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Upcoming Performances

February 11
Inaugural recitalist, Casavant organ, Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C.

March 9, 2018, 12:15 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 11, 2018
Guest recitalist, Waldensian Presbyterian Church, Valdese, N.C.

May 13, 2018, 5:00 pm Eastern
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, N.C.

Monday
Jan032011

Finding buried treasure, and the pleasures of aitch ee double ell.

This is not my news, but it ought to be shared: Recently, a friend of mine was poking around in the crawl space under an organ. The only things down there are two tremulants and the conduits for the cables between console and relay. Or so he thought. He crawled further into the space, all the way to the darkest corners, where he discovered a bunch of “brown paper packages tied up with string.” As it turns out, those were “a few of our favorite things,” namely, the pouchboards and primaries for the original action of the organ. So I helped him take it all out and take inventory (only two pouchboards are missing!), and we marveled at the good shape everything is in. He is now planning a ‘retro’-re-build. Too exciting!

This truly is the semester from the Hot Place: seven organ majors, one secondary student, Sacred Music Literature and Materials, Organ Literature and Pedagogy, Service Playing, Chorale accompanying, an organ performance of the orchestra part of the Tchaikovsky first piano Concerto, four recitals of three programs, a program of “Bell and Brass,” and directing the music for a musical being produced by the ASU Department of Theatre & Dance. My students are in similar situations, with upper-level courses, lots of projects, and lots of real-world stimulation. But we have all agreed to slog through it together, keeping careful track of our time, and we will all meet at the exam in one piece. And when it's all over, I am quite sure I will have the widest smile of all at Commencement. Then I will eat a leisurely lunch, take a nap, and move on to two summer recitals, a choral tour, a convention, and three fall recitals.

Honestly? I thrive under a constant flow of deadlines. So come on up and enjoy the show! There's no telling where you'll find me or what I'll be doing this semester.

Monday
Dec202010

“I’m dreaming of a Franck series…”

This fall was a light one for performances. That’s good, because a quick look at my Upcoming Appearances sidebar will reveal that I really should walk away from this computer and go practice now!

It is December 20, and I am now on the other side of exams, grades, and my regular Fall appearances at home. I always play a fall recital, the Halloween Monster Concert, and the annual Messiah Singalong. Those three events complete my life every fall, and without them I would be much less fun to be around:

I love to play for the “home folks” each semester, and they don’t seem to mind being guinea pigs for pieces I have never played in public before.

The Halloween concert contains all the usual fare we have come to expect from the spooky side of the organ, and the crowd is really the best part of it. My, how this campus like to have fun!

Then there is the annual Messiah Singalong, which I started here based on a perfect template I 'stole' from First Presbyterian, Houston. It’s simple: auditioned soloists sing the solos, the audience sings the choruses from borrowed scores, I play it all, and a guest conductor keeps the choruses together. I never grow weary of Messiah, and I actually miss the days in Houston when I played it three times each year. This year we had an extra twist, that of a near-cancellation due to weather. But the show went on, and we had about 30 hardy souls who were delighted that we didn’t cancel. Next year, maybe we’ll get our sunshine back and welcome the usual 200+ who join us. The best part of Messiah is the family participation – I’ve seen very young children carrying their scores in with them and following every note, whether or not they can sing those notes. That alone is worth putting the show on in the worst of blizzards.

This fall, I delivered fun-loving lectures on two of my favorite topics of recital programming (Knoxville chapter AGO meeting) and console care (Milligan College). I heard many wonderful stories of people’s first attraction to the organ and to the caring mentors who made it possible. The future of the organ lies with young people, and granting them access to this fascinating machine and fulfilling musical instrument is the ONLY way to keep it alive. Go and do thou likewise.

New topic: audiences don’t know it, but I am in the middle of a complete Franck series. I’m not going to play it all in one sitting. Or even two. Nor three. No, I think I’m going to play it in twelve. One Franck piece per recital season until they’re all played, which is roughly two to three per year. Franck “fits” very well my sense of organ music and organ playing, and I decided to include one of his pieces on every recital for the next few years, going slowly through his works so that audiences get him in small doses, rather than in one marathon overdose. Completed so far: Final; Prelude, Fugue & Variation; Cantabile. Next up: Pièce Héroïque and Choral in E. The others remain to be placed. This poses a new twist to my usual “formula” for planning a recital. In addition to including something by The Man (Bach), I now am including something by The Other Man (Franck). The programs coming out are very interesting and only add to my joy in playing them. Verily, verily I say unto you: this business doesn’t have to hurt.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday
Jul262010

The Summer from "______"?

