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


An outstanding program was presented

Contributed by Richard Allen

Michael T. C. Hey, Concert organist, presented a program in conjunction with the Baltimore Chapter and the Ars Sacra Concert Series of Ss. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church.

Mr. Hey‘s varied program which was attended by a most appreciative audience on Sunday afternoon May, 19th at Ss. Philip and James Church. Mr. Hey is the Associate Director of Music and Organist at the famed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. His playing certainly demonstrated why he is regarded as one of he finest concert organists of the day.

His program began with an exciting reading of the Widor Allegro movement from his Symphony No. 6, Op.42, No. 2. Mr. Hey’s tempo certainly created an exciting presentation as did the registration used on this fine Casavant Organ.

Two selections, seldom heard, were the Bingham Roulade and the Buck Variations on The Last Rose of Summer, Op. 59. Mr. Hey’s registration showed off the many colors of this organ as well as his virtuoso technique.

Personally, I have never heard on the organ Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, No 1. It was most exciting to hear the entire piece, and we all are perhaps too familiar the section so often played at this time of the year! A most interesting and rewarding selection to be programmed.

Jeremy Filsell’s arrangement of Cochereau’s Scherzo Symphonique was delightful and again demonstrated Mr. Hey’s skill at the keyboard and his choice of registrations.

The Dancing Pipes by Jonathan Dove was most interesting and sounded wonderful with Michael’s choice of registrations. The selection was probably new to many but was well received.

A most demanding piece to play is Leo Sowerby’s Pageant. Not only are fingers flying over all of the keyboards, so are the feet! What an exciting piece to end the program.

Mr. Hey not only demonstrated an outstanding technique and keen choice for registrations, he gave personal and informative comments regarding the selections.

The formal program ended with Mr. Hey leading the congregation in the singing of the well-known hymn tune Hyfrydol, again demonstrating his skill as organist for congregational singing along with a most interesting harmonization of the final verse.

Mr. Hey’s brilliant playing was demonstrated with a brief encore and all left the church inspired by the tremendous skill of this young player and magnificent sounds of the Casavant Organ.

All look forward to such programs presented in Baltimore in the future.

Review of March 2019 Organ Crawl Five Henry Niemann Organs in Baltimore

Contributed by James Houston

On a beautiful spring day around thirty members of the Baltimore Chapter of the AGO and the Hilbus Chapter of the OHS (and friends) met at Ss Phillip and James Roman Catholic Church parking lot on Charles Street in Baltimore to carpool for the day’s Crawl to four different locations in the city. The first stop was St. Thomas RC Church in the Woodberry section of the city. It houses an 1880’s, 2/17 Niemann in the beautifully redecorated sanctuary. This organ has a full rich sound including a Tierce Mixture which adds considerable color and brightness to the ensemble. The case and stenciling were a little more elaborate than some of his cases - the keydesk having carved jambs.

The second organ was at the Old Otterbein UM Church - built 1785 - this is the oldest continuously used church building in Baltimore. It was here that the Evangelicals, United Brethren, and Methodists merged to form one denomination. This 1897, 2/15 organ has to be heard to be believed. It is certainly the most bold sounding Niemann in existence - the walls of the church are solid brick and plaster-sound moves here. The organ was totally restored - including the original hand pump feeders by David Storey.

The group then moved on to Baltimore’s famous Little Italy to relax, enjoy conversation and have a wonderful lunch at the La Tavola Restaurant. From there we walked to St. Leo’s RC Church (the childhood church of Nancy D’Alessandro Pelosi) to hear their restored 1881, 2/19 organ (by David Storey - it was electrified long ago - that was retained). This organ is a slightly unusual specification for a Niemann - no Mixture for its size - three manual reeds and 8’ Open in the pedal (creates some independence without the height). A full and rich sound.

