Polish the Gem


On Sunday, April 27 at 4:00 p.m., St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral will celebrate the Eleventh Anniversary of the dedication of the Berghaus pipe organ with a recital by renowned organist Canon Mark Laubach.

Since January 1985, Canon Laubach has served as Organist and Choirmaster of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre, where he administers an active liturgical and choral music program, concert series, and Music from St. Stephen’s, a radio broadcast heard weekly on WVIA 89.9 FM Public Radio. A graduate of Westminster Choir College and the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, and formerly a Fellow in Church Music at Washington National Cathedral, Canon Laubach has performed in many of the most prominent churches and concert halls in the USA, Great Britain, and Germany. He has recorded three critically acclaimed compact discs on the Pro Organo label … Teutonc Titanics, French Fest, and Mosaics in Sound.

To celebrate the anniversary of his 2003 dedicatory recital, Canon Laubach has chosen a program of music which will entertain those listening and will also exploit the vast colors and range of the magnificent Berghaus Organ. The recital will open with an organ transcription of William Walton’s Crown Imperial March, which was originally composed in 1937 for the coronation of King Edward VIII of Great Britain. As Edward VIII abdicated before he was crowned, Walton’s new, stirring march was instead used for the coronation of his brother, King George VI, the subject of the recent, highly acclaimed film, The King’s Speech, and father of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

After the Walton march, Canon Laubach will play Johann Sebastian Bach’s exciting Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543, followed by four hymn preludes by Bach, Paul Manz, Gerre Hancock, and the recently departed Norwegian composer Egil Hovland. Before the playing of each hymn prelude, all assembled will have the chance to stretch their legs and their vocal cords by singing verses of the hymns upon which the organ pieces are based. Since the primary job of the wonderful instrument is to accompany the singing of congregations and choirs, this will be a most appropriate and inspiring addition to the program.

Following a brief intermission, Canon Laubach will perform Charles-Marie Widor’s beloved Toccata from his Symphony No. 5 for Organ. Interestingly, he has chosen to play three of the previous four movements of this grand symphony, which are performed not nearly as frequently as the famous Toccata. This is to give all in attendance the unique opportunity to hear the Toccata in its proper context.

After the Widor symphony, the audience will have a chance to hear some of the more lush sounds of the Berghaus Organ, including the beautiful harp and chimes in Leo Sowerby’s Carillon.

To close the program, Canon Laubach has chosen a regal, joyous blockbuster that will summon up all the forces of the instrument … the grand Finale from Alexandre Guilmant’s Sonata No. 1 for Organ in D Minor.

Finally, for those who may want something more after the Guilmant, he will present a very special, entertaining encore, which will remain a secret until it is performed. Canon Laubach assures us the encore is sure to bring a smile to the faces of all music lovers present.

Admission is free; however, a free-will offering will be accepted to help maintain the health of the Berghaus Organ. Immediately after the recital, the audience is invited to attend a lovely reception hosted by St. Stephen’s Music and Parish Life Committees.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral is located at 35 South Franklin Street in the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Free parking is available next to the church. For more information, go to its website.