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Singapore Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

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A Week of Organ Immersion

Ng Chet Wei
11 August 2008
Photos by Ong Te-min

The 49th AGO National Convention in Minneapolis was held from 22nd to 26th June 2008. After registering for the AGO Convention, we took the bus to House of Hope Presbyterian Church at St. Paul for the National Competition for Organ Improvisation (NCOI) Semi-Finals, which marked the start of our ‘organ immersion’. The competitors astounded with their improvisation skills. During the breaks in between, we explored the huge building, which housed 4 pipe organs of various sizes!

The opening celebration held on Sunday night at the Central Lutheran Church was a sight to behold. As we sang ‘When in Our Music God is Glorified’, supported by the combined church choirs, designated people swayed long ‘gold brushes’ along the aisles and from the balcony. It was a very memorable experience for me. The carillon concert before the event was also a rare treat.

The next 4 days were filled with concerts and workshops from morning till evening. Besides a heavy dose of organ music, we also heard the music of the Ondes Martenot during the Messiaen Gala Concert and the world-famous St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir of London. The other highlight of the convention was ‘Pipeworks Live’ featuring the competition winners, established organists as well as up-and-coming ones. The concert closed with a rousing ‘AGO Fight Song’ and party noise-makers were used to celebrate the start of the ‘International Year of the Organ’.

During the National Meeting, we were given a preview of the lyrical ‘Ornament of Grace’ written for organ and a C instrument, and commissioned for the “Organ Spectacular” on 19th October 2008. At the same time, we bade farewell to Dr Frederick Swann, who stepped down as AGO President after 6 years at the helm. Besides attending concerts, workshops and meetings, we also spent much time hunting for good buys at various booths in the exhibition hall.

The AGO Convention drew to a close with a concert in St Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday night. The second half was a massive chorus and orchestra work based on the story of the fire that destroyed the Frauenkirche in Dresden many years ago. During the section about the fire, the orchestra created a sound effect that was so mesmerizing that I could visualize huge flames licking the buildings. In another section about the organ, I was amazed at how the chorus could combine effectively with the organ on J.S. Bach’s famous Toccata in D minor for solo organ. It is admirable that the chorus and orchestra could perform such an amazing work.

This has been an educational and enjoyable trip for me. If you have not attended any national conventions yet, do consider setting aside time in early July 2010 for the next one in Washington. I am sure it will be a memorable experience for you too!

 

 

Singapore AGO members with Dr Nobert
Singapore AGO members with Dr Nobert

PipeDreams Live! with Michael Barone
PipeDreams Live! with Michael Barone

The Cathedral of St Paul, Minnesota
The Cathedral of St Paul, Minnesota

Basilica of St Mary, Minneapolis
Basilica of St Mary, Minneapolis