Give Our Regards to Broadway: IU Organists visit NY

by Bruce Neswick
Associate Professor of Music, IU Jacobs School of Music

Under the auspices of the Bloomington AGO chapter, 13 of our current IU organ majors traveled to NYC the week of 7-12 May for an intensive, educational and high-end “organ crawl.” It was my privilege to lead the expedition, and it is my fervent hope that the success of this particular trip will lead to future similar adventures, both here and abroad.

Enjoy these photos from the trip!

The NYC metro region has witnessed a burst of quality organ-building activity in recent years, and it was our joy to play and hear several relatively recent installations from some of the world’s greatest organ builders. We were “let loose” on no less than: two Fritts (Holy Trinity Lutheran, Manhattan; and Princeton Seminary); two Richards-Fowkes (St. Barnabas, Greenwich; and St. John’s Lutheran, Stamford); the Taylor and Boody at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue; the Mander at Princeton University Chapel; the Klais at St. Peter’s Lutheran, Citicorp; and the Quoirin at Church of the Ascension, Manhattan. That feast of modern organ-building was only enriched by visits to many of the city’s “grandes dames” – the Kilgen at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; the Glück at Temple Emanu-el; the “Papa” Holtkamp at General Seminary; and the storied Aeolian-Skinners of Saint Mary the Virgin, Saint Thomas Church and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.

Lunch became an afterthought.

The IU organ department is proudly known for being full of singers, conductors and choral junkies of the first degree. As such, it made perfect sense for us to further fill our days with hearing the famous choirs of Temple Emanu-el (singing a Friday night service, the first venture inside a synagogue for most of our students … and oh, what a synagogue!) and Saint Thomas Church (singing Wednesday Evensong and a spectacular Friday night concert, doubling as a send-off for the choir’s European trip this summer and including not one, but two Bach motets). Another highlight of the week was spending half a day at Trinity Church, Princeton, where we were charmed by Tom Whittemore’s work with his amazing chorister program and thrilled to slip in and become full participants in an ordinary (but extraordinary for us!) Thursday night rehearsal. As an extra add-on, many of the students arranged in advance for nose-bleed tickets to two of the parts of Wagner’s Ring cycle, at the Met. Others found last-minute tickets to see the current Broadway production of Porgy and Bess.

Whew.

But what stands out for me even more than this extraordinary feast of instrumental and choral artistry was the warmth of welcome extended by our colleagues. The myth about NYC, of course, is that everyone is too busy to care. Not so! During my time at Saint John the Divine, I found the universe of church musicians to be among the happiest and most mutually supportive group of colleagues imaginable. And so it was that, to a person and to a venue, every single host organist (as well as some of the resident clergy) gave of his time liberally and joyfully, all for the pleasure of encouraging our students. What a thrill for these students to “meet and greet” some of the leading figures of our field: Daniel Brondel, Ken Cowan, Doug Hunt, David Hurd, Dennis Keene, James Kennerley, Eric Plutz, Fred Teardo, Stephen Rapp, Michael Roush, Thomas Schmidt, Martin Tel and Tom Whittemore.

I hope this tour was a fruitful capstone for these students to a busy, productive year. For me, it was a very satisfying way to end a first year teaching at this amazing institution. To show these students how it is that everything we talk about in our lessons and classes is brought to life in the cauldron that is our nation’s cultural capital was more enriching than any of us could have imagined. It was also rewarding simply to relax and have fun, after a frenetic year, learning the ropes here at IU and playing, teaching and conducting in such places as:
St. Florian Abbey for the annual BrucknerFest in Linz, Austria; the EROI Conference at Eastman; the Valparaiso Institute of Liturgical Studies; the Saltsburg Worship Workshop at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis; Broadway Baptist, Fort Worth; St. Helena’s, Beaufort, South Carolina; Houston and Ann Arbor AGO chapters; St. Michael’s Episcopal, Richmond; and St. Luke’s Methodist, Indianapolis.

Flutist Teresa Bowers (of the faculty of Gettysburg College) and I collaborated on a recording to accompany a recently released collection of flute-organ duets. Commissioned by Teresa and published by Augsburg-Fortress, this collection of new works, all recorded on the Auer Hall Fisk, adds significantly, I feel, to the ensemble repertoire for our beloved King of Instruments.

I hope to continue meeting you all, first, at the IU reception at the AGO national, but also in the coming year, when my schedule will take me to several venues:

  • 17-22 JUNE / AAM convention in Philadelphia: panel discussion leader and organist for the closing service at Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany
  • 2-8 JULY / guest conductor for the Charlotte RSCM Course
  • 9-15 JULY / faculty at the Sewanee Church Music Conference
  • 16-22 JULY / organist for the Tulsa RSCM Course
  • 23-27 JULY / faculty at the IU POE-A
  • 27 AUGUST / faculty recital, Auer Hall, IU
  • 22-23 SEPTEMBER / master class and hymn festival for the Youngstown, Ohio, AGO chapter
  • 14 OCTOBER / recital at SUNY Potsdam
  • 21 OCTOBER / dedicatory recital at St. John’s Episcopal, Washington, DC
  • 28 OCTOBER / anthem premiere at Calvary Episcopal, Santa Cruz, California
  • 2 NOVEMBER / recital at Christ the King Roman Catholic Cathedral, Lexington, Kentucky
  • 10 NOVEMBER / guest conductor, Diocese of West Tennessee Choir Festival at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Memphis
  • 11 JANUARY / Neswick studio recital: Messiaen La Nativité at Auer Hall, IU
  • 19 JANUARY / workshops and hymn festival for Philadelphia AGO Day
  • 26-27 JANUARY / workshops and hymn festival at St. Paul’s Episcopal, Chattanooga
  • 8 FEBRUARY / The Complete Organ Works of Herbert Howells: Part One at Auer Hall, IU
  • 14 MARCH / recital at the University of Puerto Rico
  • 3-5 MAY/ recital and hymn festival at Trinity Cathedral, Portland, Oregon
  • 19 MAY / hymn festival at Church of the Good Shepherd, Jacksonville, Florida
  • 2 JUNE / hymn festival at Christ Church, Alexandria, Virginia
  • 23-26 JUNE / workshop at the Salem AGO regional
  • 30 JUNE – 3 JULY / workshops and hymn festival at the Kalamazoo AGO regional

Until then! –

Bruce

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