Upcoming Performances

April 26
8:00 pm Eastern

Collaborative Organist, ASU University Singers, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

April 28
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Kingsport, Tenn.

May 5
4:00 pm Central

Guest recitalist, St. Paul's Cathedral, Des Moines, Iowa

August 25
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Church of the Savior, Newland, N.C.

December 13
12:15 pm Eastern

Music at Midday, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

June 21-26, 2020
Worship Organist, Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, Lake Junaluska, N.C.


Losing my mind

I'm in the thick of chairing our search for a new director of orchestral activities. When you have a looming deadline and people who don't respond to emails or phone calls, you tend to lose your mind.

I'm also in the thick of finishing up memorizing the Dupré A-flat Prelude & Fugue. When you are presented with such a masterful composition with two subjects and two counter-subjects, you lose your mind. In a good way.

I'm also in the thick of saying goodbye to my cat, Sebastian, whom we adopted just last November when his mistress, my aunt, died. Sebastian now appears to have some sort of lymphoma, and it is not wasting any time.

But speaking of Sebastian, a wonderful bit of trivia came to mind a few days ago. In my last News post before this one is a vague movie reference. I was considering adopting "Bagheera," a gray tabby, to be Sebastian's brother. The real Bagheera was the black panther in The Jungle Book. But Sebastian is the black cat, and therefore the two kitties ought to exchange names if Bagheera comes into the fold! But this gets even better: the voice of Bagheera in Disney's The Jungle Book was SEBASTIAN Cabot! While part of a mind is lost, another part finds beauty and joy in some details.

Then there's Avenue Q, which I am music directing this semester.

Then there's a recording on one of my favorite Aeolian-Skinners of all time.

Then there's my continued work on my in-house organ lit textbook.

And there's good exercise shoveling snow.


Semesterly duties

Spring semester. It's that time of year again. This college town of Boone, N.C., is once again full of students and traffic. And true to form, the weather is howling outside with wind and sideways-flying snow. Spring? More like endless winter. It's a blast; trust me. An Arctic blast.

But it's an exciting new semester with lots of new things in my life: My in-house textbook on organ literature is ready for presentation, chapter-by-chapter, to my class. I am enjoying learning lots of new music, my favorite of which is the Dupré A-flat Prelude and Fugue. I have all my early-in-the-semester paperwork completed. And my adopted cousin, Sebastian, is doing well. He's a black cat, and I'm thinking about getting him a gray Tabby brother named Bagheera. If I do, then maybe I should switch their names! Think about that for a moment while you ponder one of my favorite movies of all time.

Whatever your January dealings right now, I wish you all best in them. Happy 2016.


A new welcome

It's January 1, 2016. Welcome to the ever-so-slightly revised website of Joby Bell. It has been revised in that the "home" page is no longer my blog but rather this News reporting tab (which is not new). For this new year, I have taken a new interest in reporting the news (here) rather than interpreting the news (in the blog). I suppose you could say it's an actually fair and balanced version of Fox News's slogan, "We report. You decide."

At any rate, I am pleased to report a large handful of recording projects in the works, one of which is about to come out of the oven in the editing studio. I have nearly decided on a clever title for the entire series, which I'll report later. (It hasn't been approved yet by my crackerjack producer.) But I think it will work. It's a catchall title, under which I could create volume after volume for many years. I'm proud of it.

I'm also working feverishly on an in-house textbook for my organ lit course, which will begin in about a week. For years I have wanted to produce such a tool for my students' ease of reading and my ease of imparting. I may share some clever lines from it with you soon. It reads a bit like a juicy novel at times (just like organ history has unfolded, yes?).

Wishing you all best in 2016.


Summer 2015: Record highs

Biggest summer yet!

May 9: Commencement

May 10-16: road trip to Houston with five students for a studio recital at Aeolian Manor On-The-Bayou, Houston, Tex. Also visits to many beautiful organs, plus the consumption of copious amounts of food and dessert.

May 25: recital for the l'Organo series during Piccolo Spoleto, Charleston

June 6-9: record two Widor symphonies at St. Mark's, Shreveport

June 21-July 3: Montreat! Conduct masterclasses and intro to organ classes, and play two recitals at First Presbyterian, Asheville

July 12-17: faculty, American Guild of Organists "Pipe Organ Encounter," Columbus, Ga.

