Diane Belcher Recital

Diane Meredith Belcher, concert organist, will perform this Sunday, November 17 at 4:00 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Our chapter is co-sponsoring this exciting performance with Music from St. Stephen’s. Diane is an internationally renowned, multi-faceted classical musician whose virtuoso performances have been described by American Record Guide as “glowingly brilliant, rhythmically vibrant, consistently expressive.” Having made her solo recital debut at age 15, she has since garnered widespread acclaim as organist, organ teacher, choral conductor, church musician, professor of music theory, and composer. A free-will offering will be received to support Music from St. Stephen’s (suggested donation – $10 per person).

An Evening of Music History and Prayer at King’s College

King’s College will host an evening of music history and prayer at its new Chapel of Christ the King at the George & Giovita Maffei Family Commons, 29 West North Street, Wilkes-Barre on Friday, November 8 at 7:15 p.m. The program will feature a lecture on the changing fortunes of the pipe organ in a historical context by organist and musicologist Dr. Sarah Davies and conclude with a sung prayer service.

Celebrating the “opening” of a new organ in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain and later America with an “organ sermon” was a phenomenon which occasioned both the praise and justification of instrumental music in liturgical worship and an anti-organ backlash in Calvinist tracts, ballads and broadsides. Through sermons and these extra literary publications, Dr. Davies’ lecture will define the instrument not only as an emblem of Anglican and Lutheran confessions but also as a symbol of the oppositional political positions of Puritan Parliamentarians and Scottish Presbyterians.

Back in Britain, a 1752 sermon preached in the provinces on St. Cecilia’s Day, is just one of many examples which, as a vindication of its naysayers, “demonstrated the Antiquity of Musical Instruments in the Publick Worship of God.” At this particular moment of civic pride, the dedicatory service was followed by a ball at a local inn which was “conducted with the greatest decency and harmony” because the church’s new organ, in fact, had been judged “the Compleatest and Perfectest Thing of its Kind.”

Sarah Davies, organist and musicologist, earned her Ph.D. at New York University with a dissertation on the geistlicherepertoire in Renaissance Swiss and German tablatures for lute and organ.  Over the past two decades she has given numerous papers on a variety of topics at musicology, keyboard, iconography, German and interdisciplinary conferences in both Europe and America.  She is also a regular lecturer for the early music series at St. Luke’s in the Village and for Polyhymnia in New York. Her current work includes research into the Toggenburg Hausorgel;  the place of the organ in German Lutheran Kirchenordnung;  and an ongoing project assessing the organ sermon of the 17th and 18th centuries. Her chapter, “Kirchen Cronor Baalsfeldzeichen: The Organ as a Sign of Confessional Identity, 1560-1660,” appeared recently in the book Music and Theology in the European Reformations(University of Leuven, 2019). She is also contributing a chapter entitled “’The Compleatest and Perfectest Thing of its Kind:’ The Organ, Organ Sermon and Organ Tract in Great Britain and America in the 17th and 18th Centuries” for Orgelpredigten in Europa, 1600-1800 (University of Regensburg, 2020).

This free, public program is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. For more information, please contact Raphael Micca, Dean, at 570-301-9253 or email dean@agopane.org.

Music Swap on October 18 in Clarks Summit

The Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists has received entire choral libraries from several churches as well as a collection of organ music. Everything from great choral masterworks to contemporary music is available, free for the taking. The AGO chapter has been trusted to be stewards of this collection and is interested in extending the useful life of the music by making it available to any individual or group that can use it.

On Friday, October 18, we will sponsor a free Music Swap at the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, 300 School Street, Clarks Summit from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.

This is a prime opportunity to expand your school’s music library at no cost. If anyone has any unwanted/unneeded choral octavos in their current collection and would like to make them available for others to use, feel free to bring them along to the event. Please spread the word!

Join us for Celebrate America: An Independence Day Concert

The First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre, 97 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, will host our “Celebrate America: An Independence Day Concert” on Sunday, June 30 at 7:00 p.m. This free performance is sponsored by our chapter.

