March 2018
No Sound More Beautiful

Alan Hommerding

“There is no sound more beautiful than people singing God’s praise.”

These words, instilled in me by my first organ teacher and choir director, Ann Celeen Dohms, have become a life-long mantra.

Before I sang in her boys’ choir or was her organ student, I was fascinated with that imposing (to a small boy) stand of pipes up in the loft of St. Mary of the Assumption church in Port Washington, Wisconsin. I was thrilled by its sound, and enthralled by the mystery imparted by its distance.

My fascination only increased when I began to serve at Mass, and no longer had to discreetly turn around during Sunday Mass, risking a tug on my ear by one of my parents. In fourth grade, I learned that we were to get a new music teacher (Sr. Juliette having retired), and she wanted to start a boys’ choir! At last I’d have legitimate access to the loft and that mysterious contraption. Though I was not graced with the greatest of vocal abilities, I clearly had a talent for music, which even the aged and sometimes cranky Sr. Juliette had acknowledged.

I tried as best I could to figure out what all the different tabs did, and the extra keyboard, and the foot-pedals (my mother, who had played in her parish church as a teenager, called them that). There were many books in the loft with the words “Flor Peeters” on the cover. I was sure they contained music you played with the foot-pedals, but in German.
On the home front, my older sister begged and begged for an electronic home organ, which were the rage in the mid-1960s. Eventually a Thomas Color-Glo organ appeared in the living room. Since we were a truly poor family, only she had lessons. I was given a cousin’s old clarinet, and I played in the band in grade school and high school. (Eventually I’d enter college as a clarinet performance major.)

Being a typical little brother with a deep interest in music, I began to mimic whatever my sister was learning in organ lessons. In junior high, I took over her job as chapel organist for the little Catholic hospital in town. Eventually Miss Dohms got wind of this and asked to hear me play. She agreed to give me lessons for free if I’d play for the first Sunday Mass. (Later, when she and I had moved from teacher/student to being colleagues and friends, I came to learn of her dislike of early rising.) My Sunday routine throughout high school was 6 a.m. Mass at St. Alphonsus and 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s. In addition, I played M-F 6 a.m. Masses in the chapel. In music school at UW-Milwaukee, I switched my major from clarinet performance to theory/composition, with organ as my main instrument. I also joined our student chapter of AGO, and eventually was the chapter dean. This began my unbroken, life-long membership in the guild.

After graduation, I was hired as choir organist at St. John’s cathedral in Milwaukee. Like many Roman Catholic men of my generation, I thought having a vocation meant pursuing ordination. So I went to seminary in Baltimore. Though I completed the graduate studies in theology, the seminary and I both discerned that music was my true vocation. I spent some additional time in Baltimore, taught high school religion, studied in Westminster’s summer programs, and more organ work at the Peabody Conservatory. Eventually I ended up back in the Midwest, where I began to study privately with Craig Cramer at Notre Dame, and where I soon went for graduate study in music and additional graduate work in liturgy.

Though I went on to minister in a Roman Catholic parish in Milwaukee, I saw an ad less than a year later for an opening at World Library Publications. Twenty-seven years later, I am still at WLP as Senior Liturgy Publications Editor. I was first hired in sales and promotions – a terrible place for a bookish hyper-introvert. The editorship of WLP’s AIM: Liturgy Resources magazine came open, and twenty-five years later I am still at its helm, as well as the WLP Organ Library. I’ve been able to put my musical, theological, and liturgical background to good use as an editor, author, composer, speaker, and workshop presenter. My greatest delight, however, was being part of publishing some of Ann Celeen’s music from my boyhood.

“And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on … and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity, I’ll sing on.”

To the end, my musical “Auntie Mame” is how I referred to Ann Celeen. In 2010, I was the organist for her funeral Mass. At the end of the Mass were her favorite stanza from “What Wondrous Love Is This?” and the first prelude from the Orgelbüchlein she taught me: Alle Menschen Müssen Sterben (All Mortals Must Die), with her handwriting still on the page. Through this life, through my work at WLP and as music director at Edgebrook Community Church, and through eternity, I’ll sing on, making music for the glory of God.

