Tuesday, July 6, 2010

AGO Convention, Day Three—I has a Squeeeeee!!!

Day Three of AGO Convention. Well, officially, it's the second day, with it having opened on 5 July.

I decided not to set the alarm, especially considering how bone-weary I was feeling last night.

I was running late anyway... my first event was supposed to have been a Hymn Festival featuring the Cantate Chamber Singers, the National Brass Quintet, and the Hymn Festival leader, organist Bruce Neswick. It took place at the National City Christian Church. Since I ended up missing the buses to the Thomas Circle churches, I decided to take the Metro instead. It wasn't bad... I went in the middle of rush hour, so we were packed like sardines. Luckily, I only had to go two stops... and then hike over to Thomas Circle. Ordinarily, it's not a bad walk, but the weather was brutal: 102 °F/39 °C! I was so glad I had an umbrella with me—it was instant shade.

By the time I got to NCCC, the volunteers weren't letting anyone else in the church. He said the church had a capacity of 900 people. They squeezed ca. 1100 people in there. They also ran out of programs. I'd overheard someone saying they should have ticketed that event; they did not expect it would be so popular.

I just stayed in the Narthex for a while to cool down and catch my breath. I couldn't help but notice the doors leading to the sanctuary—they looked like they were covered in leather! I thought that was rather strange.

At least I'll have a chance to come back to NCCC—I'll be going there tomorrow afternoon for a recital featuring San Diego civic organist Carol Williams and jazz ensemble.

I ended up going to the next destination early—Church of the Ascension and St Agnes (Episcopal) Church and an organ recital featuring Diane Meredith Belcher. She played an excellent recital, featuring the work of William Russell (1777–1813), Robert Schumann (1810–1856, and yes, he did write music for the pedal piano, which translates well to the organ), and Percy Whitlock (1903–1946). It was an excellent recital! Interestingly enough, those who went to the morning recital told stories of how the loudest stop on the organ (Létourneau, 2000, most likely an 8' tuba stop on the Great) ciphered just at the wrong moment. Belcher just played right through it, and after she released her last chord, she immediately turned off the organ, and the offending pipe took a long time to stop speaking as the blower powered down.

Wow. When the organ ciphered on me whilst playing a service, I certainly didn't react as calmly as Belcher apparently did for that first recital. But she is an amazing organist; if you ever have a chance to hear her play, you really should take that opportunity.

I decided to switch my afternoon schedule. Instead of attending a pair of workshops back at the hotel, I decided to attend the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) finals. So I met and had lunch with three delightful people. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the name of two of them: Laura Ellis, who is Associate Professor in the School of Music at the University of Florida, and the Regional Councillor for Region VII, Michael Bedford, who is organist/choirmaster of St. John's Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We caught a quick lunch at Italian Gourmet and Deli on New York Ave, then headed off to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and the NYACOP finals.

Now this was interesting. Three finalists, and the judges sat behind a screen so they wouldn't know who the finalists were. They would only hear the finalists play... and identified them as No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. They had to play five pieces: Bach's Prelude in E-flat, BWV 552/1; Schumann's Étude (Canon) in a minor, Op. 56, No. 2; Schumann's Fugue on B-A-C-H, Op. 60, No. 2, Elsa Barraine's Prelude and Fugue (No. 1) in g minor, and Herman Berlinski's The Burning Bush.

So I heard all these pieces three times. It was very interesting to hear each finalist's interpretation of these pieces. Also interestingly enough: I heard the Schubert Fugue on B-A-C-H four times! Belcher had also played it during her recital earlier in the morning!

The finalists: Susan De Kam, Annie Laver, and Dongho Lee. I was so very happy for Dongho when it was announced that she won both First Prize and the Audience Prize. Those who were present for the entire time were eligible to vote for the candidate they thought played the best recital. I'll admit, I was biased, but then in my opinion, Dongho played the best of all of them. I thought they all did a wonderful job, and I certainly did not envy the judges at all.

So Dongho: well done! And congratulations. Here is what she won:

  • The Lilian Murtagh Memorial Prize: $3000 cash award and career development assistance from Karen McFarlane Artists, Inc.
  • A CD recording on the Pro Organo recording label (and I would definitely buy her CDs)
  • A performance during the 2012 AGO National Convention in Nashville, TN

The Audience Prize was $1000. She certainly deserved this prize, and I'm thrilled to bits that she won it! :)

Heh. It would have been undignified to squee at that moment, so I'll do it now: Squeeeeeeeeeee! :)

Last event: St. Cecilia Recital at the US Naval Academy Chapel featuring organist David Higgs. First of all, the chapel is an amazing space. Just amazing. I was quite sorry I didn't have a camera with me. I'll just have to relive it through my Facebook f-list's photos...

That organ... zomg! Click here for more information about it.

I'll post Higgs' program later. Two pieces I definitely want to mention: the commissioned work, Gwyneth Walker's "Sanctuary" and the encore piece Higgs played, Albert Ketèlby's "In a Persian Market". The commissioned piece was a very charming one, and I enjoyed listening to it. (Actually, I wouldn't mind purchasing the sheet music if it's available.) The encore piece was chosen to showcase the theatre organ aspect of the Chapel Organ. And Higgs certainly did not disappoint with that piece. I will admit—I am not a huge fan of the theatre organ. I could only take it in small doses. However, this piece was so delightful, it's one I would not mind listening to over and over again.

Highlight of my Day: Definitely watching Dongho win the NYACOP competition. People I saw: Jacob Reed, a really nice couple from Dayton, OH... Lynn and Mike, I think... when he's not an organist, he does research with lasers (and there's the science and music connection again ;) ), Mila Karamushka, Laura Ellis, Michael Bedford, Andrew Pester, Dongho Lee, Andy Kotylo (the 2008 NYACOP second prize winner) and his girlfriend (I didn't catch her name), David Arcus, Beth... forgot her surname, but she and David Arcus had worked together with NCOI-related things, a really nice guy on the bus who is an organ enthusiast but doesn't play (he works with CBS in NYC), Van Quinn, and Robin Arcus. David, Beth, and I rode to Annapolis together and had a wonderful conversation.

Oh, and thanks to Beth, I was able to find out that the Netherlands beat Uruguay in World Cup action. Hup Holland Hup! I'm glad they beat Uruguay. I was pretty disgusted at the blatant handballs an Uruguay player (non-goalie type) was committing in order to prevent Ghana from scoring.

Okay, now I must sleep. I'll be going on a sleep deficit again, but at least I'll be eating a good breakfast—first event on tap is the AGO Annual Meeting, which includes breakfast for attendees. I figured since I'm on the e-board of my local AGO chapter, I might as well make an effort to attend this meeting. The free food certainly is a good enticement as well. :)

More later....

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