The concert will feature performances on the church’s recently restored Schlicker pipe organ, a community choir under the direction of John Vaida, several short readings, thrilling congregational singing, and music for brass and percussion. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Raphael Micca at 570-301-9253 or email dean@agopane.org.

Join us for a Music Swap at Church of Christ Uniting on May 31

Please plan to join us for  a Music Swap  at the Church of Christ Uniting, 190 South Sprague Avenue, Kingston on Friday, May 31 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists has received entire choral libraries from several churches. Everything from great choral masterworks to contemporary music is available, free, for the taking. The AGO chapter has been trusted to be stewards of these octavos and is interested in extending the useful life of the music by making it available to any group that can use it.

Everyone is strongly encouraged to take as much or as little music as the individual groups could use. This is a prime opportunity to expand your choral group’s library free of charge. If anyone has any unwanted/unneeded choral octavos and would like to make them available for others to use, feel free to bring them along to the event. Someone, somewhere can probably use your no-longer-needed music.

Join us for our Fall Gathering in Wilkes-Barre

You are cordially invited to attend our chapter’s Fall Gathering at St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, 134 South Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre, on Saturday, September 29 at 6:30 p.m. The program will begin with Vespers followed by a buffet-style dinner and the installation of officers.
The program is open to the public: please spread the word and invite your pastor, colleagues, and any other interested persons. Tickets are $12 for AGO and NPM members and $15 for non-members. Payment will be accepted at the door, but reservations are required.
Please R.S.V.P. by Friday, September 21 by calling 570-301-9253 or email dean@agopane.org.

Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza is coming to Scranton!

The pipe organ has been called the “King of Instruments.” The sounds of the pipe organ have inspired worshippers for centuries. Great composers have written countless works for the instrument. Pipe organs have been installed in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and theaters. The American Guild of Organists is passionate about the pipe organ and we want to share our love with a new generation.

Join us on Sunday, October 14 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Scranton from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. for Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza. Participants will receive a behind the scenes tour of the instrument in addition to a chance to play it themselves (and eat some pizza!). All are welcome to attend. Students currently studying the piano are encouraged to bring a piece to play on the organ.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR PEDALS, PIPES, AND PIZZA!

Repairs to begin April 16 on St. Stephen’s Berghaus Pipe Organ

On Monday, April 16 workers from the Berghaus Organ Company in the Chicago suburb of Bellwood, Illinois will begin to remove nearly 4,000 organ pipes and numerous other components of the Berghaus pipe organ at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in downtown Wilkes-Barre so that repairs can be made, not only to the organ, but also to the large chamber that houses most of the instrument and to the roof system above that portion of the building.  Roof leaks into the organ chamber have caused considerable damage that must be repaired in order to prevent further damage.  This work will proceed over the next four to five months.  Once the organ pipes and other components are removed or safely covered, the main organ chamber’s ceiling and walls and the roof above the chamber will be repaired and rebuilt.

St. Stephen’s Berghaus pipe organ, cited by many nationally and internationally acclaimed organists as among the finest in the mid-Atlantic region, is expected to return in late August for re-installation and re-voicing by experts from Berghaus throughout the month of September, assisted and guided by Canon Mark Laubach, Organist and Choirmaster.  It is expected that all work will be completed by early October, at which time plans for re-dedicatory and celebratory liturgies and recitals will be considered and announced.

Initial signs of water incursion into the organ chamber were discovered in November 2016.  Repairs to the roof and the organ were made soon thereafter, and by early 2017 the situation was thought to be under control.  But further evidence of water incursion was discovered in December 2017.  A thorough investigation of the main organ chamber and the instrument itself in late January 2018 revealed more pervasive damage and the risk of even greater destruction to the organ and building structure.  Comprehensive proposals by the Berghaus Organ Company and other contractors have been considered and approved by the Vestry of St. Stephen’s, clearing the way for work to begin on April 16.  Most of the cost of repairs will be covered by our insurance provider, but the Church will also be responsible for a portion of the work to be done.