Alan Hommerding

February 2018
A Circuitous Journey

Phillip Kloeckner

My life as a musician, organist, conductor, and harpsichordist has been much more enjoyable and rich than I could have ever imagined when I set my sights on this path in earnest, some thirty years ago.  Above all else, I value the opportunity to immerse myself in beautiful, interesting, and complex music of all genres on a daily basis, and to meet and work with wonderful, inspiring, and brilliantly creative people.  So, I feel particularly fortunate to have the opportunities I have been given to create a life centered in the musical arts.

Having started playing other people’s music and improvising my own at the piano at age six, it is a small wonder that my life is configured as it currently is.  Taking my first organist/choir director position at age thirteen, and making a detour through an undergraduate biology degree at Swarthmore College, followed by work in a plant physiology laboratory, a jaunt to the south Pacific to study bird migration, and biomedical research at the Wistar Institute at the University of Pennsylvania (all the while studying organ, piano, music theory, harpsichord, and conducting), I set myself firmly on the path of preparing myself as a professional musician by enrolling in the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.  With my second undergraduate degree in hand, I headed south to Houston, where I was among the first wave of organ students to earn masters and doctoral degrees in organ at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.  One of my first jobs in Houston was playing a beautiful little Kilgen organ for three or four funerals a week at a large funeral home where this Yankee was quickly indoctrinated into the culture of Southern hymns and cultural songs, including “Cool, Cool Water” and “Oh, My Papa!”  I quickly learned the fundamental importance of singing as part of rituals in these contexts.  After a lifetime of learning to read and speak German and French, wouldn’t you know that my doctoral thesis required the acquisition of some Spanish, as I headed to Perú to study nineteenth-century organs in that country.

While pursuing my graduate degrees, I was tapped to teach undergraduate music theory, aural skills, secondary organ lessons, figured bass, continuo, church music, and hymn playing.  A theory/composition mentor invited me to co-author an aural skills textbook, Functional Hearing, with him.  After graduation, I was asked to join the full-time faculty at the Shepherd School as an assistant to my organ mentor there, Clyde Holloway, continuing to teach the many subjects I had been teaching as a graduate student.  During this time, the stunning new building for the Shepherd School, designed by Ricardo Bofil and Larry Kirkegaard, opened, and I found myself at the center of the creation, installation, and inauguration of the Fisk-Rosales organ at the school.  Throughout this period, I was enjoying my first performing tours of Europe and really appreciated the opportunity to get to know many of the historic organs of Germany and France, and how the music I had played for my entire life came alive like never before on these unique instruments.  In addition to church choirs, I began to conduct the United Nations Association International Choir in Houston and further expanded my awareness of global cultures and musical traditions.  I began to incorporate many of these strains into my improvisations at the organ.  Through my contact with the international community in Houston, I was able to introduce the organ to many people who had never heard the instrument before.

In 2012, the call to move on to yet new opportunities and challenges, and to move closer to my family in Vermont, came in the form of a position on the faculty of the University of Chicago, teaching musicianship in the Department of Music, and in 2013, the invitation to establish a formal organ teaching studio at Rockefeller Chapel.  In 2014, I released my first solo CD, Exotic Variations, recorded on the Rice organ shortly before I came to Chicago.  In 2015 and 2016, I served on the board of the Chicago AGO.  In late 2016, I became organist at First Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple where I am now fully engaged in the process of restoring the church’s 94-year-old organ, E. M. Skinner, Op. 414.  And last year, I inaugurated a new organ teaching studio at First Methodist, Chicago International Organ Academy, which offers students of all skill levels several options for studying organ remotely.  Highlights of my time in Chicago have been to join colleagues of the NSAGO in presenting a creative members’ recital last June at St. Giles in Northbrook, a turn at the charming Dobson organ at Elliott Chapel, and playing organ with the Evanston Symphony in, among other works, Mahler’s 2nd Symphony.

I have found a wonderful community of organists and fellow musicians in the greater Chicago area, which, after five years, I feel I am just beginning to know and appreciate fully.

Phillip Kloeckner

January 2018
When You’re Good You’re so Good, and When You’re Bad You’re so Bad!”

