On January 16, 2023, Tacoma AGO members gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Gig Harbor to celebrate the completion of the Emily Speight Stearns Memorial Organ and to share new music for the new year with each other.
Dean Cheryl Drewes called the meeting to order with the help of a stray handbell.
Prior to the musical portion, both St. John’s organist Dennis Northway and Martin Pasi spoke about the history of the organ–its original construction by an Austrian company, its first home in an auditorium at the State University of New York (Purchase), and its subsequent purchase by Tacoma AGO member and organ builder Martin Pasi on Ebay. Much of this history is encapsulated in the handout attached to the end of this article.
Using his own published compositions, Dennis then demonstrated the latest additions–the second and final phase of a two-part renovation project. The list of pieces can be found in the program attached at the end of this article, and are described on Dennis’ website.
Acknowledging the Martin Luther King holiday, David Dahl began the demonstration portion of the program with an improvisation on “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”
In keeping with Epiphany, sub-dean Wyatt Smith presented “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” by Norwegian composer Egil Hovland.
Tim Drewes chose “Austrian music to play on this Austrian organ,” in his rendition of “Sorrow and Gladness,” from a book of seven Danish chorales by Anton Heiller. Will Stuivenga, a dual member from the Olympia Chapter, played Rheinberger Monologue Opus 162, which he first played in 1975 at Walla Walla College. Elliot Sander presented an improvisation on the Kyrie from “Missa Lux et Origo”. Cheryl Drewes ended the program with a selection from “Sacred Sounds from George Shearing for Organ.”
The church hosted a reception following the meeting.
Many thanks to Dennis Northway and the hospitality committee of St. John’s Episcopal Church for a wonderful program and reception!