Central Hudson Valley Chapter, AGO

Chapter News

September 2006

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Dear Friends,

Welcome to the academic/liturgical/musical season of 2006-2007. Even though the picnics, shore vacations, times spent with loved ones and refreshing changes of scenery fade into mere memories, those moments have renewed us and prepared us for the ever unfolding challenges that our profession holds for us. My very best wishes for a successful season for you and your congregational families. Please remember that your guild is here for you. Gregory Citarella and his program committee have been putting in many hours and have some really exciting events planned. Do plan to attend as many as possible. And please feel welcome to offer suggestions for programs you feel you need. As a board, we are committed to being responsive to membership needs.

And so on to the particulars – hold on to your hats, there are many! Our first chapter program will be a workshop by Richard Torrence, who will speak to us about ways of building an audience for our programs. This will take place on Saturday, the 30th at Zion Episcopal Church in Wappingers. Please see the calendar for details – there is a fee for this one, but it includes a very nice luncheon. Please see the calendar for other interesting musical events in September and October.

As you will hear somewhere, I managed to pass the necessary exam and am now a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists (FAGO). I have to say that while preparing for it was a huge amount of work, the experience was also very rewarding. A very close friend, not a musician, said to me about a week beforehand, "John, you've already done it." In other words, whatever you hoped to learn, you've learned. Taking it and passing – or not – are secondary. (Of course, passing is always nice). In any event, I would like to encourage everyone out there to consider taking a Guild exam. The Service Playing Certificate is a good goal to begin with, and to that end there will be a mini-course offered later in the year. If you are interested, you can let me know now, or wait for the details, which I hope to have finalized by next month.
Finally, please read your September TAO, and note the mention of our chapter on pages 46 and 74. Also please note the fine obituary of Hank Van Seeters on page 51; he was known to many of us. Finally whose picture do you see on page 59?

Again, best wishes for your own work in this season.


John Sullivan, FAGO

Merellyn Gallagher Organ Recital

– A Review by Craig S. Williams

Over 150 people ventured out into the heat on July 16 to hear Merellyn Gallagher, professor of organ at Vassar College, play a recital of German Baroque music on the college’s Fritts Organ. The ample rewards for doing so were two-fold: First, those attending were embraced by the hall’s air conditioning, a very welcome climate control on such a hot day. Second, they were then treated to an impeccably well-prepared and executed performance of fine organ music. Merellyn admitted after the recital that she wanted to play music close to her heart. She communicated this love of the music to the audience and allowed them to enjoy it also.

The hour-long program consisted of two parts: Music from the 16th and 17th centuries comprised the first part, and the second was made up of works by Johann Sebastian Bach. It began with six Renaissance pieces, published by Pierre Attaignant. In many instances, Merellyn used single stops, showing off the colors of the Fritts organ, especially the highly characteristic reeds and flutes, to great effect. Then she moved to the Praeludium in G by Heinrich Scheidemann, demonstrating the principal plenum and how it can be colored by some of the reeds at the right moments. Here she also exhibited her fine command of the delicate wind supply of the instrument. Furthermore, these large works of the north German baroque benefit from the organ’s complete pedal division. Whereas the pedal borrows some bottom octaves from the hauptwerk (which are not affected much by most of the literature), it still boasts no less than four 16’ stops of varying dynamics undergirding complete principal, flute and reed choruses. The second Scheidemann piece presented on the program was an enchanting two-stanza prelude based on the Christmas chorale “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ.” This showed off the warmth of the flues, tempered by very well-regulated tremblants, an effect put to good use in the slow movement of the Bach sonata and Leipzig chorale prelude as well. Merellyn mentioned something about the audience having to wait for stops to be pulled, as this is an instrument that does not employ a combination action; however, her stop manipulations were actually quite deft, and overall the recital kept a very nice flow.

The harmonic adventurousness of Buxtehude’s Praeludium in F brought the unequal temperament of the organ into more vivid relief, casting a new spectrum on the Lübeck master’s range of color. Merellyn used bold registrations for the opening and close but kept a very clear and restrained stop combination on the hauptwerk for the intricate counterpoint of the fugue. In general, she held back from harsh contrasts and gimmicky stop changes, just letting the music speak for itself. This approach has been wrongly criticized by some as dry, given many of the sensibilities of organ performance practice in the last century, but Merellyn showed that careful preparation in building up such a program actually results in a sublime musical experience.

