AGO Organ Spectacular in Cleveland

Today was the self-proclaimed American Guild of Organists “Organ Spectacular,” the “world’s largest organ recital” with events going on all over the world to promote the organ as the King of Instruments.    Cleveland’s all-afternoon event was at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, where Karel Paukert has been the organist/director of music for almost thirty years, and where they have three pipe organs: a classic Walter Holtkamp, Sr., instrument from 1952 (with some later mechanical updates to add couplers and a modern combination action); in the balcony a 1986 Hradetzky mechanical action in the Italian style; and a Baroque style positive organ by Vladimír Slajch.

There were demonstrations on the three organs, followed by “mini-recitals” by three locals (Linda Gardner, playing Stephen Paulus’s “Blithely breezing along”, commissioned by the AGO for the event; Horst Buchholz, new director of music for Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland, improvising first on Marian themes, and then on “Hyfrydol”, a tune submitted by an audience member; and Jonathan Moyer, new director of music at the Church of Covenant, in music by Bach and selections from Messiaen’s “Messe de la Pentecôte”) and the Mr. Paukert played a concert of music using the organ in an ensemble context, with works by Froberger and Zipoli (on the Hradetzky organ); Donald Erb (with handbells and wine glasses); an improvisation on a tune by Sigur Ros; Peter Eben (his beautiful “Song of Ruth” with mezzo Irene Roberts; and Karg Elert’s striking Third Symphonic Canzona, op. 85, no. 3 for organ, violin solo and female voices.

The afternoon ended with Evensong performed by the Senior Choir of St. Paul’s, conducted by Steven Plank and played by Mr. Paukert. As the closing voluntary, Mr. Paukert played Messiaen’s “Apparition of the Eternal Church.” After the climax of the piece and as it was coming to it’s quiet conclusion, the priest in the chapel adjoining the church’s nave began the Great Thanksgiving for the Eucharist that followed Evensong, and the the church’s carillon began to play.  It was an arresting moment that Messiaen himself might have appreciated.

Some of the highlights: Buchholz’s improvisation on “Hyfrydol” in the style of (you choose) Max Reger or Karg-Elert (I confess that German Romantic was not precisely the style that would have immediately come to mind; Moyer’s Messiaen; the Eben “Song of Ruth”; Paukert’s hymn improvisations.

There were also exhibits about the organ, an excellent program booklet, propaganda from the AGO, refreshments.  There was also a good crowd through the long afternoon.

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