Category Archives: Articles

May Meeting on May 13

Don’t forget! Our final meeting for this program year is May 13, 7:00 PM, at St. Mark’s by the Narrows Lutheran Church.

Shari Shull, member and past dean of the Tacoma Chapter of the AGO, will share a slide show travelogue from her sabbatical trip to Europe last year. Her travels included visits to some important organs in Paris, choral evensong programs in and around London, and visits to organs in Province Groningen in the Netherlands. Shari took organ lessons on seven historical antique organs with Stef Tuinstra, Director of the North Netherlands Organ Academy and organist at the Martini Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk in Groningen. She will also share some recordings from her lessons.

Shari holds degrees from the Oberlin College Conservatory and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and is the Minister of Music at Agnus Dei Lutheran Church in Gig Harbor, WA.

Ideas for 2019-2020 Programs

After a very successful program year, it’s time to start thinking about the next season. On June 10, the board will meet to discuss programming for next year, and we need your help! This is your organization, and our goal is to produce programming that meets your needs.

Everyone is welcome at the board meeting. It’s in the calendar, and by logging in, you can get the address. If you plan to come, please let us know so that we can plan for seating and refreshments.

If you can’t come in person, please send your ideas. The mission of the AGO is to support organ and choral music, and we would like to do both in our programming. We would also welcome ideas for social gatherings, public outreach opportunities, and any other ideas you might have.

If you have any ideas to contribute, please send them to

No April Meeting, but Events in May and June

There is no April meeting because it’s a busy time for organists. However, there are chapter events coming up in May and June, so mark your calendars!

Our May meeting has been moved to May 13 at 7:00 PM at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows. Please note the new date. Shari Shull will discuss her recent sabbatical trip to Europe. More information is available in the calendar.

On June 10 at 7:00 PM, the board is hosting an open meeting to discuss upcoming programming ideas. If you would like help to shape the programs for 2019-2020, this is a great opportunity to provide input. Please check the calendar for location and other details.

Sheila Bristow Attends Leadership Training Meeting

Tacoma AGO Subdean and Program Chair was invited to represent our chapter at a regional AGO leadership training session in California. The seminar was focused on developing a strategic plan that individual chapters can use to maintain and increase interest and membership in our organization.

Sheila has already done a preliminary report for the board. You can look forward to hearing more about this effort as we determine which ideas we can incorporate into our own planning.

A presentation given at the meeting by a professional communications specialist is attached below.


Professor Kraig Scott leads masterclass on the music of J. S. Bach at March Meeting

Following an introduction by Tacoma AGO subdean Sheila Bristow, new Tacoma AGO member Emma Kelly opened the musical portion of the program by playing Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein, BWV 734. Kraig Scott’s first question to her was, “How did you decide on the tempo?”

Subdean Sheila Bristow welcomes the audience at the Kraig Scott masterclass

Kraig Scott is professor of music at Walla Walla University (WWU). He has taught there since 1986 and directed the choral program since 2009. He also serves as minister of music and organist for the WWU Church and was music director at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walla Walla for eighteen years. As a member of the WWU music faculty Kraig Scott’s responsibilities include conducting the University choirs, teaching organ and harpsichord, serving as church organist, and overseeing all music at the University Church.

Kraig Scott discusses tempo with Emma Kelly

His question on tempo led him into a discussion of how one sets the tempo in the music of J. S. Bach. In Bach’s lifetime, there were no metronomes–they were not invented until 1810, half a century after his death. Thus, there are no specific tempo markings in any of the music of Bach, or his contemporaries. There was, however, a concept of tempo ordinario, the common tempo. Common tempo typically referred to a work with a 4/4 time signature, and marked by predominant 8th notes, and maximum value of 16th notes. It is likely that the ordinary tempo was based on the human pulse.

Emma Kelly gave good answers to the tempo question. She chose the tempo based on the acoustics of the room, and on wanting to make the cantus singable. She also happened to choose tempo ordinario.

Emma’s piece, Nun freut euch, is really a trio. The right hand has the fastest notes, and, if played by individual instruments, might be suitable for a flute. The left hand plays the cello part, and the pedal carries the cantus. In this case, the left hand, the cello part, would be the timekeeper, akin to the percussion section in a jazz band.

In performing this piece, it is important for the organist to feel the three different time pulses simultaneously. The most important is, of course, the cello part, which should reflect the feel of a cello. Likewise, the upper 16th notes should reflect the playfulness of a flute. The chorale melody, in the pedal, should sound singable.

Dr. Scott was complimentary of Emma’s playing–both in her setting of the tempo, and playing the three voices distinctively.

AGO Member Cheryl Drewes chose to play a trio sonata, the second movement of Sonata 4, BWV 528, with a tempo marking of Andante. Cheryl thinks of Andante as a walking tempo; Kraig Scott added his interpretation that Andante is a modifier to the concept of the tempo ordinario, slowing it down a bit. In this movement, 32nd notes are more prominent than 16th notes, also serving to slow the tempo. Turning his attention from tempo to articulation, Kraig discussed the inherently difficult task of performing trio sonatas, with three independent lines, all of which require independent articulation, including the pedal. Kraig asked the audience to consider how a string player would articulate the melodic line of a trio sonata. The string player would have to lift the bow to make a big leap, but would be able to play conjunction motion, motion between contiguous notes, more smoothly. Kraig advocates a similar concept for Baroque music–a relatively smooth transition for conjunct intervals, but more space in disjunct movement. It’s easy on one line, but much more difficult when playing three independent lines.

Performer Cheryl Drewes listens as Kraig Scott discusses articulation

Member Satya Jaech played BWV, the Dorian Fugue. Again, the discussion began with tempo. Satya set her tempo to honor the gravitas of the piece, but to still have a feeling of movement. Kraig did not disagree, but also pointed out that the tempo Satya selected was very close to ordinary tempo even though the piece is in cut time.

Satya Jaech practices before Kraig Scott masterclass

Kraig used this piece to talk about the concept of relaxation. On a piano, it is necessary to apply more force to get more volume, but not so on an organ. Even when playing loud, it is important to maintain good hand position and to remain relaxed.

Following the student performances, Kraig compared two harpsichord works, pointing out that their structure is similar yet performers often choose to play them at very different tempos. The session ended with a discussion of tempo changes within a piece, and how Bach’s designations such as Adagio or Allegro affect the ordinary tempo.

AGO members enjoy a continental breakfast before Kraig Scott masterclass