60th Anniversary Season Kick-Off!

NSAGO Dean Andrea Handley
NSAGO Dean Andrea Handley

Andrea Handley

Well, we’ve said goodbye to another summer, schools are starting, choirs are starting, and we’ll all be in full swing hurtling toward Christmas before we know it. And our 2017-18 North Shore 60th Anniversary season of programs begins this month, too!

We are very excited about this coming season. Every one of our programs will focus in some way on our 60th anniversary as a chapter. (Scroll down to see our entire season of programs) To kick off, on September 24 at 7pm, we will celebrate with a worship service at First United Methodist Church in Evanston. The service will include organ, choral music, and hymns written by composers largely from the history of our chapter, including Thomas Matthews, Austin Lovelace, Morgan and Mary Simmons, and Adrienne Tindall.  WFMT’s own Carl Grapentine will be the host and commentator for this special event. Chapter organists who will be playing include William Aylesworth, Brian Schoettler, and Christine Kraemer. We will also install NSAGO officers and board members at this service, and a reception will follow the service.

NOTE: Please consider joining your voice to the choir for this service – rehearsal from 6:00-6:40pm that evening. The pieces needed are “the Lord Is My Shepherd by Thomas Matthews, “Eternal Light” by Leo Sowerby, and the Peter Lutkin “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”.  If you need copies, contact Brian Schoettler (brian@nullfaithatfirst.com), organist at First United Methodist Church, Evanston.

Andrea Handley, Dean

My Life as a Beginning Organ Student: Highlights and Confessions

Richard Spears

As with so many others, my obsession with the pipe organ began when I was a child. When I was eight, the families of the adult choir were enlisted to relocate organ pipes and parts from the sanctuary to the parlor while the church chancel was being rebuilt. I was fascinated by the idea that all those strange parts were needed to produce the incredible sounds of the instrument. No one but the organist was allowed to play the church’s huge Kilgen, but I often sat behind her trying to figure out how the thing worked. I was certain what a Bombarde would sound like, even though it was never used, and I was desperate to know what kind of hole an Ophicleide would blow in the wall.

I took piano lessons for ages and received instruction on the organ from the church organist who provided me with her ancient, marked up copies of Bach’s major works, and served as my driver and chaperone to hear visiting recitalists. My regular practice instruments were a Hammond and a Baldwin.

As a teenager, I attended two of the “Summer Vocal Camp” sessions at Westminster Choir College in the 1950s. John Finley Williamson lectured about the union of choral singing and the pipe organ, with George Markey demonstrating the lecture points. And the knot joining the two was pulled tight in my mind and heart. There were of course, practice organs available for “borrowing.” It was the intense choral experiences of those summers that led me to study phonetics, with the goal of benefiting choral singing.

About ten years after my first exposure to organ innards, I found myself at college, hired as a day laborer to gleefully unload a new Reuter organ, pipes and parts, for installation in a church across the street from Texas Christian University. I had come there intending to study organ, but life happened. My student job was in the same buildings as the practice organs, where I “borrowed” practice time, and “borrowed” advice from anybody who knew more than I did. My day labor status quickly changed to installer, wiring specialist, pipe-racker, key-holder, and even tuner. Ah, the road to heaven was paved with spotted metal!

The organ was completed and finished about the time that E. Power Biggs came to town to play a concert. He was shown this new neo-baroque wonder and I was told he loved it. I had the audacity to attend (observe) his Master Class the next day, and when he asked if there were any non-organists in the audience, I was foolish enough to raise my hand. I was read the riot act and advised to leave and attend his recital instead. I was singled out, glowered at, and my life events were lining up to pass before my eyes. He was interrupted by the head of the organ department who gently told Biggs that I was “one of the builders of the organ across the street that you liked so well when you played it yesterday.” There was a complete change of tune, and I was praised for coming, and Biggs thought all organ builders should attend. (I was definitely “schooled” by E. Power Biggs and managed to steal a lesson or two anyway, the first being, don’t raise your hand.) Following that, I did tuning and repair in Ft. Worth, and while I was in graduate school in Bloomington, Indiana. When I traveled doing service and installations during the summers, I learned that quite a few of my fellow organ technicians played quite well, had organ degrees, and didn’t mind having “lessons” stolen from them. I also learned that it was always wise to be playing something challenging just as the organist is arriving to approve the tuning. My repertoire thenceforth consisted of the first pages of some really good stuff.

After a long career teaching phonetics, lexicography, and linguistics at Northwestern, I left academia and became a full-time lexicographer, retiring from MacGraw-Hill in 2001. Much later, at age 72, I went back to my love, the organ, and picked up where I had left off. I find I am still able to learn, slowly, but, alas, I am not able to be taught. So I am back to stealing advice. I purchased a Johannus so I don’t have to steal practice time any longer.

