OHS 54th Annual National Convention
July 5 - 10, 2009, Cleveland
By Charles Scroggy
Although the 2009 OHS Annual National Convention was based in Cleveland, Ohio, convention attendees stopped at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Sandusky, Ohio for an organ recital on Tuesday, July 7 as the group traveled from Cleveland to Toledo.
After a 55-minute delay due to the late arrival of the approximately 385 convention attendees, organist Christopher Marks, assistant professor of organ at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, began his recital by playing Nathan Hale Allen’s Spring Gathering on the church’s 1875 Johnson & Son organ. The swift, pianistic style piece from Dudley Buck’s four-volume anthology entitled Vox Organi featured the Swell Oboe in the opening and closing sections. The unseasonable, summer temperatures in the low 70s and the bright, sunny day of July 7, 2009 were unintentionally interpreted by Marks’ selection.
Spring Gathering was followed by Night: A Meditation written in 1907 by Arthur Foote. The softer stops of the organ, beginning with the Swell Stopped Diapason, Swell Salicional, and the Great Dulciana, were highlighted. After a slight crescendo in the middle section, the piece concluded on the quiet Swell Salicional coupled to the Pedal Bourdon.
An OHS tradition is to sing a hymn at each recital facing the organ. As if on cue, the attendees rose and sang two verses of Now on Land and Sea Descending. Marks added the Pedal Trombone as the final verse began, the Great Mixture IV on the refrain, and the Great Trumpet on the final stanza to combine the organ’s full ensemble with the powerful voices of the mostly male attendees.
A theme and variations on VESPER HYMN, the tune for Now on Land and Sea Descending, was then played. The five variations and five transitions of the piece, composed by Samuel B. Whitney, creatively demonstrated the four, organ pipe families: principles, reeds, flutes, and strings. Although the audience had been instructed prior to the recital to refrain from applause after each selection, the audience offered a well-deserved round of applause after Marks’ pedal solo and coda that used, in Marks’ words, “everything but the kitchen sink.”
The recital then shifted from service music to program music with Scherzino by Horatio Parker (1863-1919) which demonstrated the full range of the Great Melodia. Scherzino was the most obvious pianistic piece of the program, and it had striking resemblances to composers like Chopin rather than most organ music of Horatio Parker’s day.
Marks concluded his recital with Allegro vivace non troppo from the third and final movement of Dudley Buck’s Second Sonata, Op. 77. Full and medium choruses were used throughout the piece until the manuals were coupled near the end after a fiery pedal solo on the Pedal Trombone. Marks wrote that he felt this was an appropriate selection for his recital because of “Buck’s long-standing relationship with the Johnson organ firm.” Only the original Johnson stops “(or their replacements, in the case of the reeds)” were used, according to Marks.
Forty minutes after the recital began, the appreciative audience delivered a standing ovation before they quickly exited the church and walked to board motorcoaches in Zion Lutheran Church’s parking lot for the trip to Toledo. Three additional recitals were scheduled that afternoon and evening in Toledo before the group returned to their hotel in Cleveland.