Eileen Baumgarten

I got my start playing the organ when I was in 7th grade in Powhattan, Kansas, and was a member of Zion Lutheran Church.  The elders decided that they needed some new blood at the organ bench and asked my friend and me if we would take organ lessons and be willing to play for church for $1.00 a Sunday.  We accepted and took lessons that summer.  The church was unheated except for Sunday mornings so taking lessons in the summer and piano in the winter months was the way it all started.  (There were those times getting ready for Christmas Eve I practiced with a winter coat on until fingers were frozen.)  The biggest revelation sitting on the bench was seeing the minister go back into his study during the hymn right before the sermon when I assumed he was praying over his sermon and seeing from the organ bench that he was actually going out the side door and having a cigarette!  After high school I attended St. John’s Lutheran College in Winfield, Kansas, where I planned to study parish work with an emphasis in organ.  My organ teacher there persuaded me to audition at the University of Oklahoma with Mildred Andrews.  I was a very naive country girl had no idea what I was doing, but went with him for the audition and was accepted as a student.  I entered OU after finishing my second year at St. John’s in the fall of 1969.  It was an eye opener as well as awe inspiring when I walked into the music school’s opening program to hear Charles Benbow play Messiaen’s “Dieu parmi nous.”  I knew I was among some great talent and wondered what I was doing there.  Everyone loves to hear stories about Miss Andrew’s style of teaching.  All girls were required to wear skirts to all lessons.  Once I showed up in culottes which I considered a skirt, but Miss Andrews thought was too much like pants.  We went out into the hall to try to find another one “of her little chickens” to trade with so I could go home and change my clothes and come back with a skirt on so I could take my lesson.  We had two 30 minute lessons a week which she believed was more efficient than a once a week one hour lesson.  No time was ever wasted.  When your lesson was finishing, the next student would be at the edge of the stage, and she would wave you forward.  Then as one student was leaving the bench on the left, the other student was sliding on on the right, and the next lesson began no minute wasted. There was great respect, love and fear of our “Dear Teacher”.  I was never a prodigy or one of her outstanding students to go on and earn a Fulbright or major competition.  I was just glad to learn many good techniques and be able to complete my degree without being one of the students who would be asked to come in a room and told it was time to select a new major.  Lessons learned that I still use are practicing the alto line alone of a fugue, playing a difficult line backwards, if your feet make a mistake, it’s probably because your hands don’t know what they are doing, and one of the most valuable is the use of the Brahms Fifty-One Exercises For the Piano—specifically Nos. 24a, 24b, 27, 30, 33, 34, 39, 40a, 40b, 41a, 41b, 42a, and 42b.  The organ department at OU struggled some after her death, but is now flourishing with the American Organ Institute run by Dr. John Schwandt.

The title “When You’re Good You’re so Good, and When You’re Bad You’re so Bad” was taken from a quote Miss Andrews spoke to me at one of my lessons.  I just try to make “good moments” coming and keep the “bad moments” at bay.

Eileen Baumgarten

December 2017
I Never Dreamed….

Kay Sutton

My first experience hearing a pipe organ live happened when I attended the graduation of the Medical School at the University of Michigan as a child.  We were in Hill Auditorium when all the newly minted medical doctors, including a family friend,  stood up for the recessional.  At that moment, Marilyn Mason launched into the Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Symphony.  My sisters and I were totally overwhelmed.  Although my mother was a church organist, I never thought I would play a pipe organ or play that Toccata.  It seemed like a complete fantasy.

But then, much later in life I became an organist the way I believe many do.  The church I attended in Grayslake, IL decided to add a service and, since I was accompanying choirs and soloists regularly on the piano, I was asked to play the organ for this service.  After a few weeks of being clueless about pedaling and registration, I found a teacher.  Dr.  Marilyn Stulken, of Racine, WI and former Dean of the Kenosha-Racine Chapter of AGO, taught me all the basics and then decided I should work for my Service Playing Certificate. So the initial impetus for joining AGO was to achieve a higher and certifiable standard of playing, which I was able to achieve.  Then, she helped me find a job playing a pipe organ.   So now, many years later, I am still playing the 55 rank E.M. Skinner at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church that Ernest himself installed in Kenosha, WI during the 20’s, an organ that was completely refurbished by Marilyn’s husband, Tom Rench and Co. in 2003.  I also, on occasion, play that famous Toccata.

