Ciampa, Whitney, a 1916 Chickering, and an 1895 Ryder

New Music Director at Westborough

The Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Westborough, Massachusetts, is pleased to announce the hiring of Leonardo Ciampa of Natick as Music Director. Leonardo Ciampa has long been a well-respected organist, pianist, and composer in the musical scene of Greater Boston. He is the artistic director of organ concerts at MIT and the founding director of the MetroWest Choral Artists. As a concert organist, he has performed in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, but he is particularly admired in Italy, where he has played in many festivals.

Maria Ferrante, for many years one of the most well-known sopranos in the Worcester area, has collaborated frequently with Ciampa and says, “Leonardo is an original, and that makes him interesting. He sees. I mean, he sees the truth in things that most of us miss. And he is not afraid. It comes out in his compositions and in his humor. He is on a higher vibration than most of us, and he lights up a room. Nothing is static with him; he is always creating and learning and bringing all that to those around him.”

Ciampa was born in 1971 in East Boston. His first job as an organist was at the First Baptist Church in Revere, when he was only 15 years old. As he recalls, “From 1986 to 2012, between the ages of 15 and 41, I worked without interruption as a Music Director at various churches of all different denominations. I needed a break. It would be a mistake to think that one can avoid the politics of the world by retreating to the sanctuary of the church. At many churches, the politics are worse than the politics in Washington!” Ciampa started doing substitute work. “I enjoyed playing the field. Besides the freedom, it was very healthy to see all different churches, each with a totally different dynamic. And even if I sensed something unhealthy, I could walk out the door, go into my car, and by the time I turned on the ignition, it was all forgotten. So I was not exactly eager to find a permanent job.”

One of the churches where Ciampa substituted was Trinity Episcopal in Shrewsbury. “This was December of 2013. Trinity’s very wonderful pastor, the Rev. Dr. Erin Kirby, spoke to me. And in the gentlest, most respectful way, she invited me to spend a whole season at Trinity.

Her genuineness disarmed me. I couldn’t say no. So it was she who lured me back into more serious church work. My four months with her and with that wonderful congregation was a great, great experience. Then that ended, and I was back to playing the field.”

One day, Ciampa’s wife happened to see on Craig’s List that the Unitarian Church in Westborough was looking for a Music Director. “There was nothing about it that excited me,” admits Ciampa. “But I was open to meeting with them.”

Little did Ciampa know that this was the home parish of the author and New York Times columnist Craig R. Whitney. In his book, All the Stops, Whitney devotes several pages to the church’s 1895 Ryder organ, which he often played in his youth. In the 1960s, the church purchased an electronic organ, whose speakers were placed inside the organ. Unfortunately, much pipework had to be removed to make room for them. “I met with the committee,” says Ciampa “and they told me about the Ryder organ. They proudly mentioned that they had decided to spend $5,000 toward getting it playing again. I nodded my head politely. But I thought to myself, ‘$5,000? What’s that going to accomplish?’ This is an organ which today would cost maybe $350,000 to build. Then I took a peek inside the organ and was horrified. So much was missing, and there was no way to know if it still existed. Suffice it to say, I had no hope of ever hearing the Ryder. I was content to play the 1916 Chickering grand piano. And I took the job expecting that that’s what I’d be playing.”

Ciampa underestimated the determination of several parishioners, and of organ technician Alex Belair. To everyone’s surprise, all of the pipes and mechanism were still extant. Each pipe had been carefully preserved in newspaper. Belair worked day and night, reinstalling the organ and tuning each pipe. He finished on August 15th at midnight. The next day, Ciampa and some members of the church went to see to organ. As Ciampa reported on Facebook, “Tonight I experienced something of an organ resurrection. … One week and $5,000 later, the organ plays! All of it! And in tune! A group of us gathered at the church this evening. Folks were emotional. Some had never heard the instrument. Others hadn’t heard it in 50 years. … When you pull the Great Open Diapason and play a few notes, you immediately remember that THAT SOUND is what it’s all about. That’s why we organists persist. What a great evening, one which says much about the power that music holds over the human spirit.”

Ciampa lives in Natick with his wife Jeanette McGlamery, an attorney. He is the father of four boys, ranging in age from 10 to 2. Sunday services at the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society are held at 10:30 a.m. at 64 West Main Street, Westborough.

The OHS Database page on the Ryder should probably be updated, and with Leonardo in the mix, we can all be sure it will be done well.

For more information, contact:
Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Westborough
Nancy Avila, Chair/Music Committee

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Scott Foppiano Plays Kansas City’s Great Robert-Morton

Scott Foppiano Tickles the Keys at KCMH’s Robert-Morton

“The Robert-Morton theater organ of Kansas City’s Music Hall rose, once again, Sunday, from the basement of the stage, this time, to the tune of “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover,” played unabashedly by Scott F. Foppiano, Organist-Choirmaster at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Kansas City, Missouri.”

Floyd Gingrich didn’t really write a review (?) but the rating at the beginning of the article is four out of five stars. The other news sources did not write anything, as far as I can tell. If you attended and would like to contribute your thoughts, please comment below. I’d like to know why he docked Scott the fifth star.


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Congregational Church’s Hook & Hastings after 30 Years

First Congregational Church’s Organ to Bellow Music Again

This is an unusual story about the Hook & Hastings in First Congregational Church in Lee, Massachusetts. For those trying to raise money, take heart at how long they were at it.

Silent for 15 years, a revived pipe organ is ready to fill the First Congregational Church with the sound of music. On Saturday night, the organ will have a coming out party as the church re-dedicates the nearly 90-year-old organ that cost $130,000 to refurbish.

