An Encounter of the Organ Kind

Chance ‘Encounter’ Leads to Lifelong Endeavor for Organist

From Worccester, Massachusetts, we see a lovely article and concert announcement on for Monica Czausz playing at Mechanics Hall.

Monica Czausz – Worcester Organ Concert Series Youth Showcase
When: Noon Aug. 5
Where: Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St., Worcester

In the summer of 2008, Monica Czausz of Chicopee, about to become a high school freshman, was “sort of duped into going to a ‘Pipe Organ Encounter,’ ” she said.
Czausz is glad she was. The week-long program of organ lessons, masterclasses, performances and tours for young people ages 13 to 18 held at Assumption College in Worcester that year changed her life. “It was a terrifying week – I didn’t know how to do anything – but so exciting,” Czausz recalled.

Back home in Chicopee after the the “Pipe Organ Encounter” had ended, Czausz said she thought, ” ‘I think I want to know how to do this.’ “

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The Sound of the Organ Can Leave One Awestruck

This is a fun article to read and brings back a lot of memories for me and, I suspect, for you as well. It’s by Val A Villanueva in The Philippine Star, not the place you expect this kind of writing.

The album is the latest in my ever-growing pipe organ music LP collection, which includes Michael Murray’s “The Great Organ at Methuen” (Telarc), and Virgil Fox’s “At The Organ Plays Johann Sebastian Bach” and On Top of Bach (Command Classics). Westminster, however, stands out as the most accurately recorded among them. The album was recorded at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Record engineer R. W. Fulton pulled out all the stops to ensure that the mighty eloquence of this Kimball organ will be faithfully captured. The pipe organ, built in 1927, had its principal reed and choruses replaced in 1958. It was totally revoiced in 1971.

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Marshall & Ogletree Opus 11 Scheduled for Kravis Center

Dreyfoos Gift Buys Kravis $1.5M Digital Organ

The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, has chosen to have installed a Marshall & Ogletree organ for the Dreyfoos Concert Hall. It will have 5 manuals, 200+ stops, and 96 audio channels. Installation will begin during the summer of 2015, and the organ will formally debut in 2016. Alex Dreyfoos, the major donor, “has been a fan of organ music since he was a teen. In fact, his favorite orchestral piece is Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 in C minor, the Organ Symphony.”

The instrument will be named in honor of Dreyfoos’ longtime friend George Mergens, who died in 1986. Mergens worked with Dreyfoos to develop the Oscar-winning video color negative analyzer and was his partner in Photo Electronics Corp. and WPEC-TV Channel 12. He was a fan of organ music and owned a small pipe organ, Dreyfoos said. “It was my money that went into the Kravis Center, but it came about because of the success George and I had,” he said.

The Opus 11 organ is the 11th — and largest — one-of-a-kind instrument built by Marshall & Ogletree of Needham, Mass. It’s the first to be installed in a performing arts center.

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Manifested Spirits, Royal March, Holy Mary, and a Festival Piece

Greetings, everyone. For the month of August, I am proud to present my largest organ work which was written for a now-destroyed fresco here in Charlotte. The other pieces include music by an organist who has “Handel” as one of his names and whose music has been recommended to me many times. After offering several difficult transcriptions, I have tried to include some things that are not hard.


1. MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT, by Michael Johnston. The celebrated fresco artist, Ben Long, painted the front wall of St Peter’s Catholic Church, Charlotte, in 1989. I was commissioned to write a piece of organ music for the dedication, and this is that piece. Unfortunately in 2002, during construction of an office tower a few blocks away, a large explosion produced to dig the basement resulted in vibration which broke windows and destroyed the fresco. I include photos of the fresco and excellent notes on the music written by the commissioner.

2. THE MARCH OF THREE KINGS, by T Frederick H Candlyn. Several organists have recommended his music for restoration, and so I am starting with his arrangement of the famous melody, “La Marche des Rois.” Many people know this melody from its use in Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite. Epiphany concerts, anyone?

3. SANCTA MARIA, by George Whiting. Subtitled “A Hymn for Organ,” Sancta Maria is from a series published by John Church & Co in 1878 of music performed on the organ in the Cincinnati Music Hall. The Hook & Hastings “Great Organ” is long gone but the Music Hall still stands. August 15, two weeks away, is a widely-observed Marian Feast Day, and this piece fits it well.

4. FESTIVAL PIECE, by Charles Stebbins. He dedicated this ‘Festival Piece for Pipe-Organ’ in 1905 to his mother. Stebbins was 31 years old when G Schirmer published this, his first organ piece. It’s a march with harmonies that I would not have expected in organ music from this year.