I have taken advantage of as many AGO activities as I can.  When Chicago hosted the National Convention, I helped at registration and monitored the ballroom.  Afterwards, the convention workers had a wonderful recital and party at the San Filippo Estate.  I also attended the Boston Convention where I attended a lecture on the history of the Skinner organ.  The week following the convention, the presenters of this lecture surprised me by coming to Wisconsin and visiting St. Matthew’s to see our Opus 505.  I also attended a Regional Convention in Kalamazoo that was very inspirational.  I plan to help Milwaukee with their regional convention in 2019.  A year or two ago I played on their Members Recital at St. Joseph’s Convent Church in Milwaukee.

On the local level, I have really enjoyed what the North Shore Chapter has to offer.  Last fall’s hymn workshop was just outstanding.  This year’s recital and masterclass by Janette Fishell was also wonderful.  And of course, I have loved the Epiphany parties!  My plan for the future is to have a POE event at St. Matthew’s church.  We have a number of people, including some from Carthage College who are interested in pursuing this.

As a resident of Illinois and an employee in Wisconsin, I have found it beneficial to belong to the North Shore, the Milwaukee, and often the Chicago chapters of AGO.  I have made great friends in all these organizations.  A few years ago we held a Halloween concert at St. Matthew’s and friends from the Milwaukee and North Shore chapters performed.  We packed the church and a good time was had by all.

Kay Sutton

November 2017
Open Sea Reflections

Judy Kohl

I recently celebrated a birthday – not one of those that slips by and you hope no one notices. With this one, I am standing on the cusp of a new decade and for some reason, those decade birthdays have been very significant in my life. I’ve thought back to how my life literally seemed to make a paradigm shift with each new decade.

The day I turned fifty, I woke up empowered in a way I had never sensed before. My life felt rich and complete – any future experiences were a bonus. I chose to leave my full time church position, which seemed strange as I had been an organist since age 16.  Yet, it was a new beginning and I sensed fresh energy and creativity as I now had the time  to compose music of my own.
Now that I just turned sixty, I wonder what  this next decade will look like. Those high values of empowerment and strength don’t seem to be as important as before.  I sense something more gentle and gracious – and yes, much more comfortable. This is renewing for my spirit. There is an ease even as I approach this busy holiday season as who I am is not validated by what I do or even how well I do it. I will use the gifts I’ve been given by God and continue to welcome any opportunity to use them.
If it sounds as if I plan to simply sail into the sunset, then I’ve painted the wrong picture. A friend of mine challenged me to embrace life not as many people do after a certain number of birthdays; trying to maneuver their boat into the harbor safely with as few dings as possible. Rather, I plan on exploring the open seas, indefinitely.
This decade will most likely look different. Meanwhile, I have plans to become a better musician, learn as much about this wonderful life as possible, give back to  those less fortunate in my community and around the world, and deepen those friendships I hold so dear. I’m glad that becoming more involved with North Shore AGO will make that more likely with each one of you.
Judy Gration Kohl, Board member

October 2017
A Musical Journey

John Hopkins

It seems a lifetime ago that I was a grade school kid at St. Francis Xavier in Wilmette. At that time, the school offered free music lessons…students would leave class and walk across the parking lot to the convent. My piano teacher, Sister Marian Celeste, looked at me one day and said, “I think your legs are long enough now. I shall teach you to play the organ”. And that’s how it all began. The year was 1958.

Several years later as a junior at Loyola Academy High School, the organist at St. Francis died unexpectedly, and I became the weekday organist, playing three morning services before heading out to school to start the day at 9:30. It was the good old days of the Latin mass, so not only did I play the organ, I also had to sing the responses back to the priest in Latin.

After high school, I would often sub at Faith Hope & Charity Church in Winnetka. Most of my music, however, was playing piano at a club on Rush Street called the Red Garter. 3 banjos, a tuba, and me on piano. I learned to love Dixieland music and made a good living playing weekends for parties and gatherings.

Twenty years ago, while subbing at the Congregational UCC church in Arlington Heights, I was asked to take the open position of permanent organist. It was then I discovered the AGO, which provided a wonderful resource of contacts and a resource for music. The professionalism of AGO was much appreciated, and I especially valued the contacts with other musicians in the field.

