This was the first time I have attended an Organ Historical Society (OHS) convention and I have asked a number of the attendees how they perceived it is different from the conventions of the American Guild of Organists (AGO). Over and over I was told that “at AGO it’s about the personalities, and at OHS it’s about the organs.” What they meant by that is that an AGO convention, it’s the superstars of the organ world and what repertoire they play, and at an OHS convention, you visit many organs played by a variety of performers, both seasoned and newbies, but what is important is hearing the organ, not the performer.
Click here to view Joey Fala’s preview of his OHS debut recital at St. Paul the Apostle R.C. Church in Springfield, MA.
After visiting so many venues here in Massachusetts and Connecticut, I have to agree with this comparison. At AGO the bus transportation is always optional, but an OHS convention, everyone gets on the bus and visits organ after organ, some many small, historic organs with no stops above 4′ pitch, which would not even be considered by an AGO convention.
At AGO conventions (for which I have attended dozens and dozens!) the designated convention hotel is generally right in the middle of town, and people walk to nearby downtown churches, with field trips to churches outside the city. At OHS conventions, the hotel can be on the perimeter of the city (generally cheaper!) because it doesn’t matter where it’s located, because everyone gets on the bus to all the venues anyway.
Many meals are included in the cost of the registration fee at an OHS convention (uh, we did have three chicken meals in a row!) and we had these meals in churches, at a Knights of Columbus lodge, and at a themed restaurant. At AGO there is always a convention banquet, but it’s always an added option (at a cost).
At AGO conventions, there are varieties of services to attend — from choral evensongs, to high Anglo-Catholic liturgies, to informal congregational services, to Jewish synagogue services. There are no services at OHS conventions, but I did like the congregational hymn as a part of each OHS convention recital. It is always thrilling to hear a full church of organists and choirmasters sing, raising the roof in unison or breaking out in harmony.
In general, AGO biannual national conventions are huge, with 2000+ or more people, necessitating several venues which can accommodate the large group. Beyond that, the huge convention divides into groups and the performers at the smaller churches have to perform their programs sometimes four times to accommodate everyone. OHS conventions are smaller, generally about 300 people, and are held every year. Even though some venues are very small, the most the performers have had to repeat their programs is two times.
Of course, organists go to both kinds of conventions and the best about both is meeting new friends and reconnecting with old. Years ago Carl and I went on an OHS European tour with Bruce Stevens and Bill Van Pelt to Denmark, Sweden and Germany and I was glad to meet them again here. They are hosting a tour to Alsace next summer, and I asked them to keep my name on their mailing list for future travel.
I had a blast at OHS 2015 Springfield and I am seriously considering going to OHS 2016 in Philadelphia!
Here is a slideshow of some of the highlights from OHS 2015!