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Organists’ chapter celebrates 75 years

PHOTO PROVIDED The Williamsport chapter of the American Guild of Organists is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2021.

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) was founded in New York City in 1896 as a national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. As both an educational and service organization, the Guild seeks to set and maintain high musical standards and to promote understanding and appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music. In 1946 prominent organists in Williamsport founded a chapter of AGO for this area. Currently the Guild has more than 14,000 members in over 300 local chapters. The Williamsport Chapter is celebrating its 75th year serving organists and choir directors in area churches.

Each year the local chapter has 10 program meetings of educational and social value. Its 75th Anniversary Year began with a live and well-attended Christmas Organ Concert, slightly delayed because of snow to Jan. 10.

“We played the magnificent 3.176 pipe Schantz Organ in Covenant Central Presbyterian Church on Fourth Street,” organizers said, according to a news release. “This large pipe organ was built in 1995 and features 55 ranks, 4 divisions, 62 stops, and 3 manuals and pedals. This concert featured two screens on which the audience could watch both the hands and feet of the six performing organists. The AGO National Office sent AGO District Convener Joyce Gerstenlaur of Camp Hill with greetings and congratulations for our 75 years.”

In February the guild celebrated with a dinner at the Watson Inn. Sub-dean Leatha Kieser presented historical material that included featured programs spanning the 75 years. Throughout the years, many nationally known concert organists were brought to Williamsport through the chapter. At one time the chapter hosted the Regional Convention of the AGO.

“The rest of 2021 will include concerts by members, a program with students of our member Dr. Marcos Krieger, professor at Susquehanna University, a hymnody lecture by Dr. Karl Moyer of Lancaster, a visit to a new organ, and a historical program honoring the 201st birthday of John Henry Hopkins Jr., the composer of ‘We Three Kings’ who served as rector at Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport,” the news release said. “You need to check with the local chapter for exact dates as there have been many changes this year. The next program date is definitely set for Sunday, May 23, 3 p.m., at Covenant Central Presbyterian Church, where members will be presenting music for the Pentecost Season. The public is always welcome.”

The Williamsport chapter serves as the meeting place for area church musicians. It is an educational organization that supports all organists, choir directors, and church musicians. Membership is open to anyone interested in these fields. You can find contacts for the chapter at www.agohq.org. The present officers are Donna Elkin, dean; Leatha Kieser, sub-dean, and Carol Waltz, secretary-treasurer.

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