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

Pipe and Pedal

The Pipe and Pedal is the monthly newsletter of the Baltimore AGO. For past issues, please visit our Historical Archives. If you wish to submit an article for the Pipe and Pedal, you may visit our submissions page.

November 2018 Issue

Dear Colleagues,

It was a beautiful afternoon at the Shrine of the Little Flower on October 7th. Many thanks are offered to our chaplain, Rev. Thomas Malia, and to Joseph Martenczuk, Sean O’Connor, Michael Britt and Michael Gaffney for all that they did to coordinate and plan the Evening Prayer service. Beautiful preludes were offered my Kathie Metz and Mi Zhou, and we were blessed by the voices of the Archbishop Curley High School choir. It was an inspiring time to worship together and to be reminded that for many of us our work is central to proclaiming and teaching the Gospel. The hymns, anthems, and voluntaries we choose, along with our musical interpretation, become their own sermon and we shape the faith of our worshiping communities. Our work is important far beyond just learning the notes and it is a sacred calling. Thank you for all that you do to sustain, strengthen and nourish the faith of those who hear your musical offerings.

During the Evening Prayer service we were treated to a beautiful improvisation by Michael Britt during the procession. Many of us assume that the ability to improvise is a God-given gift that you are born with – you either have it or you don’t. As countless articles and commentaries will tell you, this just isn’t true. Improvisation is a skill and like every other skill it is learned and developed through practice. Robert Horton, second place winner in the 2018 AGO National Competition in Organ Improvisation (NCOI), recently wrote, “I’m not in this picture [of NCOI finalists] because I’m a great improviser. I’m in this picture because seven years ago I met the right teacher and started working with the goal of being an adequate improviser. Everyone can work toward being adequate. And who knows? Someday, being adequate just might land you in a picture like this.” The only trick to improvisation is that you need to study and practice.

I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to learn a little about improvisation when international guest artist Thierry Mechler is here this month. He will present a unique program including transcriptions at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Friday, November 16, and then on Saturday morning he will offer a workshop on improvisation at the Peabody Conservatory. This is a great chance to learn some tips about improvisation so you can begin your own study and practice.

Keep learning, and I’ll see you at Thierry Mechler’s events!


The November 2018 edition of the Pipe and Pedal is now available.

Louis Gephardt