A few days ago, we held the annual meeting of the Hawaii Chapter American Guild of Organists (AGO) at our condo, and for various reasons, the attendance was about half of what it was a year ago. One of our members, Winfred Hancock, told me that he wasn’t able to come, but at age 93, still plays the organ for Sunday services every week at Fort DeRussy Chapel! Other members were too ill to attend and I can’t tell you how many of them are over the age of 80! In a previous post, I called this “A herd of dinosaurs,” and recently on the pipe organ discussion board, here is one person’s take on attending an AGO meeting:
“My wife and I attended a meeting of the local AGO. When we entered the room, I tho’t I was entering the day room of the nursing home!!! I’ve gotten to know a few younger organists, but they weren’t there that evening. At one of our meetings, someone was opiniong about getting folks interested in the organ. I spoke up rather loudly, telling them that I had come to town and expressed an interested in organ lessons, and the only name that was consistently mentioned was no longer teaching. I asked how in the heck they think they can get kids interested in the organ . . . “
In fact, one of the items that brought a lot of discussion at our meeting was a potential program called “Pedals and Pipes in Paradise,” to introduce children to the organ much in the same way that they were introduced to the Honolulu Symphony years ago — basically school groups that came in busloads to Neal Blaisdell Center to hear real stringed instruments, real woodwinds, real brass, etc.
Much of the impetus for this came about a couple of months ago when visiting organist Nathan Laube and AGO Dean Karl Bachman went to dinner in a local restaurant. The waiter asked Nathan why he was in town, and he replied that he was here to play an organ concert. The waiter then asked him, “What is an organ?” And I can’t tell you how many people have walked into the Lutheran Church of Honolulu and exclaimed to me, “Wow! what a big piano!” referring to the Beckerath organ.
You may recall that at the party that was held in my honor to celebrate my 35 years at LCH, donations were received to benefit the scholarship program of the Hawaii Chapter AGO. I’m happy to report that $2,770 was received and as I wrote in many of the thank you notes, we have a very big challenge ahead of us to not only tell people about what the organ is, but also to interest them in learning how to play. We also must educate churches, clergy, and particularly church secretaries (!), that if we want to teach kids how to play the organ, we must make our churches available for organ practice.
If you would like to apply for a scholarship to play the organ (Yes! we will pay for you to learn!) please click here for an application form. Although the deadline is not until September, now would be a good time to start thinking about it. And of course, we would welcome new members. You don’t need to be an organist to join! All you need is an interest in enriching people’s lives through organ and choral music. Here’s the link to the application form.