The congregation spent 30 years raising the funds to refurbish the organ, which took a Connecticut firm 18 months to repair and upgrade,


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OK, To Start With We’ll Hear the Reger B-A-C-H

Who Said ‘Massive’ and ‘Foreboding’ Can’t Be Enjoyable?

Paul Jacobs played at Juilliard and this was the headline. Ha!

The program notes might have scared anyone away. Max Reger is “frequently described as one of the most ‘difficult’ composers in the whole classical canon,” they began, going on to call Reger’s musical language disorienting and complex, his harmonic and textural juxtapositions jarring and his music in general “something at once massive and foreboding,” all in the first paragraph.

It is unusual, in my experience it is unique, to begin the program with the Reger B-A-C-H. Hat’s off to Paul for continuing to get mainstream exposure for the organ!

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Allow Extra Travel Time for Vehicle and Photo ID Inspection

John West Will Play World’s Largest Chapel Pipe Organ

“The West Point Cadet Chapel will open this year of Class of 1936 organ recitals on Sunday, Sept. 28, with the appearance of the young organist, John West. The recital of masterworks begins at 3 p.m.”

What got my attention about this particular concert was this advisory: “Allow extra travel time for the 100 percent vehicle and photo I.D. inspection at Stony Lonesome and Thayer gates. Due to changing security requirements at West Point, call the Academy Band’s hotline at 845-938-2617, or check before leaving for the concert.”

Incidentally, for more information on the organ, history, and photos, visit the OHS Database and see Google Images.

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John Overton has been Harvesting Organs

Group’s Organ Rescue Project a Resounding Success

While my headline will no doubt be picked up by Google as, shall we say, something completely different, it’s one way to look at what this group based in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is doing.

It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-pass-me-that-spanner type of organ harvest, Overton said. The music director at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Yarmouth is talking about about rescuing dilapidated or discarded pipe organs. His group finds and dismantles them and then brings them to Yarmouth for painstaking refurbishing.

His venture is called the Yarmouth Organ Project and is in its early stages with one organ in pieces in the Holy Trinity sanctuary and another organ soon to be on its way to town.

When you’re finished with the article, click on the link to their website and get more information and see a video there.

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Reading’s Father Willis is 150 & Going Strong

150th Anniversary Celebrations for Reading’s ‘Father’ Willis

As a mental palette cleanser to the image an heritage instrument being abandoned and rescued, albeit temporarily, by installation in a backyard garden, here’s real celebratory story about the great Reading Father Willis.

Fans of organ music can enjoy lunchtime recitals by locally and nationally renowned organists, sign-up for an organ lesson and hear its magnificent sound at a celebrity evening recital.

The organ is the centrepiece of the Town Hall’s beautifully restored Concert Hall. ‘Father’ Henry Willis built an organ in the Town Hall’s Concert Room, now know as the Victoria Hall, in 1864.  It was later enlarged for the new civic buildings in 1882. The organ was restored by Harrison & Harrison Ltd in 1999 with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is significant as the most unaltered example of a Willis concert organ to survive in this country. The acoustics of the Concert Hall are regarded as the perfect complement to the organ.

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1913 Hutchings in First Presbyterian, Sheridan, Wyoming

Local Pipe Organ Oldest in Wyoming

There are two pipe organs in Sheridan, Wyoming, and you’re looking at one of them in the photo above. You may have guessed it’s a Hutchings, but check the article for more details. Be honest — how many of you even knew there were pipe organs of this age in Wyoming?

It cost $7,000 to purchase, with most of the money raised by one of the church’s women’s groups, and $1,500 of the cost donated by Andrew Carnegie. It is unique in that it was installed fully electrified, while other pipe organs in Sheridan were not electrified until the 1950s.

“Mr. Hutchings died in June of 1913, and his company subsequently closed up in 1917 which makes this one of the last Hutchings organs. There are very few Hutchings organs in the western part of the United States.

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Kotzschmar: Removed in 2012, Returning September 27

Kotzschmar’s Return to Glory Signals Grand Arts Season

We’ve been waiting for this for a while, and it’s really, really good to read this most positive news about one of the most important and recognizable organs in the USA.

Merrill Auditorium was empty as Ray Cornils sat at the console of the Kotzschmar Organ. He pushed his glasses to the bridge of his nose, stretched his arms over the keys and paused ever so briefly. With an understated flourish, he flexed his muscular fingers, and the pipe organ sprang to life, filling the hall with soaring, brassy sounds.

Head cocked, ears alert and eyes wide open, Cornils listened intently as he played. He has performed on this organ countless times since becoming the city’s municipal organist in 1990, but never until that moment on a lazy summer afternoon in late August had Cornils heard the Kotzschmar sound quite like this. “There,” he said, excitedly. “Did you hear that? It used to growl. Now it sings. That sound is not new, but I’ve never heard it before. These pipes have never responded in that fashion, which is wonderful.”

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Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew & Organ (video)


Breathing New Life into a Wilmington Pipe Organ

Here’s a “hybrid” organ story from Wilmington, Delaware, that doesn’t involve electronics to produce the sound. Perhaps we need another name? “Combination”? Ideas?

With help from custom organ specialists, SsAM’s new organ will use organ pipes from the three parishes that now make up SsAM. “We’re using pipes from these three instruments and creating a new instrument out of that, so symbolically, that’s really important,” Christopher said. “What it says to me [is] that we’re here to stay and now we’re investing in our future.”

The organ is scheduled to be installed in the fall of 2016. Until then, Christopher plays music on an electronic organ. While it produces a beautiful sound, he said the sounds from a real pipe organ makes it seem like the entire room is singing.

You won’t find this in the article, but Quimby is in charge, and you can get more details at

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