After getting back to the hotel so late after the Wanamaker concert, probably the last thing I wanted to do was to go to a hymn festival. What was unique about this festival, however, was that we had been given a newly published hymnbook by the OHS, and all of the hymns were by Philadelphia composers. We rode the bus to the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, named after Charles Albert Tindley (1851-1933) who founded the largest African-American congregations on the East Coast. I believe he also wrote the pop classic, “Stand by me.”
Rollin Smith, author of The Pipe Organs of the Rich and Famous, provided short but very informative commentary on each of the 12 hymns we sang. The Möller organ (1926,2016) was expertly played by Michael Stairs. Being so tired from last night, I was happy that we only sang 2 or at most 3 verses of each hymn. Most all of the hymns were unfamiliar to me, except for “In the garden,” which was composed by C. Austin Miles, a Philadelphia pharmacist.
We then drove to Christ Church Christiana Hundred, Greenville, Delaware where we had an early lunch in the parish house. We heard an excellent recital by Kimberly Marshall on what she called an eclectic John Brombaugh organ. I really enjoyed her selections from early German organ music — Georg Muffat, Buxtehude, Arnolt Schlick, Buxheimer Orgelbuch (1455) — so different from what we have heard at the convention so far.
I was very surprised to read that this church has a large, 2000-member congregation and I was especially drawn to all their needlepoint kneelers. There were perhaps a couple hundred of these underneath all the pews. The entire cushion was in needlepoint, a huge amount of work.
The other thing that was remarkable about this parish is that it has hosted world-famous musicians such as David Willcocks, Simon Preston and others, to become artists-in-residence. David Willcocks wrote a congregational mass setting just for this church during his residency here, and we found the assembly editions in the pews.
We next heard David Schelat at his own church position, First & Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE. Again, this was an excellent program, and I especially liked the opening, “A Good New Dance,” which was a suite of Renaissance keyboard dances. This was a Gabriel Kney organ (1989) — I especially enjoyed Schelat’s choice of colorful registration. He closed with “Organ Sonata,” a three-movement work he composed.
Back to the bus we went, to John Dickinson High School where we heard David Peckham on a huge Kimball theatre organ.
The last stop was at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, and truth be told, I had never heard of it until they held an organ competition there three years ago. The winner from 2013, Benjamin Sheen, played the Aeolian organ expertly, and although he began with “Finlandia,” acoustically it just didn’t compare after hearing it in the resonance of the Wanamaker. However, he played very well, and pleased the crowd with an encore. I would have like to explore the gardens further, but there was no time.
It was the last night of the exhibits and I caved in and bought two pieces of organ music, because every thing was 20% off.