I have been a member of the Organ Historical Society for a number of years, and was encouraged to join the AGO because it’s filled with old and new friends with whom I share so much. I am happy to serve on the board, and give something back as well as work to sustain respect for the instrument and its players.

Richard Spears, board member

July 2017
Thank you North Shore Chapter!

Adrienne Tindall

I have a wonderful family, which has filled my life with much joy: husband Jack, daughters Jackie, Jenny, Julie, Jill, ten grandchildren, and now four great grandsons. Music has been a wonderful added enrichment, and as I write this I am realizing how significant a part the AGO, especially the North Shore Chapter, has played.

I joined the Chapter in May of 1958 (our founding year!). It must have been the next fall when the Board had an open meeting which I visited. I remember that Dean Tom Matthews** said they needed a Publicity Chairman…. No one spoke. I asked what was involved. He described it and asked…. and I said well, okay. I think I also served thus when Jack Goode** was Dean.

Austin Lovelace** was on the Board, and I approached him about organ lessons. He said no, and recommended Margaret Budd**.  I remember being able to practice organ at St. Augustine’s; Bill Bottom** set that up. I took lessons from Margaret; each lesson included ten hymns so I could learn my denominational Christian Science Hymnal.

By the middle 1960s I had gotten a three rank (unified) organ for home, put together from old parts by Joey Banahan of Central Organ Service. Friendship with Margaret and Barbara Bennett** was great! We sometimes played Bach trio sonata movements together, me sitting in the middle, playing the pedal part.

Another wonderful AGO friend is Maggie Kemper**, whom I met when she played for a workshop with André Marchal in Lutkin Hall at Northwestern. I was impressed with her superlative playing! Years later she played all four of our daughters’ weddings, plus granddaughter Darcey’s wedding in 2008. Maggie played accompaniments for a CD of 12 of my solos.

When I told Leo Heim, the organist at my church, about a big event, he said he’d heard at school…. What school, I asked. American Conservatory he said. I didn’t know you were down there, I said. “’Down there?’ I’m the Dean!”

I had started organ, from scratch, at Vassar, studying with Donald Pearson (Eastman). And in 1965 I started work on an MM degree at American, finishing in 1969. Grammar school “covered” the daughters then, and I spent Thursday mornings at the Conservatory, taking most courses via tutors. The “L” rides were my main (and only) study halls. Organ lessons were with Bob Lodine**. In the 1970’s I had lessons with Wolfgang Rúbsam** so I could play for Donald Spies’s* wedding on a tracker.

Regular jobs were at three Christian Science churches: Palatine (1965-70), Deerfield (1973-74) and Glenview (1974-2012). Because of the organ at home, we started having Christmas carol parties for neighbors and church friends. Leo, Maggie, Bill Aylewsorth**, Bob Lind**, would help accompany the carols. DARCEY PRESS published Christmas Carols for Friends and Families in 1975.

I had written 2-1/2 solos when my church soloist, Joan Welles, asked (often!) if I had written any more. This led to writing more, and having Jack Goode** critique them as I sat beside him at his piano.

When I learned to create music pages using “Score”, I started planning solos for my volume III, and told Austin if he would write some solos I would publish a book of them. His 15 solos were ready before I could write six…. Austin critiqued solos for me, and supported innumerable DARCEY PRESS projects for almost 50 years…. Many times I requested compositions. (Austin, I need a set of variations on “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten!”)

“New Songs for New Singers” was a special project. Austin, Bob Powell*, Jack Goode, and I wrote songs for “young” voices. Kathy Heetland** made accompaniment CDs for the two books.

At one AGO program (or Regional?), George Shorney passed out complimentary copies of Ecumenical Praise (published 1977), a book of new hymns AGAPE published, with Austin, Erik Routley, and Alec Wyton as editors. It woke me up to the wonder of hymns themselves! I took Morgan Simmons’s** class on the 1965 Methodist Hymnal, and then Doug Peterson’s** class on The Hymnal 1940. And I went to Erik Routley’s two week class at Garrett that summer, which led to an amazing three year correspondence with Erik (See Encounter with Erik Routley).

DARCEY PRESS’s most recent effort is “In Melody and Songs”, 103 hymns using “lost” texts of Isaac Watts. See Jonathan B. Hall’s review in “the American Organist” (December 2014, pp. 85-86), and David Music’s review in “The Hymn” (Fall 2015, pp. 37-38). Morgan Simmons, a great musical friend, was a phenomenal Consulting Editor for the collection!!!

DARCEY PRESS continues, although the web site needs help, and I should get help with marketing (Watts should be shared effectively!!!). My love of church music is still strong, and I am realizing that this North Shore Chapter, AGO, has been a huge factor.

* = AGO members; ** = North Shore members

Adrienne Tindall