Tuesday, July 15, 2008

POEA- Emphasis on the 'A'

Pipe Organ Encounter Advanced. This was only the most recent inspiring event of my musical summer.

Some years ago the American Guild of Organists began camps for kids interested in the organ. Aptly named "Pipe Organ Encounters," (POE) they were wildly successful. However, problems developed. Many of the same students attended multiple times and, to put it mildly, were not exactly beginners anymore!

Thus, the AGO created the accelerated version. The Lincoln, Nebraska Chapter won the bid to host this first ever POEA and it was off to the races on 6 July.

Disarmingly talented high school students sent in audition recordings and ultimately 18 were selected to attend the week-long intensive. An all-star faculty was on hand to give private lessons and master classes... James David Christie, George Ritchie, Pamela Ruiter-Feensta, and Todd Wilson to name a few. The faculty recitals were quite a treat!

Volunteering bits of time in my scattered schedule to supervise, drive, etc., I tagged along on visits to some exciting instruments and events. Known for his outstanding craftsmanship and fidelity to significant historical trends in organ building, Gene Bedient gave tours of his shop and a lecture on tuning systems/temperaments. http://www.bedientorgan.com/

We spent one afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska visiting the Pasi organ of St. Cecilia's Cathedral. This instrument and space deserves an entire post of its own! After basking in its luxurious sounds and the outstanding scholarship and wisdom of Dr. George Ritchie in his masterclass, we spent the evening with a residential Kimball Theatre Organ that will blow your socks off.

Joel Martinson, a Dallas-based composer of organ and choral literature, gave a useful talk about trends in the musical profession regarding employment, composition, etc. The lesson here: self-publish if you can make it! The big houses are struggling to keep up and will drag you into their vortex if you sign your soul (or your rights) over in the end. It's bad news all around: Production costs are increasing; The internet makes things instantly available; They're taxed on their inventories (which are massive!); etc. And Mr. Martinson knows...he's in with Oxford University Press, Concordia, Morningstar, and Selah to name a few. http://www.joelmartinson.com/

Only two things went wrong, as far as I can tell: Paul Jacobs of Julliard had to drop out at the last second and the water didn't work in the dorms the first morning. The local paper, the Lincoln Journal Star, had a nice, if not rather hidden (back of the Saturday Religion section), article on the camp: http://journalstar.com/articles/2008/07/12/living/religion/doc4877d93cba41f294169917.txt

The absolute apexes of the week, however, were the student recitals at its conclusion. On Friday the 18 participants showcased pieces they had polished throughout the week in two recitals- the first on a new Reuter at First Presbyterian in Lincoln (see picture above) and the second on a fine Bedient at St. Paul United Methodist. As I was listening I often thought, "I can handle some of this stuff..." But then I kept remembering that these performers are 5 or 6 years younger than I! And regardless of age or training much of the music is just downright tricky...for anyone- Duruflé, Calvin Hampton, Reger, Langlais, major Bach preludes and fugues, one memorized JSB Trio Sonata movement, and much more!

As the students departed for home and other organ camps around the US, it dawned on me that they will be at the absolute forefront of our profession in forthcoming years. Their zeal, talent, and dedication stands to rocket them into the spotlight!

So...they gear up for more high school, and then, soon enough Julliard, Curtis, Oberlin, or Indiana. Me? Practice, practice, practice!

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