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.

Fall Gathering at the Lutheran Ministry Center

Our Fall Gathering was a beautiful time of fellowship, prayer, and learning. The evening began with a Service of Light featuring The Lutheran Academy choir and a message from Pastor Kristian Bjornstad. Dinner and fellowship followed and the evening concluded with a fascinating presentation by organist, musicologist, and chapter member Dr. Sarah Davies on “The Organ as a Sign of Confession in the First and Second Reformations, 1524-1624.” Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Gathering and to all who helped make it possible! A special thanks to our friends at Peace Lutheran Church and The Lutheran Academy for being such gracious hosts.

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.

Estey Reed Organ to be featured in recital at St. Luke’s

Justin Hartz will perform a recital on an Estey Reed Organ Model “T”, 2 manuals and pedal c. 1915 on Friday, October 27, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 232 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton. The Estey Reed Organ, currently in use at St. Luke’s is on loan to the church through the generosity of the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Scranton and its affiliated lodges and members.

Works will include compositions for organ by Byrd, Zundel, Vierne, Liszt, Frank, and an American composition “The Thunderstorm” by Thomas Philando Ryder.

Justin Hartz, a native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was educated at Westminster Choir College and earned his M.M from the Juilliard School. He has been an E.Power Bigs Fellow of the Organ Historical Society, and since 1989 has been playing popular Christmas Carol sing-alongs and recitals on the 10,010 Aeolian pipe organ at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. His recordings include “HARTZ AND FLOWERS”, recorded at Longwood Gardens, and “DECK THE HALLS”, recorded on the E.M. Skinner pipe organ at Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina.

Having a life-long interest in historical keyboard instruments, Justin Hartz enjoys selecting music which displays the unique characteristics of each one. Mr. Hartz’s interest in organs by the Estey Organ Company goes back to his high school years, when he purchased a two manual and pedal reed organ similar to the one to be featured in this performance.

The Organ as a Sign of Confession

The Lutheran Ministry Center, 1546 Monsey Avenue, Scranton, will host the Fall Gathering of the Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter, American Guild of Organists on Friday, November 17 at 6:00 p.m. The program will begin with Vespers followed by a buffet-style dinner and a lecture on “The Organ as a Sign of Confession in the First and Second Reformations, 1524-1624” presented by Dr. Sarah Davies, organist and musicologist.

Dr. Davies earned her Ph.D. at New York University with a dissertation on the geistliche repertoire in Renaissance Swiss and German tablatures for lute and organ (2010); her Masters thesis at Rutgers University was on William Byrd’s “My Ladye Nevells Booke” of 1591 (1973). Since returning to academe after more than twenty years in the New York music business, Dr. Davies has given more than twenty papers at musicology, interdisciplinary, German studies and keyboard conferences in America and Europe. Her recent presentation on the organ as a confessional sign in Germany and Switzerland will be published in 2017 by the University of Leuven. Her paper on the organ as the “Devil’s Bagpipe” was published in Budapest, and she is a contributor to New Grove. She is currently involved in an ongoing project on British, American and German organ sermons (Orgelpredigten) of the 17th and 18th centuries, and on the place of the organ in German Lutheran service orders (Kirchenordnungen).

The program is open to the public; AGO membership is not required. There is no cost to attend Vespers. Suggested donation for the dinner is $15 per person. Please register by Friday, November 3 by calling Raphael Micca, Dean, at 570-301-9253 or email

German organist to perform recital in Wilkes-Barre

Stefan Kiessling, assistant organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany, will perform a recital at St. Stephen’s Church, Pro-Cathedral for the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, 35 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre on Friday, September 29 at 7:30 p.m. An offering of $15 per person ($10 for students and seniors) is suggested.

The recital will feature works by Bach and Mendelssohn, along with Max Reger’s thrilling Fantasy on Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A mighty fortress is our God) in commemoration of the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation.

Mr. Kiessling is an internationally known concert organist, having been invited to perform recitals and give masterclasses across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States. As assistant organist at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany, Kiessling provides liturgical music, performs recitals, and assists with the church’s boys choir and Gewandhaus Orchestra. The church has a long history of distinguished musicians: Johann Sebastian Bach served there as Kapellmeister from 1723 until his death in 1750.

The recital is being sponsored jointly by Music from St. Stephen’s and the Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Job Opportunity: Faith Lutheran Church, Blakeslee

Faith Lutheran Church, Route 940, Blakeslee, is seeking applications for a church organist (keyboardist will be considered) to serve their two services on Sunday mornings plus Wednesdays during Advent and Lent. Holiday services are included such as Christmas, Easter and Ash Wednesday. Inquires, resumes and salary expectations should be emailed to Further information about Faith Lutheran Church can be found on Facebook or by checking the website:

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, April 30 at Elm Park United Methodist Church in Scranton from 3:00 to 5:00 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.


Clergy & Musician Relations Workshop

revvsirotaThe Pennsylvania Northeast AGO Chapter is sponsoring a Clergy & Musician Relations Workshop at St. Stephen’s Church, Pro-Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, 35 South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, on Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 9:30 am. Continental breakfast will be available at 9:00 am and the workshop will conclude with Noonday Prayer.