July 18-22: record Jongen, Brahms, and Reubke at St. Philip Presbyterian, Houston

July 30: recital at "Cedarn Point," Mount Gretna, Penn.

August 9: mini recital, Wait Chapel, Wake Forest University

August 16: Evensong and recital, St. Mary of the Hills, Blowing Rock

August 17: collapse. No -- wait -- classes begin. Somebody get me a drink.


Fall Break adventures in the Heartland

I'm just wrapping up a trip to the Kansas City area, where I have enjoyed engaging in some of my most treasured activities: visiting with friends old and new, visiting a new area of the country, driving hundreds of miles, and playing for an appreciative audience and collaborators.

Last Wednesday, I arrived in Kansas City. I met up with an old friend Scott Foppiano, now director of music at the church of St. Vincent de Paul, one of those rare churches that celebrates Mass in pre-Vatican II style, in LATIN. Scott and I enjoyed dinner, and then he took me to the church, where I took in the architecture and the new Johannus organ that Scott designed. It's quite a space, and Scott presides from that rear gallery with great pride and conscientiousness. Scott and I spent much of the evening catching up on old friends and on our old teachers John and Margaret Mueller. Rosie the cockapoo also spent a lot of time grooming me.

Thursday, after a delicious breakfast, Scott and I journeyed five miles to visit the organs at the Community of Christ headquarters, where the 1959 Aeolian-Skinner and the 1993 Casavant organs preside over the Auditorium and the Temple, respectively. Alas, we didn't get to play, but I took in the architecture and bought a book. From there, we went to President Truman's library and to First Presbyterian, Independence. Organ crawl days are the ultimate nerd's nectar.

We skipped lunch, because dinner was at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. Mercy, what a delicious meal. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should.

Friday morning, I made my way to St. Joseph, Missouri, to start making friends with the rather stunning Hook & Hastings [et al] at Francis Street First United Methodist. After four hours' practice followed by a delicious Cajun lunch with gracious host David Lewis, followed by five more hours of practice, I was ready for dress rehearsal that evening with the St. Joseph Community Chorus for a hymn festival on Sunday. The Chorus and their conductors Frank Thomas and Jennifer Stammers were gracious collaborators, and a few of them were gracious beer drinkers afterwards. More nectar.

Saturday, I had the day off. But wheels had been turning in my head for weeks. I knew that I was going to be only a three-hour drive from Aeolian-Skinner Op. 1457-A, the identical twin sister to my own practice organ at home. And so I set out that morning. Along the way, I stopped in Corning, MO, to visit what looked like a stunning church out in the distance, St. John's Lutheran, Corning. It is on the Historic Register, but the poor building is currently boarded up after some recent, devastating flooding. I also took the business routes through all the towns, enjoying my very first visit to Nebraska and my first time operating a motor vehicle in Iowa. Nerd.

And so I completed my stalking of Op. 1457-A by finding the campus where she lives and by finding my way into the music building. Upon entry, I immediately heard organ music and followed my ears to the sound. There was one lone student practicing the Franck Pastorale on Op. 1457-A. Recognizing that I was an unannounced visitor in an otherwise empty building, I decided not to disturb the student and be taken for a stalker. But to the fellow who was practicing: you get extra credit for practicing on a Saturday game day on your campus. Anyway, I got to see the organ from a short distance. That was enough for now; I can always go back. Meanwhile, I took photos of ELEVEN practice pipe organs in that building, and I'm told they all get used. I drove back to St. Joseph and finished the evening with a bit of practicing and then some reading in a wonderful book on the worship spaces of St. Joseph, courtesy my gracious host David Lewis.

Sunday, I enjoyed a morning off before heading back to the church for the hymn festival. Full house of singing people, and a chorus full of enthusiastic collaborators. This one was a hit, and I am so glad to have been a part of it. Dinner was delicious and courtesy new friends Bill and Judy McMurray.

Sunday evening had a bonus in store. I was invited to visit the Visser-Rowland at First Presbyterian, courtesy Donovan Jones, Michael Shaw and benefactors Jim and Judy Trout. This was a superb way to wrap things up!