Category Archives: Articles

Bach Rediscovered

On March 20, members and friends of the Tacoma AGO chapter gathered to enjoy an evening of music by Johann Sebastian Bach on the Fritts organ at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Performers included Cheryl Drewes (Dean), Emma Kelly, Sheila Bristow (Past Dean), Michael Plagerman, and Dr. Wyatt Smith (Sub Dean). The program centered on recreating Felix Mendelssohn’s all-Bach recital at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig in 1840.

Members were also treated to a lovely reception following the recital (thank you Sandy, Dick, and Jan), along with a CD giveaway (thank you Michael) much . Many treasures were uncovered from those boxes!

Finally, many thanks to St. Andrew’s, Naomi Shiga, and Jonathan Wohlers for being such gracious hosts for this event.

Group of people talking and eating refreshments
Members mingle at reception after the program

Young Organists Exploration at PLU

On February 12, eight young organists from throughout Puget Sound, ranging in age from 12 to 27, came together for a fun-filled, organ-centric afternoon at Pacific Lutheran University. It began with a demonstration of the Paul Fritts organ in Lagerquist Hall, led by Wyatt Smith. The demonstration featured snippets of music by Bach, Sandresky, Laurin, Buxtehude, Franck, Cooman, and others, showcasing some of the vast colors and registrations possible on the Fritts organ. Five of the eight young organists then took turns playing the Fritts organ, sharing music by Mendelssohn, Heck, Cooman, and even an improvisation!

Girl sitting at organ bench surrounded by several people
Young organists taking turns playing the Fritts organ in Lagerquist Hall

The group of students and parents walked over to Farelli’s for a lively pizza lunch. There was much organ talk heard floating through the air. Quite an exciting place to be: seeing young organists engaging with one another, many of whom were meeting for the first time!

People sitting at table in restaurant with menus
Young organists ordering lunch at Farelli’s Pizza

Upon return to Lagerquist, the group all sat together towards the back of the Hall and soaked in Dexter Kennedy’s massive program on the Fritts organ. The concert featured music by Buxtehude, Bach, Litaize, Ritter, and Gigout. Several of the young organists hung around long enough to meet Dexter and have a photo op. A great afternoon was had by all!

Group of five people posed for photo
Three young organists with Wyatt Smith and Dexter Kennedy
Four people standing in organ gallery
Young organists gathering for a demonstration of the Fritts organ

January Meeting: New Year, New Music

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.

Woman standing in front of organ holding hand bell
Dean Cheryl Drewes calls the meeting to order with a 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.

Man standing beside organ
Dennis Northway discusses the pieces he will play

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.”

Man sitting on bench in front of organ
David Dahl sitting on the organ bench

In keeping with Epiphany, sub-dean Wyatt Smith presented “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” by Norwegian composer Egil Hovland.

Man standing in front of an organ speaking to an audience
Subdean Wyatt Smith announces upcoming programs

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.

Group of people standing and talking
AGO members beginning reception after program

Many thanks to Dennis Northway and the hospitality committee of St. John’s Episcopal Church for a wonderful program and reception!

Three women standing behind a table of food and wine
The hospitality committee at St. John’s Episcopal Church

Wyatt Smith Presents Program on Margaret Sandresky

On November 10, 2022, Tacoma and Seattle AGO members joined a large audience of residents at Wesley Des Moines to hear Wyatt Smith discuss the life and works of Margaret Sandresky. Wesley is a retirement home and continuing care community located in Des Moines, WA. Wesley is fortunate to have a spacious chapel with a gallery that houses Fritts Organs opus 46. There are few retirement communities that can claim ownership over a world class mechanical action organ in an acoustical setting that was designed to house it.

Woman in yellow jacket standing in the front of a room holding a microphone
Susan McConnell, Executive Directory of the Wesley Community Foundation, welcoming attendees

Residents and AGO members were welcomed by Susan McConnell, Executive Director of the Wesley Community Foundation. In addition to graciously hosting the event, the Foundation provided an elegant reception afterward where chapter members got to chat with Wesley residents.

A woman sits on the bench of a 3-manual tracker organ
Margaret Sandresky, organist and composer

Margaret Sandresky was born in Macon, Georgia, attended schools in Winston-Salem, NC, and graduated from Salem Academy and College. She earned a Master of Music in Composition from the Eastman School of Music where she studied with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the State Institute of Music in Frankfurt, Germany. Sandresky has taught at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the University of Texas at Austin, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and at Salem College. She has received commissions funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Carolina Arts Council, the Reynolda House, Museum of American Art, and the North Carolina Music Teachers Association. She now lives in a retirement home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and at age 101 still composes every day.

Man standing in gallery in front of organ holding microphone
Wyatt Smith delivering introductory remarks on Margaret Sandresky

Wyatt Smith, Subdean of the Tacoma chapter and member of the Seattle chapter as well, has studied the music of Margaret Sandresky for several years, and is planning a recording project featuring her music. Sandresky has left a sizable set of compositions, eleven volumes to date. In presenting an overview of her work, Dr. Smith chose representative works from various volumes, gave some background information on them, and then played them, ending with Helena’s Wedding March from volume XI.

The handout provided at the event is attached at the bottom of this article.