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National Lutheran Choir Commemorates 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

National Lutheran Choir to Commemorate 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation through music with fall concert tour to Pacific Northwest

From September 28 through October 1, the National Lutheran Choir will embark on a concert tour to select cities in Washington and Oregon. Commemorating the worldwide anniversary of 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, the Choir will present two separate programs of sacred choral music and beloved hymns. Performance venues include Pacific Lutheran University’s Lagerquist Hall (Tacoma, WA), Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral (Seattle, WA), Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (Portland, OR), and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Salem, OR).

Una Sancta, a concert program aimed at illuminating Luther’s understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit—“it calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church…”—will be performed in Tacoma, WA in conjunction with Pacific Lutheran University’s “Re-Forming” anniversary series, as well as in Salem, OR at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Music Series. Program highlights include J.S. Bach’s motet Der Geist hilft, the “Kyrie” from G.P. da Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, “Agnus Dei” from Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, and choral music from renowned composers Eriks Ešenvalds, Kenneth Jennings, Charles Marie Widor, Kim André Arnesen, and Moses Hogan.

This performance will take place at Pacific Lutheran University on September 28, 2017.  More information is available in the Tacoma AGO calendar.

Jesus Christ: Yesterday, Today, Forever is an evening of song commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation featuring the National Lutheran Choir leading a massed choir of local singers. Presented in the tremendous acoustics of the Episcopal Cathedrals in Seattle and Portland, this program features a unique assembly of hymns and choral repertoire woven together to celebrate the rich treasury of music expressing the journey of the ever-reforming Church. Highlights include Martin Luther’s famous hymn tune EIN FESTE BURG, a multi-choir setting of Psalm 136 by Heinrich Schütz—commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the Reformation by the Lutheran Church in Germany—and hymns and repertoire from Korea, France, South Africa, Norway, Hungary, Latvia, and the United States.

This performance will take place on September 29, 2017 at St. Mark’s Cathedral.  More information is available in the Tacoma AGO Calendar.

About the National Lutheran Choir

Dr. David Cherwien

The National Lutheran Choir is a 64-member vocal ensemble based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Under the direction of nationally known conductor, composer and organist Dr. David Cherwien  and formerly at First Lutheran Richmond Beach in Seattle, the National Lutheran Choir’s artistry is rooted in its mission to strengthen, renew and preserve the heritage of sacred choral music through the highest standards of performance and literature.

Founded in 1986, the National Lutheran Choir sings a sacred and spiritual story rooted in the Lutheran choral tradition. In addition to concertizing, the National Lutheran Choir enjoys frequent broadcasts on public radio and curates a YouTube channel with thousands of views of selected performances and concert streams.

Pizza, Pedals and Pipes a Resounding Success

With 24 registered participants, members of the Tacoma AGO Chapter entertained and educated prospective organists in a 3-hour, 2-venue Pizza, Pedals, and Pipes event.

At the Fritts Shop

The event began at the Paul Fritts organ shop in Parkland, with introductions, pizza, drinks, and homemade brownies.

Group enjoys pizza and brownies
Paul Fritts introduces Opus 41

Paul Fritts introduced Opus 41, a work in progress slated for delivery this Fall to the First Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana.  Surrounded by engaged piano students, Paul explained the construction process, mechanical action, and demonstrated how a pipe works.

Students got to observe the movement of the trackers in response to keys being depressed.  Several students tried the keyboard as Paul explained the difference between the feel of a piano and the feel of a mechanical action organ.

Paul Fritts explains pipe making

Paul then led the group on a tour of the shop, starting with pipe making.  Students got to see lead sheets on a sand table, and learned about how the metal is melted and formed into pipes.  The group proceeded into the woodworking shop to learn how raw wood is transformed into an organ case.

Woodworking explained

Following the tour, Paul Tegels demonstrated the organ, showing how pipes of different lengths make sounds in different octaves, using musical examples.  At this stage in its construction, only a few complete stops are working, but it was enough to get the idea across.

Over the next several weeks, the organ will be completed, but still not in its final form.  It will be disassembled, put onto a moving van, then reassembled in the church that is to be its home.  At that time, the organ will be voiced and tuned, each pipe being optimized for the acoustical environment of First Presbyterian Church.