The featured presenter will be the Rev. Dr. Victoria Sirota, an Episcopal priest, lecturer, organist, and author of Preaching to the Choir: Claiming the Role of Sacred Musician. The Rev. Dr. Sirota holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Boston University, and Harvard Divinity School, and has taught at Yale Divinity School, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, The Ecumenical Institute of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, and Boston University. She is currently Priest-in-Charge at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Yonkers, New York.

The workshop is free and open to the public. Organists, choir directors, church musicians, Parish Council, Consistory, and Vestry members, and clergy of all denominations are  welcome and encouraged to attend. To register, please call 570-301-9253 or email before February 27.

Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza is coming to Pittston!

PPPThe 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, November 13 at St. John the Evangelist Church in Pittston from 3:00 to 5:00 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


Music as Rx

julius_kronberg_david_och_saul_1885Suppose you have been feeling distressed and fatigued of late and this has manifested itself  in some physical symptoms. You’ve been having headaches; your lower back has been aching; and there has been a great deal of tightness around your neck and shoulders. You go to your family physician and after she examines you she says: “You’re suffering from severe stress and I prescribe this. Each morning when you wake and every evening before bedtime, listen for one half hour to music and choose from one of the following: Debussy’s Afternoon of a Fawn, Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings, or Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring.”

Does this sound surprising? I imagine so, because we are just at the beginning in understanding and utilizing the therapeutic nature of music. It shouldn’t really surprise you because the servants of Saul in the latter days of his monarchy knew the power of music to heal and prescribed it for their king. “Let our lord now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” (1 Samuel 16:16) David is the musician of choice and he proves himself to be effective in that role. “… whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. (1 Samuel 16:23)

Avram Goldstein of Standford University has studied what gives people thrills. In examining the self-reports of more than 250 people, Avram found that at the bottom of the list was the parade. And near the bottom of the list was fireworks. But ninety-six percent of the respondents indicated receiving a thrill from a musical passage. In fact, a musical passage was at the top of the list, even beating out by over twenty percentage points sexual activity. (Psychology Today, December 1985, p. 50)

Music commands much of our energy, time and money. We are never far from it. A twist of the knob or a push of the button away is the music we love. We listen to it, react to it, revel in it, sing it, and some of you even write it. And clearly, music has a special place in the life of the church. Its importance to the church is expressed in a variety of ways and is even acknowledged in a backhanded way by the fact that musical matters sometimes cause spirited debate even outright conflict within church families. We can also see the value assigned to music in the efforts of denominational families to publish new hymnals, update old ones, and encourage the writing of new hymns.

But more than simply being a powerful medium music demonstrates intent. It is a resource with many purposes. It can beam its sounds on many human problems and can open the heart to many joys. Anne Rosenfeld has called music “the beautiful disturber” and comments, “Music can move us to tears or to dance, to fight or make love. It can inspire our most exalted religious feelings and ease our anxious and lonely moments. Its pleasures are many, but it can also be alien, irksome, almost maddening.” (Psychology Today, December 1985, p. 48) Some music summons us to action. “Rise up, O Men of God” is a hymn of that genre, and often marches and overtures do that, too.

Music can also be a form of protest. The folk songs of the sixties and seventies were that and in 1916 Carl Nielsen, the Danish composer, wrote his Symphony No. 4 which was understood to be a protest against the First World War and an affirmation of human worth. It was called ‘The Inextinguishable”.

Often music soothes and restores. First Samuel is not clear about the nature of that “evil spirit” that regularly afflicted King Saul, but there is a strong implication that it was agitation of one kind or another, and the music created by David on the lyre made him feel refreshed and well again. “It is my observation,” writes Donald Houts, “that while the arts have generally been appreciated at an intellectual level, they have not been fully exploited for their therapeutic, restorative, and reconciling capacities.” (The Journal of Pastoral Care, September, 1981) Inspiration is another function of music. It can restore our vision and lift us to a greater level of appreciation and motivation.

Best of all, though, music is a channel for the grace of God. God’s presence is always a meditated one, and like the burning bush, music is yet another vessel of service in God’s disclosure to his people. Robert McAfee Brown has said this about the close association between theology and music: “There has always been a close association between theology and music … No theological statement of divine ineffability (unable to be expressed in words) can begin to compare with the wonder of mystery communicated by Beethoven’s last string quartets, particularly the Cavatina in Opus 130 and the opening fugue in Opus 131. If we wish to enter into the spirit of medieval faith, we had better not only read St. Thomas’ 24-volume Summa but also listen to (or better yet, sing ourselves) St. Francis’ “Canticle of the Sun.” (Theology in a New Key)

Many years ago a musician friend introduced me to Frederick Chopin’s C Minor Prelude. I believe that you cannot hear this piece and the words written for it and not feel enwrapped in the presence of the risen Christ. The music becomes the vehicle through which the hope and affirmation of the words come to live in the life of the person hearing them. They are basically simple words: Christ be with me. Christ within me. Christ beside me. Christ, too, in me. Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ behind me. Christ before me. Christ in quiet. Christ in danger. Christ in mouth of friend or stranger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me.

We look for healing in medical therapies, relaxation techniques, aroma therapy, journal writing, prayer, talk therapy, diets and untold other places. We need also to rediscover what happened to King Saul when David picked up the lyre. “… David took the lyre and played it … Saul was refreshed … and was well … and the evil spirit departed from him.” (1 Samuel 16:23)

Shared by Pastor Jim Pall at the September 2016 Fall Gathering of the Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. This homily was inspired by the work of Robert Noblett.