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The mission of the American Guild of Organists is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. To achieve this, we

  • encourage excellence in the performance of organ and choral music;
  • inspire, educate, and offer certification for organists and choral conductors;
  • provide networking, fellowship, and mutual support;
  • nurture future generations of organists;
  • promote the organ in its historic and evolving roles; and
  • engage wider audiences with organ and choral music.

October Dean's Message

While all organists holding jobs are assigned particular pieces that must be played, they are also able to select on their own a number of pieces for preludes, postludes, offertories, etc. How can we choose music so that people are strongly drawn to it and to organ? And, how do we play that music? Here are a few thoughts and suggestions for your consideration.

First, deliberately put variety into your choice of music. Be unpredictable and don’t keep playing the same style of music in the same way for preludes, postludes, etc. Have you used the technique of the medley lately? By its nature the medley pumps variety into the piece, and variety has been proven to increase the appeal of organ music to audiences (TAO, November, 2013, pp. 28-31). It might actually be that if you increase variety you will also increase appeal.

Second, intentionally structure interest into how you play every piece. There are a number of ways to do this, but I believe that frequent registration change is the quickest way to add interest. Too many of us learned repertoire written at a time when only mechanical stop actions were available which made registration changes more difficult. It was therefore easy to get into the habit of making few registration changes in whatever we played. But the right registration changes can bring down the house as was recently shown in the final concert of the AGO convention in Boston where Stephen Tharp made 243 registration changes in the course of 33 minutes (The Diapason, September, 2014, p. 21) in the playing of Stravinski’s The Rite of Spring. The result of these and other variations in his playing resulting in “…jaw-dropping brilliance…” (TAO, September, 2014, p. 37). You don’t have to make that many changes and of course they must be appropriate for the music, but try adding more changes and see if it does not also increase the appeal of the music you are playing.

Third, consider familiarity in your music selection. Typically, pieces are picked out with no reference to whether they are or are not familiar to the audience. However, it was recently shown that playing selections familiar to the audience increased the appeal of the music to that audience (TAO, July, 2014, pp. 48-51). It may be that playing familiar music provides a basis for the audience to connect with it and to find meaning in it. So, try increasing familiarity.

Uncertain how to do all this? Check out the Calendar of Event listings for October 17 and 19 for David Wickerham. He is a master at using all three techniques simultaneously. You will be amazed, and your admission is free as an AGO member!

Carl Dodrill, Dean

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