Regional convention to feature renowned organists performing recitals at local houses of worship June 25-28

Regional convention to feature renowned organists performing recitals at local houses of worship

The sounds of the pipe organ, hailed as "the king of instruments" by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, will reverberate throughout Chicago's northern suburbs at public concerts June 25-28, during the American Guild of Organists' Great Lakes Regional Convention, hosted by the guild's North Shore Chapter.

Notable local, Midwest, and nationally known organists will perform at houses of worship in Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, Wilmette, and Winnetka.

Admission is $10 per person, payable at the door, for all performances except the opening-night organ and orchestra concert in Evanston and French organist Vincent Dubois' closing-night recital in Evanston. Admission to those performances is $25 each, also payable on site.

The convention is also presenting a free carillon recital at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

"We invite everyone to experience the stunning artistic range and concert repertoire of the pipe organ, performed by keyboard artists highly regarded by their peers," veteran organist and convention coordinator Andrea Handley of Evanston says.

"In essence, it's a four-day organ festival," she says.

The Great Lakes confab is the first major Chicago-area gathering of organists since the American Guild of Organists' 2006 national convention in Chicago. The region includes Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

Opening night

Organist Eric Budzyinski and a chamber orchestra, conducted by Stephen Alltop, will perform works by French composers at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, at Northwestern University's Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, Evanston.

Francis Poulenc's early 20th-century Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G Minor is a spiritually infused composition in a neo-Baroque style influenced by J. S. Bach. It consists of a single movement of seven sections, played without pause. A notable moment is when a viola solo rises amid sounds of organ and timpani near the end.

Felix-Alexandre Guilmant's Symphony No. 1 for Organ and Orchestra, opus 42, a late-Romantic tour-de-force, offers full-blown displays of organ virtuosity. It opens with organ and orchestra vying to take the upper hand like "two heavyweight boxers exchanging punches," as one music critic noted. After a delicate, ethereal, second movemen, Guilmant's concerto concludes with full-throated displays from organ, trumpets and timpani.

Budzynski is associate director for religious life and chapel music at Northwestern University, where he is organist for Alice Millar Chapel. He has served as resident or guest organist at St. Paul's Cathedral, London; Christ Church, Oxford, England; and The American Cathedral in Paris. He is a recipient of the Jean Langlais Award for Excellence in Sacred Music and took first prize in the Violette Cassel Organ Competition and the Pittsburgh AGO Competition.

Alltop is director of chapel music at Alice Millar and senior lecturer of conducting and ensembles at Northwestern's Bienen School of Music. He has guest conducted numerous orchestras and choruses across the United States. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2007 conducting music of Eric Whitacre.

Top-rank recitalists

Wylie Crawford, resident carillonneur for the Chicago Botanic Garden, will give a carillon concert 11 a.m. Monday, June 26, at the garden, located at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. The garden is home to the 48-bell Theodore C. Butz Memorial Carillon.

Crawford is also senior university carillonneur at the University of Chicago, past president of the World Carillon Federation, and president of the Sarasota Carillon Foundation Inc.

Although the concert is free, visitors who are not members of the Chicago Botanic Garden will need to pay parking and garden admission fees.

• Prize-winning Oak Park, Illinois-based organist Madeleine Woodworth will play 20th-century works by England's Francis Jackson, France's Elsa Barraine and Jean Guillou, and America's Calvin Hampton, plus a piece by German Baroque composer Dieterich Buxtehude at 1:15 p.m. Monday, June 26, at North Shore Congregation Israel, 1185 Sheridan Road, Glencoe.

Jackson's "Diversion for Mixtures," opus 25, is a 1960 piece written to feature the sonic colors of certain combinations of organ pipes. Barraine's "Deuxièmes Prélude et Fugue" employs a sacred Jewish melody.

Buxtehude's exciting and harmonically adventurous Praeludium in F-sharp Minor, BuxWV 146, is notoriously difficult to play. Hampton's dance-like "Those Americans" from his "Five Dances" and cradle-rocking "Lullaby" from his Suite No. 2 combine elements of the traditional French and German organ music with a 20th-century sensibility. Guillou's inventive Toccata, opus 9, displays the organ's melodic flexibility and percussive power.

Woodworth serves as the director of music at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park. She earned a bachelor's degree in organ performance at the Eastman School of Music. At the Yale School of Music and Yale Institute of Sacred Music, she completed her master's degree in choral conducting and was awarded the Robert Shaw Prize for excellence in conducting and the Richard Paul DeLong Prize in church music.

• University of Michigan organist Nicole Keller will perform at 7:30 pm. Monday, June 26, at Trinity United Methodist Church 1024 Lake Ave., Wilmette.

Her program includes J.S. Bach's famous Toccata in F Major, BWV 540, Paul Hindemith's Organ Sonata, No. 1; excerpts from the Susanne van Soldt Manuscript, a late Dutch Renaissance anthology; 20th-century Chicago composer Florence Price's "Pleasant Thought," "Hour of Peace," "Cantilena," and "Festal March (Marietta)"; and excerpts from Calvin Hampton's "Five Dances for Organ."

Keller has concertized in the U.S. and abroad in venues such as St. Patrick Cathedral, New York; Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Paris; Dom St. Stephan, Passau; St. Patrick Cathedral, Armagh, Northern Ireland; and The Kazakh National University for the Arts, Astana, Kazakhstan. According to the organist's website, "she specializes in eclectic programs suited to instrument and audience with a desire to expand the listener's horizons, pairing familiar sounds and genres with less familiar ones."