Paul Tegels discusses pipe length and pitch prior to performing

At Lagerquist Hall

Paul Tegels discusses acoustics and placement of the organ in Lagerquist Hall

Arriving at Lagerquist Hall, the group received an introduction to the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Organ, a large 3-manual mechanical action organ built by the Fritts Company in 1998.   The introduction began with a description of Lagerquist Hall, with its variable acoustical environment. and continued with the layout of the organ, including its several divisions.

Paul Tegels then opened a brief recital with Toccata in D Minor of J. S. Bach–sure to appeal to aspiring organists!  The recital continued with pieces chosen (or written) for the occasion, including Cheryl Drewes and Curt Sather playing transcriptions of pieces known to all teenagers–themes from Harry Potter and Star Wars.  Paul Tegels then concluded the recital with a very exciting rendition of Grand Choeur Dialogue of Eugène Gigout.

Students Play Two Organs

The group split into two smaller groups, led by Satya Jaech and Cheryl Drewes, so that each could have some hands-on time on two different organs.

Curt Sather demonstrating the large Fritts organ in Lagerquist Hall

Curt Sather gave a brief introduction to the key desk in the Lagerquist organ gallery, and then assisted each student who wanted to play, providing registration assistance and even accompaniments to their pieces.

The Brombaugh positiv organ

Paul Tegels made a small portable organ available in a classroom.  This organ has a single keyboard, with three stops, and no pedal board.  It was built by John Brombaugh and Co in 1979. The three stops are an 8’ Gedeckt (wood), 4’ Flute (wood), 2’ Principal (metal). It has a transposing keyboard, so it can play at A=440 Hz, or A=415 Hz. It has elaborate carvings, and has traveled to Europe and China.  Such organs are typically used for playing continuo in musical groups or choral performances, but today it provided an excellent transition for piano students playing organ for the first time.

Event participant plays the Brombaugh positiv organ

Two World Premiere Transcriptions

It should be noted and recognized that two of our chapter members transcribed pieces for this occasion in order to demonstrate organ literature in a way that would appeal to a wide audience.

Cheryl Drewes spent several weeks working on a transcription of Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, resulting in a work not unlike some of the standard symphonic organ works.  Concerning her work, Cheryl says ” It is always important to make the orchestral score into a true organ piece; keyboard logistics, registration and style all have to be considered.  As an orchestral piece, the tempo is furiously fast- string players can do that.  As an organ piece, the tempo is a bit slower, about a Baroque allegro, which works fine because that tempo is idiomatic to the organ.  I was lucky that Williams’ orchestration fit in the hands and feet just fine.  It felt like a chorale followed by a trio sonata followed by a fantasia- a Buxtehude Preludium and Vierne Pièces de fantaisie mash-up.”

Curt Sather chose a medley of themes from Star Wars, including the film’s opening theme, Princes Leia’s theme, and the Darth Vader theme. and filled Lagerquist with images of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Curt was playing from a lead sheet he created–a musical blueprint to be filled in while playing.  The lead sheet describes very basic melody and indications of harmony.  The musical voices themselves are improvised by the player during the performance.  There is nothing like a 32-foot reed to send Darth Vader scurrying.

Photo Album

This album contains additional photographs from the event.


This event would not have been possible without the interest and enthusiasm of a number of members of our chapter.  In particular, we acknowledge

  • Paul Fritts for his generosity and hospitality, opening his shop on a Saturday, giving a talk and a tour, and answering lots of questions.
  • The staff of the Fritts Organ Shop for working extra hours to get the organ playable for this event, and especially to Stevie Jett for helping with pizza baking and other logistics.
  • Paul Tegels, University Organist at pacific Lutheran University, for hosting the Lagerquist portion of the day, making two organs available, playing at both venues, and helping students play their pieces on a continuo organ.
  • Cheryl Drewes for many hours transcribing and performing a piece that the participants would recognize and enjoy, for acting as host, and patiently answering questions.
  • Curt Sather for his own transcription and performance of a difficult piece, for hosting, answering questions, and providing accompaniment and registration as students played their pieces.
  • Satya Jaech for acting as host, helping to plan the content of the instructional sessions, obtaining booklets for each student to take home, and being a moving force in the planning.
  • Karen Bredberg for participating in event planning, and planning and preparing the food.
  • Sandy Tietjen for participating in event planning, and planning and preparing the food.
  • Don Rumsfeld for participation in the planning and preparing a color handout for each participant.
  • David Dahl for participating in the planning, and for providing guidance and encouragement to the group.
  • Una Hwang, Sub-dean and Program Chair, for the vision, leadership, and tenacity to make this event work, and for recognizing the importance of community outreach and education.

