Category Archives: Dean’s Message

Monthly dean’s message, shows up on front page under calendar

Dean’s Message December 2023

Kudos! and a huge thanks to Bruce Shull for his presentation, “Meantone Marvels of Germany and the Netherlands.” After leading us through a demonstration of quarter-comma meantone tuning on the harpsichord, Bruce provided a captivating travelogue of the recent Fritts organ shop study tour, complete with slides and recordings. All the instruments were magnificent, some jaw-dropping. And the meantone intonation? The sweetly sonorous pure major thirds are pure bliss, and as one moves through more distant keys, harmonies start to rub, and melodic intervals stretch or contract. Go beyond, and the music sounds torqued, sometimes intensely so. What a rich palate for the composer!

Inspired to go down the meantone rabbit hole, I came across two recordings of Michelangelo Rossi’s highly chromatic Toccata Settima: first, the almost hair-raising quarter-comma tuning, and second, the genteel fifth-comma tuning. What an eye opener!

  • Alice Sheu on the historical organ at Oosthuizen, Netherlands
    on YouTube.
  • Nathan Laube on the C.B. Fisk at Abbey Chapel, Mount Holyoke College
    on YouTube.

Thank you! Cooper Sherry and the community of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows for your gracious hospitality. Thanks also to everyone who brought treats for the lovely reception.

Looking ahead, we invite you to our Tacoma AGO Holiday Party at the home of the Tietjens, Monday, December 11th, at 7:00pm. Join us for good cheer and music! Please bring a food item to share.

Also, mark your calendars for our chapter field trip “Safety Last” at Seattle Paramount Theatre, Monday, January 24th, at 7:00pm. We always look forward to Silent Movie Mondays, especially this one featuring Harold Lloyd’s iconic comedy. We hope you can join us!


Dean’s Message November 2023

Another Halloween night, and for once it didn’t rain. Little ghosts and goblins came by, and judging by their bulging sacks, it was treats all the way! First, I heard their busy footsteps, and then a knock on the door and more shuffling of feet. Skeletons, witches, a black cat, and even a princess with her adorable pea chanted “trick or treat!” These little spirits beamed in anticipation – like so many jack-o’lanterns lining the front porch – as I added to their growing delectable treasure. Bounty accepted, they ran off, reveling in the night.

I love the spooktacular as much as the kiddos, a natural for any organist, after all. At the same time, especially this year, I find myself mindful of Halloween’s harvest origins as a mark of transition. As I hurriedly carved pumpkins before heading out for the day, my thoughts drifted in anticipation of the busiest time of year for the church musician. It can be daunting no matter how well prepared we are, and yes, I do get frantic at times. Yet, what a blessing it is that our work, by intention, takes us through every season and the liturgical year within a faith community. In this way, we are always in the right place at the right time. May our musical offerings be bright with hope, and full of comfort.

Looking ahead, we are really excited about our November event, Meantone Marvels of Germany and the Netherlands, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church by the Narrows, Sunday, November 19th, at 2:30 pm. Bruce Shull will talk about the historic organs visited by members of the Fritts organ shop on their recent study tour of meantone instruments. You will hear examples from magnificent organs, view stunning photos, experience firsthand a meantone demonstration on the harpsichord, and learn more about the shop’s plans to build a new meantone organ. We hope you can join us for this fascinating travelogue!

Remember also to check our website events page, for some wonderful programs coming up in the next few months, including our Tacoma AGO Holiday Party at the home of the Tietjens, Monday, December 11th, at 7:00 pm. Thank you, Sandy and Dick, for your warm hospitality in your lovely home!



Dean’s Message October 2023

Perhaps at one of your piano or organ lessons, your teacher presented a composition and said, “I wrote this piece especially for you.” It may have been in your favorite style, or to perfect a certain technique, or a clever combination of both. Composers of all generations have been writing for their students: Bach, Beethoven, Kabalevsky, Bartok, and certainly more. One of my son’s piano teachers wrote a suite of pieces, each dedicated to a student, including Isaac. I know some of you have also written for your students and choirs. I can’t think of a more beautiful measure of support!

