Category Archives: Articles

April visit to Pasi Organ Shop

Martin Pasi welcomes his guests

On April 1, a beautiful Spring Saturday afternoon, members of the Tacoma chapter, Seattle chapter, and guests gathered in the suburbs of Roy, WA to see and hear Pasi Opus 26, a 2-manual 19-stop organ to be delivered later this year to Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, MI.  Martin Pasi graciously welcomed the audience and introduced the organ, which is temporarily assembled in a large, high-ceilinged room in the Pasi shop.

Paul Tegels performs a demonstration recital

Paul Tegels, organist at Pacific Lutheran University, performed a demonstration recital, featuring works of Bach, Scheidemann, Krebs, Walond, and Kittel.

Several people sat down and tried the organ while the group enjoyed a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, fruit, and the blonde brownies for which Barbara Pasi is famous!

Martin Pasi and Paul Tegels

April Events

A reminder that we have not one but two AGO events for the month of April.  On Saturday April 1 from 2-5 pm, you are invited to visit the shop of organ builder Martin Pasi to see how he and his team produce their finely crafted instruments.  They are showcasing his latest organ (Pasi Op 26), a two manual 19-stop organ that is scheduled for delivery to Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, MI later this month.  Martin opened his shop in 1990.  It is located at 32215 8th Avenue South in Roy, Washington 98580.  The public is welcome to this event, so bring your friends!

Just a week later on Sunday April 9 at 3 pm, we are treated to Curt Sather’s Lagerquist recital, and a reception to follow at the Parkland home of David Dahl.  Please join us for both of these exciting events!

March Program Features Paul Thornock and Augustin Barié

On March 13, Tacoma AGO members gathered at Pacific Lutheran University for our monthly meeting featuring Paul Thornock discussing organ works of Augustin Barié (1883 – 1915) and, in particular, the significance of Symphonie, Opus 5 in the development of cyclisism in organ composition.

Dean Naomi Shiga and Subdean Una Hwang prepare to begin the meeting

Following an introduction by Subdean and Program Chair Una Hwang, Dr. Thornock began his discussion by highlighting the importance of Barié’s musical innovations.  Barié, blind from birth, attended the Paris Conservatory, where he studied with Vierne and Guilmant, and subsequently established himself as a teacher and performer.  Prior to Barié, organ symphonies had consisted of individual movements, often unrelated.  Barié’s works employed transformation of a cyclical theme, achieved by changing the intervals or rhythm of the original idea,  thus unifying the movements.

Paul Thornock discusses the structure of cyclical organ works

As the audience followed along in the score, Dr. Thornock used Opus 5 to demonstrate how Barié introduced and developed themes using changes in intervals, rhythm, and keys.  These techniques were subsequently incorporated by Barié’s contemporaries.

Interestingly, Barié’s instructions often call for duplicate registration changes, possibly a result of his inability to proofread his scores.  He also regularly asks for stops not available on the organ at St. Germain-des-Prés in Paris, where he was organist. It is not known whether he was thinking of a larger organ he had played, or whether he might have been imagining an ideal organ.

Following the musical analysis, the audience was treated as Dr. Thornock performed Opus 5 on the Paul Fritts organ in Lagerquist Hall.

Mark Brombaugh sets up a projector in Lagerquist Hall

Thanks to Past Dean Mark Brombaugh for providing audio-visual support.

Opinion: What’s Wrong with Organ Recitals?

I recently attended a widely advertised organ recital featuring a nationally known player at a major organ venue, and there was almost nobody in the audience.  In this time of declining attendance at organ recitals, and the inextricably linked precipitous decline of the church, we need to take a look at how we manage organ recitals, and whether we can ensure that our instrument has a future.  Is there anything we can do to attract new audiences, and to make them want to come back for more?

Multiple Facets of Responsibility

When I talk to those who plan organ recitals, I sense a strong resistance to setting expectations for the performer for fear of causing offense.  The normal course of events seems to be to extend an invitation, receive a program in email, then turn on the heat in the building and hope for the best.

But why?  The event organizer has a responsibility to the performer for sure, but also to the audience, to the sponsoring organization, to the venue, and to the future of organ performances.  The event organizer is paying the performer on behalf of the other interests, and has not only a right, but a responsibility to set expectations. The event organizer should manage that event to maximize customer satisfaction even if it means telling the performer not to play Philip Glass.

Programming and Length

I was an organ major in college.  I love playing organ, and listening when the organ is well played.  However, I have trouble sitting through more than an hour of organ music.  Perhaps it is because I have watched too many one-hour episodes of Law and Order, or maybe it is harder to listen to organ than other instruments.  Following the recital with which I introduced this essay, there was warm applause, but certainly not a demand for more. Yet the performer announced that she was adding an encore to the more than 90 minutes we had already heard.  My thoughts turned to the Metro bus that would arrive in 4 minutes, and the bus won.

