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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18th, 2016 at 2:00

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Toccata in D Minor Opus 59  by Max Reger         

Dr. Armstrong, Organ

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Pastorale Opus 150 by Josef Rheinberger

Carolyn Jean Cunningham, Violin and Dr. Armstrong, Organ

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Jesus, Priceless Treasure Opus 97 by Jan Bender

      Theme and Six Variations For Violin and Organ

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Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella by Richard Ellsasser

Mr. Sklader, Organ

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Sing with Joy, Glad Voices Lift by S. Drummond Wolff

Kathy Andrle and Christine Charman, Vocal Duet

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Wiegenlied by Johannes Brahms  *  Cradle Song

Caroline Jean Cunningham, Viola, Kathy Andrle, Soprano, and  Dr. Armstrong, Organ

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Christmas. Organ Piece for an Opening by Gaston M. Dethier

Mr. Sklader, Organ

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We Come to the Manger  *  Austrian Carol arr. Mary E.Caldwell

Kathy Andrle and Christine Charman, Vocal Duet

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Offertoire on Two Noels Opus 19 No 2 by Alexandre Guilmant

Dr. Armstrong, Organ

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Christmas Fantasy by Charles Callahan

Organ Duet – Four Hands and Four Feet

Dr. Armstrong and Michael Sklader

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Following the organ concert there will be a Hymn Sing, interspersed with readings from the Bible and Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy.

The Bible

Luke 2: 1, 4 (to;), 5, 7 followed by Hymn 310

Luke 2: 8- 14 followed by Hymn 11

Luke 2: 15, 16, 18, 20 followed by Hymn 222

Matthew 2: 1, 2, 9(and lo) 10, 11 followed by Hymn 158

Luke 2:40 followed by Hymn 164 

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

S & H 332: 23 and S & H 29: 20-28, 32-4 followed by Hymn 123

S & H 333:16-23 and S & H VII: 1-12 followed by Hymn 23

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The Recital is lead by Dr. Susan Armstrong, AAGO.   Susan is past Dean of the Merrimack Valley chapter of the American Guild of Organists, served on the national AGO committee “On The New Organist”. She was director of two Pipe Organ Encounters for teen-aged students, and taught at New England College, also directing the College Chorus.  She studied with Anton Heiller in Austria, and Michel Chapuis in France and has performed widely in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

Armstrong has a tremendous repertory of organ and orchestra works that include world premieres as well as the standard compositions. She accompanied the Mozart Requiem last Spring for the Clearlakes Chorale. Her recitals and recordings are broadcast by local and National Public Radio stations. She received her doctorate in Organ Performance from Boston University. Susan is in her tenth year as organist at the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Concord. Active as a writer, her articles on American music have appeared in the major music journals.   On the AFKA label, Armstrong has made 5 Compact Discs. She is a member of the AMC 100 Highest Club of New England, and the Essex County Bee Club. 

michaelMichael Sklader was organist at the Portland St Baptist Church in Haverhill, Mass, where he played an 1885 Hook & Hastings. As a graduate of Montclair State College, he later studied organ at the University of Krakow in Krakow, Poland. Michael and Susan have played duets together in concerts in New York and New England.   This is his third appearance here.



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Program Notes

Max Reger (1873-1916) was a German composer, pianist, organist, conductor, and academic teacher. He produced an enormous output in just over 25 years, nearly always in abstract forms. Few of his compositions are well known in the 21st century. In 1907, Reger was appointed musical director at the Leipzig University Church, a position he held until 1908, and professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig.

Alexandre Guilmant  (1837-1911) devoted himself almost entirely to works for his own instrument, the organ. In 1871 he was appointed to play the organ regularly at la Trinité church in Paris, a position which he held for 30 years.  From then on Guilmant followed a career as a virtuoso; he gave concerts in the United States (the first major French organist to tour that country), and in Canada, as well as in Europe, making especially frequent visits to England. His American achievements included a 1904 series of no fewer than 40 recitals on the largest organ in the world, the St. Louis Exposition Organ, now preserved as the nucleus of Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Organ.

Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) was born in Liechtenstein and resided for most of his life in Germany. When only seven years old, he was already serving as organist of the Vaduz parish church, his first composition was performed the following year.  At age 12 he composed his first Mass.

Today Rheinberger is remembered above all for his elaborate and challenging organ compositions. These include two concertos, 20 sonatas in 20 different keys (of a projected set of 24 sonatas in all the keys),  22 trios, and 36 solo pieces. His organ sonatas were once declared to be:

“…undoubtedly the most valuable addition to organ music since the time of Mendelssohn. They are characterized by a happy blending of the modern Romantic spirit with masterly counterpoint and dignified organ style.” – J. Weston Nicholl, Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1908)

Richard Ellsasser (1926-1972) was an American concert organist, composer, and conductor, who was primarily active during the 1940s, 50’s and 60’s. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, the young Ellsasser was a musical prodigy who studied piano and organ. At the age of seven, he toured the eastern United States as an organist with various symphony orchestras. He made his New York organ debut in 1937. At the age of 19 he became the youngest person in history to have played, from memory, all 250+ organ works of J. S. Bach.

