Baltimore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
Enriching lives through organ and choral music

Dear John

John Walker, DMA is Artist-in-Residence at Church of the Redeemer, Baltimore, having served earlier as Minister of Music at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and The Riverside Church in New York City. He is a member of the organ faculty at Peabody Conservatory of Music and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Organ at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, following previous teaching positions at Duquesne University, Manhattan School of Music, San Jose State University, and the American Conservatory of Music. His active performance schedule has taken him throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Dr. Walker has recorded frequently on the Pro Organo, Gothic, and JAV Recordings labels. As a student of Herbert Nanney, John Walker earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stanford University, where he was also Assistant University Organist. He holds two Master of Music degrees cum laude from American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where he was later a member of the faculty. Dr. Walker was the 1984 alumni recipient of the Professional Achievement Award from Westminster College. A Fellow of the American Guild of Organists, John Walker was elected President of the AGO in 2014, having previously served the Guild in numerous other capacities including several terms as Vice President and Treasurer.

In our "Dear John" series, Dr. Walker answers questions from our Chapter members. An experienced, knowledgeable, and pastoral member, he has graciously accepted the board’s invitation to lead an “advice” column for our chapter newsletter. Many thanks to Dr. John Walker for taking up this challenge. If you have an organ, choral, or church music question, please use our contact form to submit your question to Dr. Walker. He will then choose one question to answer each month.

Global Music on the Organ (Part 3)

Note: This month Doug Brown, Director of Music/Organist at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA, presents the third and final installment in his series of articles focusing upon accompaniment of non-traditional sacred music at the organ. Many thanks to Doug for his collegiality in responding so generously to the question from World Music Wonderer!       --  John Walker

Dear World Music Wonderer:

I realize that this doesn’t quite qualify as world music, but as a sort of postscript to my musings about non-Western music I’ll include an arrangement I’ve done of the exceptionally popular hymn in the American folk style, “Here I Am, Lord”. For hymns in this style, sometimes the answer is to make a very mild adaptation of the piano-based accompaniment we find in hymnals; for hymns like “Come, Live in the Light” and “Gather Us In”, I find this works just fine. But, for “Here I Am, Lord”, I wondered if there was a way to lighten the texture a bit and to have the organ support a clearer contrast between the verses and the refrain. I thought about how the trio texture of Calvin Hampton’s startlingly beautiful setting of “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”. Was there a way to apply that same technique to “Here I Am, Lord”? This is what I came up with; I think the arrangement flatters the tune, and I will often play the verse melody on a sizeable solo reed suitable for being the voice of God. Best wishes as you try to find your own ways of adapting the organ to new strains of hymnody. 

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