Yet, you say, everybody else in the audience stayed.  I don’t know for sure; most probably did, some because they wanted to hear more, but others because it would be impolite to leave. Of those who stayed out of a sense of duty, how many will come back the next time?  Of those who weren’t there at all, how many chose not to be there because of their past experience?

The program should be the result of interaction between the performer and the organizer.  It should be chosen to appeal to the expected audience, and to be suitable for the instrument and the room. It should have integrity.  It should not simply be the default program that a performer used at the last concert.  Its length should be known. And, in case you missed it, I will be more inclined to attend recitals that do not exceed an hour.  Advertise the time and content.  In publicity and calendar entries, list the exact time, such as 7:30  PM – 8:35 PM.  Give a good description, such as “This program is intended to appeal to a wide variety of audiences.  The music was chosen to demonstrate … The performer is particularly qualified to play this program because…  And print the entire program in the calendar entry.  You shouldn’t be creating the calendar entry before you have the program anyway.


There are undoubtedly people who like for the performer to talk about each piece, including where they first heard it, how long they spent learning it, who their next-door neighbors were at the time they learned it; but others attend for the music and aren’t particularly interested in the talking (and yes, by now you have guessed correctly that I fall into that category.)  Why subject everybody to the additional program length when it is very easy to separate it?

For those organizers and performers who want to feature a lecture accompanying the recital, I think that’s great.  It could draw in people who otherwise might not come; but if you do it, give people a choice by providing two start times.  Let people know that they can come at 7 PM for a lecture and question-answer session, followed by a program from 7:30 PM to 8:35 PM.  Those who don’t want to hear the talking can come for the music.

Admission Cost

I’m not sure how we evolved into the system of “Seniors” paying less than young working people with entry level jobs and family responsibilities.  It probably originally was intended to make things easier for fixed-income seniors, which is still a great idea.  However, I would like to see a change in admission cost that would encourage attendance by younger audiences as well.  It could feature better definitions, such as lower prices for students, young workers, and fixed-income seniors, leaving the higher prices for the older adults who can afford them.  Perhaps a better idea would be to list prices as a voluntary sliding cost.  For example, admission cost could be listed as $10-$20, depending upon ability to pay. Organizers should set aside tickets for those who cannot afford to pay, and advertise that they are available.

Leave the Young Children at Home

Concentrating on organ music–or anything else–for 2 hours isn’t easy for 2 year-olds.  Yet people bring their infants and small children and allow them to ruin concerts for everybody else who has paid to be there. Ushers don’t do anything for fear of offending a parent.

Concert organizers have the right to set a minimum age limit, and should do so.  In the publicity and calendar entries, make it clear that “Children are welcome over the age of 10.” Provide a nursery if you can.

And for those parents who were genuinely trying to forge an early interest in organ literature rather than trying to save money on the babysitter?  Tell the babysitter to play organ music for them, but not to exceed one hour!

Reflections on Preparing a 24-hour Bach Recital

As I continue to practice for a 24-hour marathon of all the extant organ compositions of J. S. Bach, I find myself studying Bach’s non-organ works, especially the cantatas. The diversity of forms, styles, textures, etc., in these choruses, recitatives, arias, and chorales, is, indeed, remarkable. My questions about phrasing, articulation, tempo, and registration can all be answered by studying Bach’s vocal and instrumental writing.

J. S. Bach

For example, Bach’s frequent use of woodwinds as accompaniment in vocal compositions leads me to use the organ’s reed stops as accompaniment in chorale preludes; and the sounds which I enjoy while listening to informed “period” instrumental performances brings me to a much broader palette of articulations and phrasings for the organ. I am fortunate to have a harpsichord that also helps my fingers and ears to shape notes in ways which my two non-mechanical actions organs do not inspire. I appreciate opportunities to practice and perform on fine mechanical action instruments and any organ which has beautiful voicing; these are qualities which inspire.

These 300 organ pieces span 50 years of Bach’s activity as a composer. I enjoy seeing how he developed and matured and the various influences on his work. There are small, early pieces which are rarely performed, but even in these do I find the genius and divinely inspired music of this great man. People ask which are my favorites: they all are!

Please join me in Olympia on Bach’s birthday, Tuesday, March 21, when I will play from midnight to midnight. Food service will be available throughout the day; plein air artists are encouraged to set up easels and work while being inspired by the music; and donations will be accepted to complete the installation of the 1967 Schlicker organ. Please visit the website.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, 114 20th Avenue SE, Olympia 98501, 360-352-8527