Performances of the Complete Major Organ Works of César Franck in Wilkes-Barre next month

Happy 200th Birthday, César Franck!
Performances of the Complete Major Organ Works
Friday, November 4 — Sunday, November 13 — Sunday, November 20, 2022

Canon Mark Laubach, Organist
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 35 S. Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

Phone: (570) 825-6653 / Website:

César-Auguste Franck was born in Liège, Belgium on December 10, 1822 and died in Paris, France on November 8, 1890. In 1836, he and his family moved to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life. As such, he would come to be regarded as one of the truly great nineteenth-century composers in France. While he composed for a wide variety of musical genres, ensembles, and solo instruments, he was most widely known as a virtuoso pianist and organist. He composed well over 100 organ works, but he is primarily regarded among organists for his twelve major organ compositions, the Six Pièces (Six Pieces) composed between 1856 and 1863, the Trois Pièces (Three Pieces) composed in 1878, and the Trois Chorals (Three Chorals), composed in the last months of his life in 1890. Among organists he is widely regarded as perhaps the most important composer of organ music after Johann Sebastian Bach.

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Franck’s birth, Canon Mark Laubach, Organist and Choirmaster of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, will perform the complete major organ works in a series of three recitals at Saint Stephen’s in November 2022. Each recital will be between 60 and 70 minutes long with a very brief intermission. Here follows a list of the dates and times of each recital, and the pieces that will be performed in each program.

FRANCK 200 RECITAL I — Friday, November 4 at 7:30 pm

Choral No. 1 in E Major
Prelude, Fugue et Variation, Op. 18 (from Six Pièces) Cantabile (from Trois Pièces)
Pastorale, Op. 19 (from Six Pièces)
Final, Op. 21 (from Six Pièces)

FRANCK 200 RECITAL II — Sunday, November 13 at 4:00 pm

Fantaisie in A (from Trois Pièces)
Choral No. 2 in B Minor
Grande Pièce Symphonique, Op. 17 (from Six Pièces)

FRANCK 200 RECITAL III — Sunday, November 20 at 4:00 pm

Pièce Héroïque (from Trois Pièces) Fantaisie in C, Op. 16 (from Six Pièces) Prière (Prayer), Op. 20 (from Six Pièces) Choral No. 3 in A Minor

There is no admission charge for attending these recitals, although free-will offerings will be gratefully received in support of Music from Saint Stephen’s and the Outreach Ministries (Food Pantry and Clothes Closets) of Saint Stephen’s Church. Canon Laubach is dedicating these recitals to the glory of God and in loving memory of Dr. Donald Gordon McDonald (February 22, 1925 – August 6, 2022), his organ professor at Westminster Choir College from 1979 to 1982.


250th Anniversary Concert at First Presbyterian Church, Wilkes-Barre

The Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Timpani, and Strings will be featured at an October 7 concert in Wilkes-Barre.

First Presbyterian Church, 97 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre will host a special concert in partnership with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chamber Music Society in celebration of its 250th anniversary on Friday, October 7 at 7:00 p.m. This exciting program will include the monumental Mendelssohn Octet and Poulenc Organ Concerto featuring organist, Mark Laubach.

The program will include:
Elgar Serenade for String Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 20
Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Timpani, and Strings in G Minor, FP 93, Mark Laubach, organ
Featuring members of the NEPA Philharmonic and NEPACMS
Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048
Mendelssohn String Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20

Gail Archer to present recital of Polish organ literature in Scranton

Gail Archer’s recital is a rare opportunity to hear Polish organ literature.

A very special event will take place on the evening of Saturday, October 22nd at 7:30 p.m., when the international concert organist, Gail Archer will perform at the Saint Stanislaus Cathedral, 529 E. Locust Street, Scranton, PA 18505. The concert culminates the festivities for the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Polish National Catholic Church. Ms. Archer will play rarely heard works by Polish composers including Nowowiejski, Bacewicz, Gorecki, and Paciorkiewicz, to name a few. The concert will be performed on the Cathe- dral’s Austin organ that consists of 3 manuals, 41 ranks, 45 stops and 2,327 pipes.

A highly acclaimed artist, Ms. Archer’s 2019 European tour took her to the Brit- ish Isles, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Malta, and she is dedicated to shedding a light on Slavic organ music in this country and the world. Her new CD of Polish organ music CD, Cantius, was released in March of 2022. One of the pieces we will hear that evening is Improvisation on a Polish Hymn (Kto sie opieke, Blessed Is He) by Mieczyslaw Surszynski. We hope you will come and experience a world class artist performing this unique repertoire. There is no charge for the concert. Bring your family and friends!

For more information about the artist go to

Celebrate America: Music for Independence Day

First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre, 97 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter, American Guild of Organists, will present Celebrate America: Music for Independence Day on Sunday, July 3 at 3:00 p.m.

The program will feature organ music performed by Canon Mark Laubach in addition to prayers, readings, congregational hymns, music for brass and percussion, and a combined choir under the direction of John Vaida and accompanied by organist Carl Ruck. Repertoire will include Mack Wilberg’s stirring “Anthem of Peace” and Ron Jeffer’s setting of a Native American text by Chief Seattle titled “This We Know.”

“Celebrate America” is presented as part of the 250th anniversary celebration of The First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Raphael Micca at or 570-301-9253.

Organists are acknowledged by John Vaida at the 2019 “Celebrate America” concert. From left: Canon Mark Laubach, Carl Ruck, Mark Pall, and Michael Sowa.

Tuning and Temperament: An Organ Workshop

Maria Zengion will be leading an interesting presentation on organ tuning and the various temperaments that have been historically used. You might have heard, and not necessarily understood or remembered, some of the various tuning systems that have been implemented over the past few centuries. This presentation will provide you with the background to better understand the implications and challenges of playing various organ literature, as well as the tuning intricacies that can affect tonality/pitch matching for choirs and instrumentalists.

The presentation will begin at St. Luke’s Episcopal in downtown Scranton and then travel across the street to St. Peter’s Cathedral. Please plan to attend this exciting event on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 7:00 PM. The favor of a reply is appreciated so we can plan for the appropriate number of attendees. Thank you!

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

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

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

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.


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