On May 18, I served on a judging panel for a collection of winning compositions to be included in a souvenir book for the American Guild of Organists Region IV convention next summer in Greensboro. Colleague Florence Jowers and publisher Wayne Leupold and I had to narrow the field from 60-something pieces to 10-something. Congratulations to those winners, but I’m still exhausted.

May 26 was the Semifinal Round of the AGO National Young Artists Competition, held in Winnetka, Ill. This event was a complete triumph, and the young folks who played there give us old timers hope for the future. For details when they are ready to be posted, visit http://www.agohq.org/competitions/index.html and click on the NYACOP tab.

May 30, I “subbed” for David Arcus at the Duke Chapel. This was a “Hey, Joby can play” sort of thing. I was planning to accompany the guest choir, whose conductor is an old classmate of mine. David Arcus was planning to be away that day anyway, and so I became the designated driver in his absence for the entire service. A special place, that Chapel. A great day of service playing and vigorous congregational singing. Thanks, David.

All spring and part of the summer, I consulted First Presbyterian Church in Boone on choosing a new organ builder. The church has worked very hard to educate themselves on pipe organs and worship spaces, and they are building a nice building, into which a nice new organ will now go. Congratulations to Gawthrop Organworks for the contract, and congratulations to the church for hard work that will surely pay off.

June 13-18 was the AGO Region IV Pipe Organ Encounter (POE), held in Columbia, SC. I served on the faculty and taught two extremely energetic and bright teenagers. And of course, the fellowship among colleagues during those events is not to be missed.

June 21-23, I represented the ASU Hayes School of Music at a fundraising seminar for would-be “All-Steinway schools,” hosted by and held at Steinway & Sons headquarters in Queens, NY. The factory is a phenomenon, every bit as fascinating as an organ shop!

Well, there is church, and there is “Church.” Although I enjoy my church, I experienced my annual “Church” this year on June 20, June 27, and July 18. Every summer, I play for a few Sunday services in Anderson Auditorium at the Montreat Conference Center. Sunday worship is held there during the summers for anyone who wants to attend – which includes literally hundreds of Presbyterian retirees, their families, seasonal residents, and summer conferees. The Sunday crowds are huge, and they know their way around a hymnal! And after church, there is a huge buffet spread before us up at the Inn. Without fail, one leaves Montreat refreshed in body and spirit. I’m now ready to take on the Fall semester.

July 5-8, I attended and “worked” the American Guild of Organists convention in Washington, DC. As usual, the Guild served up the typical great recitals, workshops, and exhibits, the hotel served up the usual libations and comfortable air conditioning, many friends served up their cherished friendships, and the city of Washington served up its usual enchantment. And I rotated off my service on the National Young Artists Competition committee. A relief, yes, but some other projects now have my attention!

I just finished a set of letters to local organists and funeral homes, outlining a new procedure for getting paid properly and timely for funerals. There has been some confusion in the past in this area, which we hope is now cleared up. I certainly cannot and will not take credit for the ideas – those came from Bob Jones, president of George H. Lewis & Sons funeral directors in Houston. Years ago, he decided that funeral organists needed to be paid regularly and handsomely, and so he started bringing a check to each funeral and charging that fee back to the family. God bless him and his colleagues, every one!

July 26 through August 7, I’ll be scouting out organs in Texas for some recording projects. There are lots of beautiful new pipes down there! I’ll also be subbing at my old stomping ground of First Presbyterian in Houston. Playing a beautiful Harrison Aeolian-Skinner is always a nice way for me to enjoy a vacation. Thanks, Rhonda Furr, for continuing to invite me down each year.

July 30-August 1, I’ll be serving on a steering committee for a new competition to be established on a house organ in Houston. Stay tuned.

August 15-21, my summer will end with a bang. My sister has asked for a guided tour of New York City. I am all too happy to oblige!

August 24, there’s this little thing called Classes that will begin.

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