The final stop was my church, First Unitarian, where there are two Organs - the Parish Hall - an 1880, 1/6, and the

Sanctuary, an 1893, 2/24 (now 27) - Niemann’s largest surviving instrument. The Parish Hall organ is in its third location 1. St. Mary’s Industrial School, Catonsville-1880-1911 (replaced by an Estey), 2. Mt. Zion AME, Annapolis, 1911?-1985, and The Enoch Pratt Parish Hall, 1985. This was sort of a rescue-the church was remodeling/rebuilding and didn’t want the organ - I purchased it and moved it to the Hall. The reservoir was releathered and the blower placed in a box by David Storey last year. It, unfortunately, had (at Mt. Zion) its feeders and second rise removed. This organ had to fill a large chapel at the Industrial School-it has as octave coupler to boost the sound. (Sorry we had a slightly annoying mysterious ‘sound’ coming from the reservoir - weather related?)

The Church organ, I think (because I have played it for 50-some years - and it is actually why I have remained here so long) is exceedingly grand in the room - especially since the rotten 1955 carpet was removed about 5 years ago (for ‘health’ reasons) and the presence of a 16 double open on the great and a swell mixture. (An Aside) With the carpet gone it was almost unbelievable how different the organ sounded. It rolled out from the balcony sounding brighter and much more present in the space. The room was never ‘dead’ but now has a reverberation that is clean and clear - and it has improved congregational singing 100 percent. They can now hear each other and are not afraid to sing out. The choir can hear their sound move into the space. The room is finally really “alive” in the best sense of the word (end of aside). This organ has a Barker Lever to the Great and its couplers which includes Swell-Great 8 and 4. Also, the Great foundations are very reminiscent of Cavaille-Coll who Niemann worked with for five years (1862-67). The three additions have in no way affected the original organ-they are played electrically-pedal 16 Trombone (old Hall & Labagh), great 8 Harmonic Flute and 8 Trumpet (Niemann pipes from the 14 Holy Martyrs RC Church - a 2/14 big sounding organ-dispersed).

Having immersed myself in Niemann organs for a long time - and having played the existing ones - some now only remembered - I realize that Henry Niemann always fit his organs to the room (and Denomination?) no two of them are the same. Yet, they all have the same character - full diapasons, lovely flutes, especially his Harmonic Flutes, ethereal celestes, Violin Diapasons - somewhat quiet - but rich, quiet but pervading Dulcianas, and his Mixtures. The surviving ones are all similar, usually III ranks: CC-17.19.22; C- 15.17.19; c1-12.15.17; g#-2 8.12.15. The III-IV at First UU and at St. Peter’s RC (in storage) CC-15-17-19; C-12.15.17; c1-; g#2- First UU has the sw-gt 8 and 4 couplers which create quite a shimmer.

This was a wonderful Crawl - thanks to all who arranged it. The AGO and OHS should continue to partner in future events.

Louis Gephardt
Election Results

Congratulations are extended to Jordan Prescott and Richard Allen, who by vote of the membership are the members of the Class of 2022 on the chapter’s Board of Directors. The Board has decided that this class and those going forward will have just two members each. Their terms will begin July 1, 2019

Thank you to Kevin Callahan, Charles Corson and Frank Ritterman for their willingness to appear on the slate; we hope the chapter can count on your continuing interest in being involved in other ways.

Sincere appreciation to Stephen Harouff, Wm. Glenn Osborne and Marvin Mills whose terms on the board will expire at the end of June. Your efforts on our behalf for the past three years have been valuable, and we are grateful. And finally, our gratitude to Daniel Aune for his service as Dean and now co-Dean of the chapter who has served us so well!

Louis Gephardt
John Walker, an American Institution
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Contributed by Jordan Prescott, student of Dr. Walker and Baltimore AGO member.

Former Baltimore chapter Dean and immediate past National President John Walker was awarded the American Guild of Organists Endowment Fund Distinguished Artist Award on April 27 at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Walker's recital served as musical retrospective of his career and was delivered to a packed house who welcomed him to the stage with a standing ovation.

