Magazine article The Tracker

The Fourth Annual East Texas Pipe Organ Festival

Magazine article The Tracker

The Fourth Annual East Texas Pipe Organ Festival

Article excerpt

THE FOURTH ANNUAL East Texas Pipe Organ Festival closed Friday night, November 14, 2014, with a rousing recital by Mark Dwyer at the First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore. Several years ago, the late Lee Malone and I attended the Hook Holiday in Maine and we hit upon the idea that a similar festivity centered on the iconic Aeolian-Skinner organs in Kilgore and Longview, Tex., would be lots of fun. Lee forthwith got in touch with Lorenz Maycher, who presides over the music in Kilgore's First Presbyterian Church. Lorenz said the idea had crossed his mind, but Lee's call was the catalyst that set the works in motion. Four festivals later it's obvious that the idea was a sound one (pun intended!).

The festival opened Sunday, November 9, at the new festival headquarters, with a reception during which we viewed a fascinating exhibit of organ photographs by David Brown. Then, veering off into a field seldom encountered by Aeolian-Skinner fans, Larry Palmer entertained us with reminiscences of his interview with Herbert Howells, first about some clavichord pieces the composer wrote, and then about commissioning him to write The Dallas Canticles that we heard performed two days later in Dallas. Palmer played for us five delightful pieces by Howells on his beautiful 1939 John Challis clavichord.

At 8 p.m. duo-organists Elizabeth and Raymond Chenault played at Kilgore's First Presbyterian Church. Their program had a strong patriotic cast with An American Suite by Melinda Lee Clark, a Patriotic Rhapsody by Charles Callahan, Shenandoah by Nicholas White, and Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever. I have to confess that after the recent election I was in no mood for patriotic music but the spirit of their performance was infectious and I enjoyed it in spite of myself!

On Monday morning, Ann Frohbieter demonstrated the organ in Congregation Beth El in Tyler, Tex., and Jan Statman spoke on "Raisins and Almonds. . . and East Texas Oil!" I missed these presentations due to preparing for my demonstrations on the 1904 Hook & Hastings in Palestine's First Presbyterian Church and the 1928 Henry Pilcher's Sons in Sacred Heart R.C. Church. The Hook & Hastings had been fitted with electropneumatic pulldowns and electric stop action and at least a second detached console, and there was evidence of some "revoicing," but it largely remains a good example of these fine little church organs. Except for age, the Pilcher in the Catholic church is utterly original and had, in addition to the solid foundation of an 8' Open Diapason on the Great, a strikingly beautiful Vox Celeste on the Swell.

Monday evening we enjoyed a blockbuster choral concert at Kilgore's First Presbyterian Church with Charles Callahan and Donald Duncan alternating as conductors of the Tudor Rose Ensemble of Tyler, with Graham Schulz at the console. Parry's I was Glad, Sowerby's Psalm 122, Ireland's Greater Love Hath No Man, Vaughan Williams's Old Hundredth Psalm Tune, and David McK. Williams's In the Year That King Uzziah Died all received heart-felt performances in just the manner you always thought they should have.

Tuesday was "Big D"day, a first visit to Dallas for the festival. Our first stop was Kessler Park United Methodist Church where Casey Cantwell delighted us with music of Marchand, Howells, Böhm, and Bach. I was especially blown away by his playing of Howells's Psalm-Prelude I on the 1967 Aeolian-Skinner. Casey closed his program with an improvisation on patriotic tunes which, again, I enjoyed in spite of myself.

Our next stop was Lovers Lane United Methodist Church where Lorenz Maycher played three Sowerby works: Come Autumn Time, Whimsical Variations, and Toccata. I heard him play the same program at a noon-time recital in Kilgore the previous Wednesday with great satisfaction, and it was a treat to hear the same music repeated on the i960 Aeolian-Skinner at Lovers Lane. I even felt I was beginning to appreciate Comes Autumn Time, which hitherto I have found bewildering. …

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