• Yun Kim, hailed by The American Organist for her "remarkable" performances, will be heard in recital Tuesday, June 27, at 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. at St. Giles Episcopal Church, 3025 Walters Ave., Northbrook.

In a program spanning from the late Renaissance to the 21st century, she'll play Joseph Jongen's Prélude et Fugue, opus 121; Samuel Scheidt's "Cantilena Anglica Fortunae," SSWV 134; Nicholas de Grigny's "Récit de tierce en taille"; Marianne Kim's "Variations on Handel's 'Sarabande'"; excerpts from Iain Farrington's "Animal Parade"; and excerpts from Gunnar Idenstam's "Metal Angel."

A musician of "great sensitivity and great élan" (The Diapason), Kim has performed as a featured recitalist at national conventions of the Organ Historical Society and the American Guild of Organists. Her performances have been broadcast nationally on "Pipedreams." She serves as organist and director of music at Christ Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio. She received the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where she received her doctoral degree in organ performance.

• Organist Stephen Buzard, music director at Chicago's St. James Cathedral, will perform on Tuesday, June 27, at 9:15 and 10:45 a.m. at Glenview Community Church, 1000 Elm St., Glenview.

Audiences will hear a program of 20th century French music, including Jeanne Demessieux's "Te Deum," opus 11; Jean Roger-Ducasse's "Pastoral"; Cécile Chaminade's "Marche Funèbre" from "La nef sacrée," opus 171, No. 3; and Maurice Duruflé's "Prelude, Adagio, et Choral varié sur le thème du 'Veni Creator,'" opus 4.

At St. James Cathedral, Buzard directs the Cathedral Choir and founded the St. James Cathedral Choir School. A reviewer for the Diapason magazine wrote: "Buzard paints the color and shape of every phrase with a maturity belying his youthfulness … if this level of skill doesn't dazzle you, then I do not know what will." He was among a select group of young but established artists profiled in the book "The Making of an Organ Virtuoso," published by the American Guild of Organists.

• Christa Rakich, visiting professor at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, presents a recital 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, at Winnetka Congregational Church, 725 Pine St., Winnetka.

She will present her own "3 Hommages," dedicated to composers Robert Schumann, Charles Gounod, and George Gershwin. Baroque works will include Louis Marchand's "Grand Dialogue" (Troisième Livre) and J.S. Bach's "Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig," (BWV 768), a set of variations on a German hymn. Early 20th-century pieces include Mélanie (Mel) Bonis's "Prière," opus 105, and "Offertoire," opus 182. She'll conclude with Florence Price's Suite No. 1 for Organ.

Rakich has performed widely throughout North America, Europe, and Japan. At Oberlin Conservatory, she teaches organ, clavichord, sacred music skills, and improvisation. Near her home in Connecticut, she maintains artist-in-residencies at St. John's Episcopal Church in West Hartford and the Congregational Church of Somers. Past artist-in-residencies have included the University of Pennsylvania and First Lutheran Church in Boston. As a Fulbright Scholar, Rakich studied with Bach interpreter Anton Heiller at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, Austria.

• Nationally recognized organist Scott Montgomery performs at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at Saints Faith, Hope & Charity Catholic Church, 191 Linden St., Winnetka.

The Arkansas organist's program includes Jonathan Scott's "Fantasy Toccata"; Jean Sibelius's 'Finlandia," opus 26, arranged for organ; J. S. Bach's "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr," BWV 676; Sigfrid Karg-Elert's "Passacaglia and Fugue on BACH, opus 150; the Scherzetto from Percy Whitlock's Sonata in C minor; and Aaron David Miller's "Fantasy on a Theme by Gustav Holst."

Montgomery is the director of classical music and organist for Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, adjunct instructor of organ at the University of Arkansas, and a widely respected concert organist. Montgomery achieved nationwide attention in 2006 by winning both the Lilian Murtagh Memorial Award (first prize) and the Audience Prize of the American Guild of Organists' National Young Artist Competition in Organ. His discography includes CD releases on the Pro Organo, Regent, and Raven record labels.

• The winner of the AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists, to be held during the convention, will present a recital at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 28 at First United Methodist Church of Evanston, 516 Church St., Evanston. The winner will represent the Great Lakes region at the national competition. The Quimby pipe organ company sponsors the program.

Concert series finale

The convention's concert series finale is the recital by Vincent Dubois, one of the three titular organists at historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, to be presented at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, at First Presbyterian Church of Evanston, 1427 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

Dubois will open his all-European program with a transcription of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546.

He'll play two of Robert Schumann's "Six Studies in the Form of Canons," Op. 56; César Franck's Choral No. 2 in B minor from "Trois Chorals"; three movements from Louis Vierne's Symphony No. 2, opus 20; Camille Saint-Saëns "Danse Macabre," opus 40; and the "Final" from Marcel Dupré's Evocation, opus 37. He'll conclude with an improvisation on a theme submitted at the concert.

In addition to his cathedral post, Dubois is professor of organ interpretation and improvisation at the Hochschule für Musik (University of Music), Saarbrücken, Germany. He has appeared as guest soloist with many orchestras and ensembles, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Orchestre Philharmonique of Radio France, and the Orchestre National de France, among others.

More information about the 2023 Great Lakes convention can be found online at, by phone at (847) 863-3823, and via email to

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