Each piece on the program highlighted a significant period in John’s storied career. He opened the program with Guilmant’s triumphant March on a Theme of Handel. Having thrice succeeded the legendary Virgil fox—first at the Riverside Church in New York City and later at Brown Memorial Presbyterian and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore—Walker performed Fox’s setting of “Come, Sweet Death” in memory of Franklin Mitchell, who voiced the Shadyside organ and asked that Walker play the piece in his memory. Though John enrolled at American Conservatory in the hope of studying with Dr. Leo Sowerby, this plan was foiled by Sowerby’s appointment to the National Cathedral. Nevertheless, Walker paid homage to his years at American Conservatory in Chicago with Leo Sowerby’s Requiescat in Pace. Highlighting the compositions of his friends and colleagues, the program also included Larry King’s Resurrection suite and John Weaver’s Sine Nomine, which was written for the dedication of the Shadyside organ. Both Tournemire’s improvisation on the Easter sequence Victimae paschali laudes and Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Third Symphonic Canzona for organ, violin, and treble choir highlighted Walker’s affinity and reputation for music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The program closed with one of John’s signature pieces, the Concert Variations on Old Hundredth by John Knowles Paine.

Following the final variation with rapid pedal passages, the audience leapt to their feet calling Walker back to the stage seven times. As AGO Executive Director announced at the gala reception following the recital, over 56,000 dollars was raised in John Walker's honor for the AGO Endowment Fund, making this the most successful gala to date--a testament to the lasting impact Walker has had on the Guild. Dr. Daniel Aune and Dean Abra Bush of the Peabody Institute lauded John’s career as a university professor, serving six institutions and inspiring generations of young organists. Walker carried his commitment to young organists with him during his time as National President and Vice-President founding both the Pipe Organ Encounters and AGO: Young Organists. To honor this commitment, a brunch was held on Saturday morning for John and his students—some traveling from as far as China and Taiwan to attend the weekend’s celebration.

In a toast to his teacher, Dr. Russell Weissmann described John Walker as, “an institution.” When asked why he played a piece a certain way, Russ simply responded, “because that’s the way John Walker plays it.” Weissmann also noted that the greatest compliment he has ever been paid was being told “you play like John Walker.” Audiences will remember John’s passionate and virtuosic performances and the Guild will continue to benefit from his work through decades of service. However, those of us lucky enough to be his students will carry his profound influence on our playing—and more importantly on our hearts— with us through the rest of our profession. John Walker is an American institution and the quintessential recipient of the Guild’s highest honor.

Louis Gephardt
Voting Closed for Executive Board, Class of 2022

Voting for the Class of 2022 is now closed. Check back soon for the results.

RICHARD L. ALLEN, DMA, serves as organist and adult choir director at Saint Francis of Assisi RC Church in Baltimore. Previously he served four churches full time in Michigan, Ohio, Delaware and Maryland. At three of these churches he was responsible for the installation of two Casavant organs and one Austin organ. At 15, Allen began organ studies with Alexander McCurdy and other teachers have included Robert Clark and MarilynMason. He holds both a bachelor and master’s degree from the Westminster Choir College, Princeton, and an MA from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, and a DMA from the U. ofMichigan, Ann Arbor. Active in the AGO, Richard has served as Dean of the Toledo, Ohio, Delaware (2 times), and Baltimore chapters. He was chairman twice for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conventions held in Wilmington, sponsored by the Delaware Chapter. For a number of years he taught at the summer music conferences at Michigan State and the Alfred Music Conference at Alfred University in New York. He was active with the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers Guild as a national officer and chairman of their music committee which had the responsibility of soliciting and printing new music. He also served as chairman of Area III and Area V of the AGEHR.

