Music of AGO Founders Still in Print
You might say that this post is all about the music from the Founders which is actually not in print. Each year, I make a request to all publishers of organ music to tell me of any music by Founders which they still keep in print. My AGO Founders page is a collection of all of these pieces and where you can buy them. Using the music from Founders is an excellent way to build a program because there is real variety there.
You may be wondering about the gentleman in the photo above. He is generally credited with the idea for the “Guild of American Organists” (as written below), and then many more were signed on over several months. Smith only wrote one work for organ, and it was never published.
Below is an excerpt from Chapter I of a book that should still be in print but isn’t. It’s from The Story of the American Guild of Organists by Samuel Atkinson Baldwin, Founder and Fellow, H W Gray, 1946. Enjoy this fragment!
A prominent New York musician referred to our organization as “that amazing American Guild of Organists.”
If it is amazing to maintain the highest principles and ideals for fifty years, and to grow from a small group of organists into a national organization of over 6,000 members, with 108 chapters and eleven branch chapters, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, then our organization is an amazing one.
As we approach our fiftieth anniversary it is fitting that the story should be told while there are a few of us left to tell it, for the sake of the many present day members who know little of the early years. It is a story of devotion and self -sacrifice on the part of a long line of men who have given unstintingly of their time and energy to the work of the Guild.
Charles Taylor Ives, one-time treasurer of the Guild, was one of the first to be interested, and he has given us his impressions of the early times, as follows:
Gerrit Smith was the real founder of the American Guild of Organists and should always be remembered as such. It was he who suggested the name. In 1894 Gerrit Smith spent the summer in England and learned a great deal about the Royal College of Organists. He became enthusiastic about forming a similar organization here, and I think I was about the first to whom he outlined his plans. I distinctly remember his inviting me for luncheon at the Murray Hill Hotel, at which time I became equally interested. Another among the very first was Henry G. Hanchett. John Hyatt Brewer also was active at the start. Later Mr. Brewer was responsible for the academic part and fought until the last against admittance except through examinations.
“The meeting at which the Guild was formally organized was held in the choir-room of Gerrit Smith’s church on Madison Avenue, and he was elected warden. He was always a charming presiding officer and no better choice could have been made.
“The original founders numbered 145 and the list was quite successfully made up to include organists from far sections of the country. There are now fewer than twenty of the founders living.
“Although some churches had quartets, there were many fine chorus choirs. Although I do not think that any organist in that period could compare in brilliant playing with most of the younger crowd now, the choirs themselves would compare most favorably, both as to repertoire and performance. Richard Henry Warren at St. Bartholomew’s was outstanding. Gerrit Smith had a vested choir which was an innovation at that time. R. Huntington Woodman had a very fine chorus and a service list somewhat in advance of the average. John Hyatt Brewer, Dudley Buck and Waring Stebbins were outstanding in their choir work.
“After a few years it was decided that the Guild could not have proper growth if it depended on examinations, and so a classification called colleagues was instituted and made possible the present membership of more than 6,000.”
Perhaps I should start a project to collect funds to put this little gem back in print.
You may also be interested in The Examinations and Academic Regalia of the American Guild of Organists by Agnes Armstrong, first published in The American Organist, July 1996.