Special organ music will be performed by Canon Laubach at the 10:30 am Eucharist on Sunday, April 15, the day before the organ removal commences.  Later that same afternoon at 4 pm, Mark will perform an hour-long recital open to the community at large.  There will be no charge for admission, but a free-will offering will be received toward the “Polish the Gem” Fund, which will be used toward the Church’s portion of expenses for repairs.  Checks should be made payable to St. Stephen’s Churchwith “Polish the Gem” listed in the memo line.

Plans are being considered for rental of a digital organ as a temporary replacement for the pipe organ through much of the period when repairs are in progress.  Pipes and other components of the organ that are not damaged and do not need to be taken to Chicago will be kept here at the church in a secure and climate-controlled storage space.

St. Stephen’s will continue its regular schedule of liturgical and musical events, including a Jazz Eucharist (April 21), Choral Eucharist and Evensong sung by a visiting church choir (April 22), a concert by the Wilkes University Choirs (April 29), Choral Evensong by the St. Stephen’s Choir and a concert by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chamber Music Society (both on May 6), a Farewell Eucharist for Bishop Sean Rowe of the Diocese of Bethlehem (May 12), and the annual King’s College Summer Choir Training Course, sponsored by the Royal School of Church Music in America (July 22-29).

If you would like more information about the work to be done on the organ, email Canon Mark Laubach at mlaubach@ststephenswb.org.

Upcoming Lenten recitals around our region

Since the 1920s, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral, 35 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, has offered free recitals prior to the noon Community Lenten Service every Wednesday during Lent. A simple soup and sandwich lunch is available immediately following the services in the auditorium for $4.00. The series began on Ash Wednesday and continues through Holy Week. It is sponsored by the Downtown Ministerium of Wilkes-Barre. For more information and a complete list of performers and preachers, please visit St. Stephen’s parish website.
St. Stephen’s will also have the honor of hosting the Treble Choristers of the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in a concert on Tuesday, March 6, at 7:00 p.m. Many consider the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys to be the leading ensemble in the Anglican choral tradition in the United States, so it is a rare treat for them to visit our region! The choristers will be directed by Daniel Hyde, Organist and Master of the Choristers, and will be accompanied by Benjamin Sheen, Assistant Organist. The concert is free; a free-will offering will be taken.
Lastly, First Presbyterian Church, 3231 Tilghman Street, Allentown will be hosting a series of Lenten recitals on Sunday afternoons at 3:00 p.m. This coming Sunday will feature our own chapter member and Past Dean Canon Mark Laubach and on Sunday, March 25, First Presbyterian will welcome Nathan Laube, Assistant Professor of Organ, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY. Here is the complete list of recitalists:
Feb 18. Mark Laubach, Organist/Choirmaster, St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Past Dean, Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter AGO
Feb 25. Stephen Williams, Organist/Director of Music, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, PA. Past Dean, Lehigh Valley Chapter AGO
Mar 4. Gavin Black, harpsichord, Director, Princeton Early Keyboard Center, Princeton, NJ.
Mar 11. Adam Bergstresser, Organist/Director of Music, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Doylestown, PA.
Mar 18. Thomas Dressler, Organist/Choral Director, First Presbyterian Church, Allentown, PA. Dean, Lehigh Valley Chapter AGO
Mar 25. Nathan Laube, Assistant Professor of Organ, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY
Please spread the word about these wonderful recitals! Have a blessed Lent!

Mark Laubach to perform at Jerusalem Lutheran, Schuylkill Haven

Canon Mark Laubach will be giving a recital at Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 252 Dock Street, Schuylkill Haven, on Sunday, January 21 at 3:00 p.m. The recital will feature works by Bach, Brahms, Manz, Searle Wright, Otto Nicolai (transcribed by Liszt), Mendelssohn, Gigout, Stephen Paulus, and Vierne performed on the church’s beautifully voiced 1995 Schantz pipe organ. Please spread the word about this fantastic performance!