KEVIN CALLAHAN, 24, is an organist in the Baltimore area. A graduate of Archbishop Curley, Kevin first began studying organ under Michael Gaffney. After high school, he remained close to home and enrolled in Towson University. He studied under Tim Murphy for his undergraduate degree in Organ Performance, graduating in 2017. While studying at Towson, he performed with ensembles such as the Symphonic Band, Orchestra, Chorale, Men’s Chorus, and Early Music Ensemble. In 2015 Kevin won the TU Talent Competition and was chosen as recipient of the award and scholarship for the keyboard division. In his senior year, Kevin was awarded the E. Power Biggs Fellowship from the Organ Historical Society and attended their 2017 convention inMinneapolis-St. Paul on scholarship. In his post-graduate career, he previously served as organist and choirmaster at St. Charles Borromeo in Pikesville, and is currently serving as the organist and choirmaster at St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea. In addition to playing the organ, Kevin works full time as an apprentice under Karl Myers at Myers Pipe Organ Service, Inc., a position he has held since 2014.

CHARLES CORSON is a native of Baltimore where he studied piano from age 8 and played his first church service at age 13. He graduated with a piano degree from Peabody and studied organ with Dr. Clarence Snyder. He also studied organ locally with Forrest Barrett, Dr. Gordon Betenbaugh and Bruce Eicher. While earning his BSEE at Lafayette College, he was designated as the “College Church Organist.” Charlie has played for church services at over 50 churches in the Baltimore region plus services in eight other mid-Atlantic states which has provided a broad awareness of different approaches to worship. He has attended many workshops and conferences on music and worship development. He has played on several of the world’s largest pipe organs including the Mormon Tabernacle andWest Point Cadet Chapel. He has recorded over 13 hours of organ on an organ with over 120 ranks. Mr. Corson was organist, choir director, bell director and praise team leader at his last position for 17 years and included annual cantatas. He often included youth instrumentalists. He has built his own home organ and expanded several organs where he has worked. Mr. Corson worked for 30 years for Westinghouse where he was an Advisory Engineer, Program Manager and Engineering Manager. He was previously on our Board of Directors and was Placement Director years ago. As a Baltimore AGO member for a long time, I am anxious to help broaden our programs to include new development activities for all our members.

JORDAN PRESCOTT, heralded by The Baltimore Sun as a “rising organ star,” Jordan Prescott has established himself as one of the leading organists, church musicians, and directors of his generation. A native of Greenville, NC, Jordan holds a bachelor of music in Organ and SacredMusic from East Carolina University. While at East Carolina, Jordan spent two years as Organ Scholar of Duke University Chapel in Durham. He is now pursuing a master of music in Organ Performance at the Peabody Conservatory where he is privileged to study with John Walker. Jordan formerly studied with Andrew Scanlon and Christopher Jacobson. In 2018 Jordan won first prize in the 16th International Organ.

FRANCIS X. RITTERMANN is music director emeritus of Christ Episcopal Church (Columbia) where he was directly responsible for development of a vibrant music ministry as organist and choral director of both adult and children’s choirs for the past six years before retiring in 2018. He has been a lifelong church musician, having previously served at St. Mark’s RCC (Catonsville), Milford Mill UMC (Pikesville), Linthicum UMC (Linthicum) and Glora Dei Lutheran Church (Severna Park). Since retiring, Francis remains active in church music activities in the Baltimore area as a freelance musician and currently participated with Baltimore Choral Arts.

Francis earned a BS degree in music education from Towson College, studying voice with Jerry Phillips. While attending Towson, he studied piano and organ privately with Forrest Barrett. Upon graduation from Towson, he taught choral music in the Baltimore County Public Schools for several years while taking postgraduate accounting courses at Loyola College. He earned a master’s degree in public accountancy and became a CPA in 1985, launching a career in finance and accounting until retirement in 2018. During an eleven-year period during his career, he was president and CEO of a national giftware distributor headquartered in Columbia, MD. Francis has participated in other musical activities throughout his career, having sung with the Charlestown Chorale for a number of years under the direction of Ron Gretz and Virginia Reinecke as well as collaborating with Frances Dawson and the Columbia Pro Cantare as singer and accompanist. He also is part president of the Catonsville Concert Association.

He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children and five grandchildren.

AGO Members – While participating in the “Dynamic Duos of the AGO” program several years ago, I have not played an ongoing active role in the organization (outside of being a member for many years). . . I would very much like to get more involved now that I can devote some time and energy. Thank you for your consideration.

Louis Gephardt