-College Divisions of the Manhattan School of Music and the Julliard School. Dr. Brancaleone served as music critic for the Gannett Journal News from 1988-2002. His full obituary is available here.
Send Bulletin Board submissions to the editor for publication.
Albert Russell, music director at Saint John’s Episcopal Church – Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C. from 1966 to 1984, died January 23 at his Washington home. He was 91. Mr. Russell was responsible for the first-known recording of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem in the United States in 1962. His full obituary appeared in the Washington Post on February 6.
Submit news items (professional appointments, retirements, marriages, births, obituaries, etc.) to the editor for publication in Member News.
Quote of the Month
From Love among the Ruins (1948)
Then the Dean and the bridal pair disappeared, the organist amused himself with all his hands and feet, and a general emigration took place into the vestry, where several people kissed each other for the first and last time and found themselves very much surprised by what they had done. Presently they all moved back to their places and Robin, doing his best not to limp, brought Anne down the aisle with her cloudy veil of lace thrown back, a cold crystal and diamond gleam in her hair, and a sweet serious face of absorbed happiness.
~Angela Thirkell (1890-1961)
NYCAGO Chapter Information
Chapter Contacts Page
Chapter Committees and Appointments
James D. Wetzel, editor
The newsletter is published at the beginning of every month, September–June. Please submit all material to the editor by the 24th of the preceding month.
Dean: James D. Wetzel
Sub Dean: David Shuler
Secretary: Raymond Nagem
Treasurer: Patrick Kreeger
Registrar: Larry Long
Auditors: Paolo Bordignon and Andrew Henderson
At-large (Class of 2024): Loraine Enlow, Nathaniel Gumbs, Bernadette Hoke, Jared Lamenzo, Sándor Szabó, and Lena Tharp
At-large (Class of 2026): Daniel Beckwith, Caitlin Dowling, James Hopkins, Maria Rayzvasser, Michael Shake, and Eva Sze
The biographies of the board members are provided here.