Allegro con Fuoco keyboard duo to perform in Bloomsburg

Allegro con Fuoco keyboard duo, featuring chapter member Jordan Markham and Tyler Canonico, will perform at Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomsburg as part of the church’s Cornerstone Concert Series on Friday, February 2 at 7:00 p.m. The program will include works for four hand piano, four hands organ, piano and organ duets, Pietro Yon’s Concerto Gregoriano, and more. The concert is free and open to the public; a reception will follow. Please spread the word!

Richard Elliot to perform at St. Luke’s, Scranton on Friday

Richard Elliot, principal organist of the Mormon Tabernacle, will perform the rededication concert of the newly refurbished 1964 M. P. Möller pipe organ at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 232 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton, on Friday (January 5) at 7:00 p.m. A gala reception will follow. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.
Richard Elliot began his career as the Mormon Tabernacle organist in 1991 after he worked as assistant professor of organ at Brigham Young University. He studied at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, Catholic University of America, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Eastman School of Music.
Congratulations to Mother Rebecca Barnes, Maria Zengion, and to everyone at St. Luke’s Church in Scranton on this momentous occasion in the life of their parish.

Advent and Christmas Events

Now that Christmas is just one month away, there are a number of wonderful musical events on the horizon.

First, on Saturday, December 9 at 2:00 p.m. Michael Seroka, organist, and members of St. Joseph’s Parish Choir will present “Joyful Music of Advent and Christmas” at St. Joseph’s Church, 526 North Street, Jim Thorpe. The program will include organ and choral works by J.S. Bach, Bedard, Dandrieu, Krebs, and others performed on the church’s Austin Organ (built 1917 and rebuilt 1964 by Fritzsche). A flyer with more information is attached.

On Wednesday, December 13 at 6:00 p.m. St. Stephen’s Church, Pro-Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, Wilkes-Barre, will hold its annual Advent Lessons and Carols Service featuring music by Palestrina, Charles wood, Robert Twynham, Orlando Gibbons, Herbert Howells, and others under the direction of organist and choirmaster Canon Mark Laubach and guest conductor Dr. Rick Hoffenberg. This year’s music will feature a repeat performance of the new setting of the Magnificat which the church commissioned from composer Robert Nicholls for their 200th Anniversary and premiered a few weeks ago on October 29.

On Wednesday, December 13 at 7:00 p.m., students from The Lutheran Academy in Scranton under the direction of Carsten Bjornstad will present a Festival of Lessons and Carols at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 238 Reese Street, Scranton.

On Sunday, December 17 at 6:00 p.m. First United Methodist Church, Shickshinny, will hold its annual Lessons and Carols service featuring the Shickshinny Area Community Choir and the choir of the First Reformed United Church of Christ, Berwick as well as congregational carol singing. A reception will follow in the church’s social hall.

Do the hustle and bustle of the season have you at your wits’ end? Recharge your spirits by joining the Wyoming Valley Band, Conductor Donald Williams, and guest organist Canon Mark Laubach for an evening of traditional holiday fare on Tuesday, December 19 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Church, Pro-Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem in Wilkes-Barre. Exciting works for concert band by various composers, including popular Christmas carols and songs, will highlight the program. A reception will follow. Admission will be free, though concert goers are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and canned goods to help stock St. Stephen’s Food Pantry.

Hughestown pipe organ celebrates 100th birthday

Congratulations to the people of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Hughestown as they celebrate the one hundredth birthday of their M.P. Möller pipe organ, Opus 2295. Chapter member and past Dean Michael Sowa presented a beautiful recital this afternoon marking the occasion with works by Bach, Buxtehude, Vierne, Young, and others in addition to an improvisation on a submitted hymn tune. The instrument at St. Peter’s was among the first Möller organ installations in the Wyoming Valley and it has been expanded and impeccably maintained over the years. It currently has nine ranks and 578 pipes.