Ellsasser later went on to study at Oberlin College, Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory, the School of Theology at Boston University, and the School of Religion at the University of Southern California ,where he earned a Master’s Degree in Theology. He also earned a Doctorate from Boston University.

A prolific recording artist, Ellsasser made numerous “private label” recordings during the 1950s for MGM Records, primarily at the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1967, Ellsasser recorded two albums at the Hammond Castle Museum. Shortly after completing these recordings, he suffered a stroke, which forced him into retirement. He died August 9, 1972 in New York.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a significant Lieder composer, writing over 200 songs.

One of Brahms’ most powerful Lieder is entitled “Geistliches Wiegenlied” (“Spiritual Lullaby”), Opus 91, scored for mezzosoprano, piano and viola which we will be hearing tonight. Here is the original version of the poem, by the Spanish Renaissance poet, Lope de Vega:


You who hover
Around these palms
In night and wind,
You holy angels,
Silence the treetops,
My child is sleeping.

The child of heaven
Endures the discomfort,
Oh, how tired he has become
Of earthly sorrow.
Oh, now in sleep,
Gently softened,
His pain fades,
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

You palms of Bethlehem
In the roaring wind,
How can you today
Bluster so angrily!
O roar not so!
Be still, bow
Softly and gently;
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

Fierce cold
Comes rushing,
How shall I cover
The little child’s limbs?
O all you angels,
You winged ones
Wandering in the wind.
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.


Gaston Marie Dethier (1875–1958) was an American organist, pianist, and composer of Belgian birth.

Born in Liège, he was the son of organist Emile Jean Joseph Dethier (1849-1933), the brother of violinist Edouard Dethier, and the uncle of physiologist Vincent Dethier. He studied at the Royal Conservatory in his native city with Alexandre Guilmant. He was awarded premiers prix in organ, piano, harmony, and fugue from the conservatory.

In 1886, at just 11 years of age, Dethier was appointed organist at the Église Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur de Liège.

He emigrated to the United States in 1894 where he eventually became a naturalized citizen. He was organist at The Church of St. Francis Xavier from 1894 until 1907. He taught organ on the faculty of the Juilliard School from 1907 until 1945. Dethier is best remembered today as the composer of a set of Variations on “Adeste Fideles” (1902) which is occasionally performed today.

Stanley Drummond Wolff  (1916–2004) was an English organist, choirmaster, composer, and music educator who was primarily active in North America. His compositional output primarily consists of anthems for choir and works for solo organ. In the 1980’s he completed and published four volumes of hymns.

Born in London, Wolff became a choir soloist at the Savoy Chapel when he was 6 years old. By age 13 he was playing the organ for church services at St Matthew’s Oakley Square in London where he held the position of assistant organist. From 1938-1946 he served as the organist and Master of the Music for St Martin-in-the-Fields. During World War II he played actively with the Band of the Grenadier Guards.

Towards the end of World War II, Wolff was the conductor of the Canadian Military Headquarters Choir for their performances in Europe. This connection led to his appointment to the organ and music theory faculty at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in 1946

From 1946-1952 Wolff served as the organist and choirmaster at the Metropolitan United Church (MUC) in Toronto. He composed several anthems for the MUC’s choir, 12 of which were published together under the title Metropolitan Series of Choral Music in 1946. He also published two solo organ works around this time: Prelude on Greensleeves (1946) and Festival Fanfare (1950).

After a brief return to the United Kingdom in 1957-1958, Wolff became the organist at the Bermuda Cathedral in 1959. In 1972 Wolff moved back to his native country, settling in Eastbourne where he taught music and occasionally worked as a conductor and organist until 1981. From 1981-1994 he lived and worked in Seattle, Washington.

Mary Elizabeth Caldwell (1909-2003), distinguished American composer, was educated at UC Berkeley, with further study at the Munich Conservatory and the Juilliard School. She composed numerous cantatas for young voices and was one of the first composers to explore the rich folk carol tradition. Several such arrangements were chosen by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for their earliest recordings in the late fifties and are still favorites today. In the sixties her interests expanded to include opera and liturgical drama. She was commissioned by the Pasadena Junior League to write three operas for children to be presented by the Pasadena Symphony all of which delighted thousands of children. The second of the these, A Gift of Song, the story of Franz Gruber’s composing of Silent Night, has been presented in numerous performances world wide from Australia to Europe and often regarded the equal of Amahl. In addition, she has written collections for solo voice and organ. Her works have been the subject of both a Masters and Doctoral dissertation and she has been listed in Who’s Who of American Women since 1967.

Charles Callahan, born 1951, is a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Callahan is well-known as an award-winning composer, organist, choral conductor, pianist, and teacher.

Callahan compositions are performed frequently in church and concert; his writing style has been described by The Washington Post as “gentle, confident lyricism.”  He has most recently been honored by the American Guild of Organists with its 2014 Distinguished Artist award, “for his illustrious career as composer, performer, teacher and consultant, and his lifelong service to the sacred music profession.”

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For information about our previous Christmas Organ Concerts link here

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