I left the UCC church after 7 years to return to subbing. Many Saturday evening masses were played at St. Michaels in Old Town, and St. Joseph in Wilmette. Meantime I took a permanent spot at Community Presbyterian Church in Mt. Prospect, a position I held until this year when I became full time music director at St. Joseph Church. Current responsibilities include both an adult and a children’s choir, 5 weekend services, and dozens of wedding and funerals.

It’s been a long and varied journey, but one filled with beautiful music. Who could ask for a better life!

John Hopkins

September 2017
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

June 2017
Swell Shades and Open Wood

Todd Gresick

As a 9-year-old choirboy, my curiosity was piqued by the movement of the Swell shutters behind the façade pipes of the 1925 Austin organ in the loft at St. Peter Catholic Church in Steubenville, Ohio. How was Mrs. Gilligan controlling that from the console, which looked to me like the cockpit of a jet plane? And what was the deep, ominous sound that caused the floor under my wooden chair to vibrate? Later when I actually had the chance to see all of the pipes and wind chests hidden behind those dummy pipes, I learned that it was low C of the wooden 16’ Open Diapason. That was it – I was hooked! I had to learn more about the instrument and the wonderful music that floated through the reverberant acoustics of the church. When Sister John Berchmans, our choir director, found out that I was taking piano lessons, I was asked to audition for her, and was assigned to play a hymn at the school Mass the following week.

The thrill for me was like nothing I had ever experienced, and I soon began taking “real” organ lessons, eventually driving to Pittsburgh each Saturday to study with Stanley Tagg during my senior year in high school. Mr. Tagg encouraged me to pursue my organ studies in college.  He had recently returned from an organ conference at the University of Michigan, where he heard a recital by Robert Glasgow. He convinced me to audition for Dr. Glasgow, requiring me to prepare my repertoire from memory, something that was new to me.

I was accepted in Dr. Glasgow’s studio and completed the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees with him as my mentor. Not only did his teaching address the most fundamental technical skills of organ playing, but his students were challenged to think about music making by non-organists – singers, conductors, pianists, string and wind players, and so on. His approach to organ playing always had a relationship to physical breathing, or perhaps how a string player might employ bowings in order to articulate a musical passage. He introduced his students to recordings of the finest musical “poets” of his generation – Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Sviatoslav Richter, Alicia de Larrocha, David Oistrakh, Régine Crespin, Walter Gieseking, and many others. In my years as a church musician, I have tried to apply those listening experiences in my work with singers and instrumentalists, and in playing solo organ repertoire.

It has been gratifying as a church musician knowing that the gifts God has given me can touch people in ways words alone cannot express.

Todd Gresick

May 2017
Detours Make Life Interesting

Brigid Cantagallo

As with all of us, the path to where we end up is often winding with many detours along the way. It does make life interesting!

Growing up in rural Minnesota, I was blessed to have been taught for 10 years by my dear piano teacher, Sister Eugenia. In 6th grade, she asked me if I would be interested in accompanying daily Mass on the organ in our parish. I think Sister was hoping, and possibly praying, for an occasional well-earned break! This opportunity surely made a tremendous impact on my life. And it was also a lot of fun!

I enrolled at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire following high school. There I completed a Bachelor of Music Therapy degree, with concentration in organ and piano.

My husband and I began our lives together here in northern Illinois. I was employed as a Registered Music Therapist with special needs children and adults for several years. Music therapy – a most interesting and exciting profession!

A few years later, we were blessed with our three children at which time I spent my days with our children and my evenings teaching piano.

However, the liturgical music interest soon came back! I then studied several years with the late Dr. Sally Cherrington-Beggs. “Dr. Sally” tirelessly challenged me to further develop my organ skills and begin once again. I went on to serve at the Presbyterian Church of Barrington for 6 years. Presently, I serve as organist at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Lincolnshire. This warm and welcoming congregation set in the forest preserve has been my church home for 13 years. Maggie Kemper has been a wonderful teacher as I further work to develop as a music minister and organist. As we know, this challenge is never completed!

I am so grateful for all the musicians and educators that have given me such wonderful experiences in music. And I look forward to getting to know more of our Chapter members in the years ahead.

Brigid Cantagallo