Category Archives: Articles

St John’s Episcopal, Gig Harbor, Capital Campaign

After facing an extended period of deferred maintenance on the Parish’s building and grounds, the community of Saint John’s Episcopal Church has embarked on an ambitious capital campaign to address those identified needs. As part of that campaign, lighting will be installed in one of the parking lots, the bathrooms will become handicap accessible and the narthex of the building will be demolished and rebuilt. In rethinking the entrance to the church via an extended new narthex, it was decided that area in the nearly back half of the Sanctuary could become a flexible space for Baptism, gathering and fellowship. To open this space up, it was necessary to remove the current pipe organ. Hence, the desire to find a new home for the instrument at NO CHARGE whatsoever. Not as part of the Capital Campaign, a donor has come forward to provide a different and fine, instrument for the space. Once the contract is signed, information on the new instrument will be announced! Stay tuned!

A description of the current organ, including stop list, is attached.

Moller-Organ-Opus-11241-with-additions-available-for-FREE-to-a-good-home

Subdean’s Message August 2020

Dear chapter members,

During this season of social distancing, most of us are trying to figure out ways to adapt much of our lives into an online modality. It is a challenge, both for individuals and for organizations!

I serve as organist & choirmaster at an Episcopal parish, where we’ve thankfully decided to live-stream rather than pre-record services. No video editing added to my “other duties as assigned”; I get to work with my (carefully spaced) staff singers; and I wear JEANS on Sunday mornings! However, as the months have rolled by, I’ve realized the need to strengthen the congregation’s connection with me, and with the organ. The rector and I settled on a series of “fireside chats”, featuring hymn preludes. I play the chorale, talk a bit about the structure of the prelude, then end with playing it in full. It has been a truly humbling experience; there is nothing like a one-shot take in front of a camera, with ad lib public speaking, to reduce my performing skills by 50%! However, the goal is connection, not perfection. That has been reached, and my efforts are appreciated. On my August to-do list: start memorizing repertoire…

The guild is also working on adapting. On the national level: if you missed the online Organfest, or want to revisit some performances, archived recordings are available. Also on the national website is this Covid 19 response page which has a wealth of resources for guild members, artists and teachers, and musicians in religious institutions.

On the chapter level, your board is working on ways to adapt chapter programs to an online format. Please save Monday, September 21st, for a recorded presentation from Dr. Wyatt Smith, followed by a live Q & A. And, we have a postponed election to take care of—please look for information on electronic voting next month. Here is the proposed slate:

  • Dean: Sheila Bristow
  • Sub-Dean: Cheryl Drewes
  • Secretary and Webmaster: Thomas Clark
  • Treasurer: Sandra Tietjen
  • Member at large: Michael Menne

Lastly, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to our outgoing board member, Cooper Sherry. Cooper’s creativity, wit, and dab hand at hospitality have been a real asset to the chapter. The end of his term coincides nicely with a long-planned sabbatical sojourn to Holden Village. Cooper and his family will be living there in the mountains for six months, beginning in September. Thank you, Cooper, and congratulations!

Subdean’s Message July 2020

Dear chapter members,

We are in what my Episcopal rector calls “the new liturgical season of Covid-tide”. It’s a season of waiting—far longer than the four weeks of Advent! I hope that you are able to find some patience and growth during this time, and please know that the guild is still working behind the scenes to serve you. A few things to note this month:

Board Meeting Monday, July 13th, 7:00 PM

The Tacoma chapter board will be meeting (online) to discuss programming for next year and the postponed chapter election. Please contact me at sheilagailbristow@gmail.com if

  • you would like to attend (I’ll send the Zoom link)
  • you have programming ideas or needs
  • you have nominations for chapter leadership

Your input and suggestions are very welcome!

Online resources from AGO

The AGO national website has a lot of educational resources. One page you might not make it to is Chapter Leader Toolkits. There have been a number of meetings/presentations about current topics—online streaming in particular—and this page includes recordings of those meetings and supplementary materials.

Upcoming AGO Conventions

The 2020 National Convention in Atlanta, which was to have been next week, has been cancelled. For those who dream of travel, gatherings, and concerts: here are long-term dates, which don’t actually involve much travel!

  • 2021 West Region Convention: Portland, OR July 5-8
  • 2022 National Convention: Seattle, WA July 3-7

Website Activity May 2020

Interest in our website has remained strong during the pandemic. Maybe all of those people who are supposed to be working from home are getting bored. In any case, you might be interested in a snapshot of our May activity in the following tables:

May Activity by Day

May Activity by Country

Thoughts on a Virtual Choir

The “virtual choir” thing can actually work, but it carries with it an immense time investment on the part of the person who does the construction. Here is one of the recent “virtual choir” anthems I’ve done with my St. Mark’s singers:

Hymn of Praise by Natalie Sleeth


I chose Natalie Sleeth’s best-known hymn in SATB format as a good entry-level option, as this was the first one I tried with the choir. There are a lot of pure unison sections, which made it a bit simpler. If you listen to it, I believe it actually sounds somewhat convincing as an analog to a choir singing together in a common space. What it involved:

  • I lay down the piano track by itself.
  • I record myself singing each SATB voice part over the piano track, which becomes a sound file for each (e.g. “Soprano Track”, “Alto Track”, etc.)
  • I mail the tracks and a scan of the music to my choir with instructions on how to record their voice part and send it back to me.
  • I then collect all the sound files that people mail me.
  • I then use the free sound editing software Audacity to layer each voice track over the piano part.
  • I do surgery on each voice part, making sure that people’s timing lines up. It can take up to 20 minutes per voice part.
  • I then have the finished product. It can take 5-10 hours for this process.

Here are the instructions I send to the choir:

  1. Print out the music
  2. Get one device to play the track and one device to record your voice.
  3. Use headphones with your playing device. Put headphones on one ear, and have your other ear open to hear your own voice.
  4. Do a bunch of dry runs to get confident with your part.
  5. Begin recording on your recording device, and hit play on your listening device.
  6. Record your voice singing so that the recording picks up your voice, but not what you are listening to.
  7. Send me the sound file you have created of your own voice.

If any of you have not yet tried this, and would like assistance or tips, I am happy to answer questions.


When I feature recordings like this in worship, I make double-sure to stress that it was a “VIRTUAL CHOIR” so that no one mistakes this for us having all gotten together and recorded a song together against the health and safety guidelines. Those types of optics are very important, I suspect.