MONTHLY DISCOUNT BUNDLE. To get the four pieces mentioned above, I offer a special price so you can buy all of the pieces above with one click and save money in the deal. I welcome your support, and if you don’t want to play a particular piece in the group, consider giving it to a student or another organist.

Thank you so much for your interest. We’ll have some more transcriptions next month.


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Who Enjoys and Attends Organ Recitals?

Who Enjoys and Attends Organ Recitals?

by Andrew Lawrence

I recently read this comment from an organ builder: “I rarely attend organ concerts these days.” I’ve noticed that organists and AGO members frequently are not seen at organ recitals. I also notice that organists also often complain about organs and organists.

It makes me wonder … if we, the lovers of the organ, don’t like organ recitals, and there are only 3 organs and 3 organists in the world that thrill us, and the rest are not worth hearing, and of those, only one of the organs is extant and only one of the organists is still living (OK, I’m painting a slightly exaggerated picture for the sake of illustration), is it time to admit we’re actually not fond of the instrument we claim to take interest in?

I am not attending organ recitals these days. My reason is that I’ve recently started a family and the time isn’t there. I want very much to get back to it and am even dreaming of traveling to Boston to hear the organs I frequently read about and also to Portland, Maine, to hear the recently restored municipal organ … but also to attend the humble local happenings here in Vermont. So, hopefully everyone else’s reasons are something similar to this.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m curious — for those who rarely attend organ recitals, why is that? Underlying my question is the deeper question I almost don’t dare ask. Do you really like organ music after all? Is 1958 the last time you actually enjoyed something you heard from an organ, or has it been this year? If the former, is it time to “break up” and let yourself and the organ as a musical instrument move healthily on?

Andy Lawrence


Essex Junction, Vermont USA
Online at:


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Organ in First Presbyterian, Knoxville, Removed for Work

53-year-old Church Pipe Organ Gets Overhaul

First, be prepared to suspend your disbelief at the words from the minister and the misuse of hot-button words from the television “reporter.” An organ usually does not get an “overhaul.” This reporter simply regurgitated what he was told and asked none of the questions that might have probed whether or not this organ actually needed this kind of work since its last maintenance-with-new-console job from 1993.  The minister says that it will be “refurbished, improved, and brought back.” Seems that the improvement will be the toning down and/or removal of some upperwork, mutations, and mixtures. And, if you’re unsure, the minister tells you that organs are antique, not a modern kind of thing; still, he and his congregation like them. This great, old Presbyterian church, one of the oldest in Knoxville, deserves more care in this process. Also, be prepared for incessant ads before you view the videos and then the photos; thanks :(

I do not know anything about the folks performing the work, but you can draw your own conclusions from the images in the video, the photo above, and this information: “Brad Rule, a Knoxville native who holds a bachelor’s degree in organ performance from the University of Tennessee. Rule spent six years in Massachusetts with the prestigious Andover Organ Company, and today builds and repairs pipe organs out of his workshop in New Market, Tenn.”

Neither the video nor the printed report mentioned it, but the organ is a Phelps Casavant with work by Colby in 1993.

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Pipe Organ Porn

Pipe Organ Porn

After hearing stories of “Architectural Porn,” “Ruin Porn,” and others including the oddly-named “Revenge Porn,” I decided that Google was indeed our friend in a similar endeavor. The link below will show you images found by Google from the last week, guaranteeing the freshest of results for your, uh, viewing pleasure.

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Vogelpohl and Spaeth from 1908 Beautifully Intact

Facts about the St John’s Church 1908 Pipe Organ

This unsigned article in the Watertown Public Opinion contains some interesting information but no photo. They published a great photo of it earlier this July, so I am presenting that.

The organ at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mazeppa Township, S.D., was built by the Vogelpohl and Spaeth pipe organ company of New Ulm, Minn., in 1908.

St. John’s congregation paid $800 for the instrument on March 12, 1908. The organ was shipped by rail to the nearest depot in South Shore where the shipping crates were loaded onto horse-drawn wagons and brought to the church by congregation members. A worker from the Vogelpohl firm spent only a few days setting up the organ in the church with help from the congregation. It was the 55th organ the company built and has seven ranks of pipes on two manuals and pedal – just under 400 pipes.

The organ is still in excellent condition and is virtually unaltered other than the addition of an electric blower in the 1920s. Even the leather on the bellows is original.

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New Biography: Richard Keys Biggs

I have added a biography and photos of Richard Keys Biggs to my collection. He was a handsome and fashionable organist!

Click on “Biographies” above or click here.

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Guess the Organ Builder and Then Read the Article

Show to Pipe Up Musical History

Look at the wood and the shape of the console. Notice the two keyboards, the top shorter than the bottom. See the stop tabs arranged in one row.  Can you guess which builder made this 90 year old organ? Think about it … now read the article to find out and see some more photos.

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