New Member Spotlight: Wyatt Smith

Wyatt Smith

American concert organist Wyatt Smith is a native of Rapid City, South Dakota. He performs with “nuance, polish, and personality” (Michael Barone, APM Pipedreams). Wyatt concertizes extensively throughout the United States by keeping an active concert schedule. He has performed in twenty-eight states throughout the US over the last seven years, and more recently in Europe.

Wyatt is currently a doctoral student at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he studies organ performance with Dr. Carole Terry. He received his Master of Music degree from the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and the Yale School of Music, where he studied organ performance with Dr. Martin Jean. His Bachelor of Music degree in organ performance is from the University of South Dakota, where he was an organ student of Dr. Larry Schou.

Wyatt is the Organist at St. Alphonsus Parish in Seattle, Washington, where he plays the Fritts-Richards organ, Op. 4.

We are pleased to welcome Wyatt to the Tacoma chapter.  Please welcome Wyatt when you run into him at a meeting.

New Fall and Winter AGO Programs 2017/2018

We look forward to a new year of exciting and enlightening programs here in the Tacoma AGO chapter!  Many thanks to the entire Tacoma board and the members who worked on the programs committee.

The year kicks off with an introduction to the new two-manual, 34- stop Fritts Op. 41 organ nearing completion at the Parkland shop of Paul Fritts and Co.  The organ will be installed this fall at First Presbyterian Church in Bloomington Indiana, where Indiana professor Christopher Young presides at the console.  Paul will give a brief introduction to the organ, and we will be treated to performances by Curt Sather, Naomi Shiga, and Paul Tegels.  The new Fritts organ is also featured in our summer outreach program for kids Saturday, August 5.

In October, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation with a program featuring hymns of the Reformation at Christ Episcopal Church Tacoma.  Rev. Samuel Torvend, Priest for Adult Faith Formation, and Mark Brombaugh, organist, and Co-director of Music Ministries at Christ Church will collaborate.

November provides an opportunity to improve your conducting skills with one of our newest members.  Don Dunscomb has had many years of experience as a church music director in Roseburg, OR, and holds a BA in music from San Jose State University, and an MA in Education and a Lifetime California Teaching Credential from Stanford University.  Anyone interested in participating as a student conductor, please contact me!  The rest of you please come prepared for some fun audience participation as part of the choir.

We celebrate the busy and rewarding seasons of Advent and Christmas with our annual holiday party in December.  Sandy and Dick Tietjen are our gracious hosts this year as they share their home and their beautiful Fritts organ.  We will enjoy delightful organ music and carols of the season, festive food and drink, and congenial company.

Looking ahead to January and our annual joint meeting with the Seattle chapter, we will feature the 1871 E and GG Hook and Hastings organ at St. Matthew-San Mateo Episcopal Church in Auburn.  Once again this year, Cheryl and Tim Drewes will be our capable guides as they introduce this wonderful historic instrument.  Plan to socialize with Tacoma and Seattle friends over lunch after the presentation!

Stay tuned later in the year for our spring lineup, which will take us to Shelton and Gig Harbor, as well as Tacoma.

2017/2018 Fall and Winter Programs

September 19 Monday at 7:30 p.m. Fritts and Co. Organ Shop: Members Recital on the New Fritts Op. 41 organ with Curt Sather, Naomi Shiga, and Paul Tegels

October 16 Monday at 7:30 p.m. Christ Episcopal Church:  Hymns of the Reformation with Rev. Samuel Torvend and Mark Brombaugh

November 20 Monday at 7:30 p.m. Kilworth Chapel at University of Puget Sound: Conducting Workshop with Don Dunscomb

December 4 Monday at 7:30 p.m. Tietjen Residence: Annual Advent/Christmas Party

January 20 Saturday at 10:30 a.m. St. Matthew-San Mateo Episcopal Church in Auburn: Joint Seattle Meeting featuring 1871 Hook and Hastings Organ with Cheryl and Tim Drewes

New Members Summer 2017

We have several new members who joined this summer.  As dual members from the Seattle chapter, we welcome Wyatt Smith, Kyle Kirschenman, and Mary Fierke.  Kyle Haugen has joined as a regular member of the Tacoma chapter.  James French is now a dual member from the Los Angeles chapter.  Nancy Ferree-Clark has joined as a chapter friend.

Please welcome these new members when you see them! If you would like to send a welcome message, remember that you can access the membership directory by logging in to our website.