What got me thinking about all of this is our October chapter event, featuring the compositions of David Dahl in his collection, “Hymn Interpretations.” Several of us will each demonstrate one piece, as assigned by David, ever the consummate teacher. To Tim, he said, “I think this will be a good one for you.” David didn’t hint at why he assigned my piece, but once I saw the score, it was obvious, and made me smile. I expect the same for the others because David is always thinking about what would be most helpful or encouraging for the developing musician – and no matter what our age or experience, we are always developing musicians.

We encourage you to join us for Hymn Interpretations, at Christ Episcopal Church, Tacoma, on Saturday, October 21, at 10:30am. David will share a bit about each of his compositions, all of them uniquely attractive, and written with specific intention in mind. In hearing these gems, you most certainly will take home insights and ideas for your own interpretations of hymns, all accessible approaches. You might even be inspired to compose an original piece. Thank you, David, for sharing your gifts with us, so that we can make them our own!

On a related note, I encourage you to read Sheila Bristow’s article, “Back to School, for a look at the numerous educational opportunities available to us as life-long learners. There are both in-person and online options covering performance and music ministry topics. Remember also to check our website event page, which is growing longer with great events over the coming months, including our chapter’s new AGO lunch, the first of which is at Cactus Restaurant, Tacoma, on October 13, at noon.



Dean’s Message September 2023

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. For a final getaway, Tim and I escaped to Port Townsend, a favorite haunt of ours. We love the Victorian buildings downtown and the ornate homes in the surrounding neighborhood. Among the architectural gems of the city are First Presbyterian Church, home of the 1887 Whalley & Genung organ, and Trinity United Methodist Church, home of the 1902 Bernard Mudler organ. Both instruments are richly adorned in elaborate stenciling. We performed at First Presbyterian long ago, and what a joy it was to experience such a wonderful instrument! At some point, we hope to get acquainted with the Mudler organ, as well.

As we walked along the nearby beach between Point Hudson Marina and Point Wilson Lighthouse, a heron nabbed a delectable fish, and we savored the sea breeze. It was a quiet opportunity to think about what’s ahead for our churches, both of which are four months into the interim process of calling the next clergy. Indeed, there are currently more than a few colleagues and friends serving congregations in transition. Tim and I approach the unknowns with watchful waiting, while grateful to be included in the ongoing conversation. All things considered, it is reassuring. I hope others find similar reasons to remain hopeful.

Looking ahead, please mark your calendar for our Opening Potluck Picnic, Monday, September 18th, from 4:30-7:30pm, in the beautiful garden of David Dahl and Loi Le. Thank you, both, for inviting us, once again!

Also, keep a close watch on our website event page and your emails for dates and information about our chapter events soon to be scheduled, including a presentation of David Dahl’s “Hymn Interpretations” by chapter members, and our Annual Christmas Party, hosted by Sandy and Dick Tietjen in their lovely home.

Finally, the TAGO Scholarship Program application process is now open, and the required essay and audio recording must be received by October 31, 2023. For more information, please see our website scholarship page.



Dean’s Message July 2023

July is here, with August soon to follow. For the church musician, the liturgical year is far less busy now. Music educators similarly find a welcome change of pace after another full school year. Our membership also includes performing artists, who actually might find themselves busier during the summer. Still others have a regular schedule of work or retirement all year long. Even so, I hope summer brings everyone an invitation to renewal – whether that is the opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues at any number of conventions and festivals, a chance to find retreat in the quiet majesty of the Pacific Northwest mountains, or a simple pause in routine during the glorious long evenings.

In July and August, there is no shortage of compelling events. As I look at the calendar, I see many performances coming up by next-generation artists with significant ties to the Tacoma-Seattle area. What a joy to see young musicians, having charted their own course, come into their own. Bravo!

Two more events of note include:

The Open House at Paul Fritts’ shop on July 23 from 1:00-3:00 to see Opus 43, a new 2-manual 32-stop organ bound for St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Terrace Park, Ohio.

The Tacoma Bach Festival, from July 28-30, under the direction of Dr. Steven Zopfi. I encourage you to see the event listings for more details about the three concerts, which all look wonderful! Also, do check out the TBF website to learn more about the organization, which was founded in 2022.

I look forward to seeing many of you at upcoming events, or as our paths cross. May the summer be a blessing to all!