The following set of Bach pieces only confirmed this conclusion. She started with the Sonata in c, BWV 526. Bach’s six sonatas represent the ne plus ultra in Baroque organ technique, demanding that one player follow three completely realized contrapuntal lines (a genre usually performed by at least four chamber players); but Merellyn was fully up to the task, performing this work with supreme elegance and poise. She almost made it sound easy! The outer movements possessed the requisite clarity and excitement while never feeling rushed. This listener may have wanted a little more contrast between manual voices in those movements to give the intricate lines more definition, but she left no doubt everything was under control. Contrast and warmth were well in evidence with the Largo movement, however. The slow movements of Bach’s sonatas are among the most beautiful pieces in the literature, and Merellyn’s rendering did full justice to the Largo’s expressiveness.

The Fugue on the Magnificat showed off a wonderful grand plenum, complete with tierces and reeds, displaying how good voicing of such resources contributes to the grand harmonic architecture of Bach’s polyphonic writing. The Leipzig setting of “An Wasserflüssen Babylon” was a fine contrast to the severity of the Magnificat, played in an assured but relaxed manner.

Finally, the recital ended with the famous-to-the-point-of-being-dreaded Toccata and Fugue in d, BWV 565. As it was, Merellyn took a fresh approach to the piece, staying very close to the rhythmic notation of the score, eschewing much of the Romantic freedom of rhythm which has become so part and parcel of performances of this work. The reedwork used was bold but appropriate, and the rhythm of the fugue was refreshingly rock solid. She propelled the piece forward from beginning to end, stripping the overly familiar of any weariness. Overall, the recital was a very fast hour. Despite Merellyn Gallagher being called back to the organ’s platform three times by an enormously appreciate audience, no encore was forthcoming or needed.

This recital on the Fritts organ proved that Poughkeepsie now has another artistic treasure and fortunately also has an artist who can display it in its best light.


Galanti Praeludium I all-digital 2-manual organ, built early 1990's. A generous number of player-oriented features include 22 digitally-sampled speaking stops, alternate classic- romantic voicing, 5 adjustable generals, internal speakers or easily hooked-up to externals, headphone jack, other readily accessible tonal adjustments, MIDI compatible. Compact dimensions facilitate home/studio placement. Total weight under 400 lbs.
I: 8 Principal, 8 Rohrflute, 4 Octave, 2 Fifteenth, IV Mixture, 8 Trumpet
II: 8 Bourdon, 8 Gambe, 8 Voix Celeste II, 4 Flute, 2 Flautino, Nazard, Tierce, Cymbal III, 8 Oboe, Trem.
Ped: 16 Principal, 16 Subbass, 8 Octave, 8 Gedackt, 4 Choral Bass, 16 Faggot
Sw-Gt, Sw-Ped, Gt-Ped
Sw (II) under expression.
58" w, 45" ht, 27.5" d (w. pedalboard, 47").
376 lbs.
This organ has been regularly used in a home studio since being purchased new in 1996. When connected to external speakers, or through earphones, it can sound amazing. Galanti's action/contact design on both manuals and stops is virtually 100% reliable and problem-free. Cosmetically there is some veneer marring, and a footing has suffered damage in transit (which does not affect playability).

Asking price is $3,000 or best offer, with the buyer responsible for removal from an easily-accessible first floor location in a Troy, NY suburb. Interested parties should contact Charles Olegar at 518-279-4730 (x.3), or charlesol@juno.com.

Membership News

We are pleased to welcome several new members to our chapter, whose names will be listed in next month’s newsletter. At the same time, there are still several members who have not sent in their dues. If you are one of these lapsed members, you are receiving this issue of the newsletter as a courtesy. Please take the time right now to fill out the membership renewal form and mail it to the Treasurer, Mary Caskey, along with your dues. If you can’t find the form that was sent to you several months ago, call the Secretary and request one. Don’t delay!

Deadline for Next Newsletter

We are always glad to receive input for the chapter newsletter in the form of calendar items, reviews of recent concerts and events, biographies, letters, photographs, etc. In order to make sure these submissions can be processed in a timely fashion, please make sure they are received by the 23rd of each month. You may submit newsletter material by mail, e-mail, or phone. Just contact the editor, Susan LaGrande, using the information given below. Remember, the deadline for the next newsletter, to be available the first week in October, is September 23rd.

Editor’s Corner

This newsletter is published by the Central Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. The editor is:
Susan LaGrande
12 Montrose Lane
Wappingers Falls, NY 12590
Phone: 845-226-6496 (home) - Fax: 845-226-1035

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