The St. Louis chapter of the American Guild of Organists will hold a Pipe Organ Encounter this week. A capacity crowd of 24 students, ages 13 to 18, will gather at Fontbonne University from Sunday to Aug. 2 to learn about the organ, from pedals to stops.
This isn’t the first POE, as they’re known, to be held in St. Louis; the last one was in June 2010.
It’s a big effort for a group of area organists, led by Horst Buchholz, director of sacred music at the Cathedral Basilica. They put in plenty of volunteer hours organizing, teaching and shepherding students on extracurricular adventures. But it’s worth it to get a new generation involved with the “King of Instruments.”
The trick is to get students, most of them promising pianists, interested in an instrument that lets them do much more, impersonating everything from woodwinds to trumpets, at almost every volume conceivable. They’ll have lessons, classes, excursions to important organs in town, concerts, a trip to the Gateway Arch, and, no doubt, Ted Drewes.
Most of it isn’t open to the public, but there are three free recitals. The first is by internationally known virtuoso (and St. Louis native) Frederick Hohman, who will perform the opening recital Sunday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. He’s also a member of the faculty.
Nicole Keller, associate organist at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland and another member of the POE faculty, will give a recital Wednesday at Third Baptist Church. Keller is a particular champion of American music.
The third and final recital is by Benton Blasingame, associate organist at the Cathedral Basilica. Blasingame is a product of other POEs and a graduate of Eastman and Yale. He’ll perform Thursday at the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Concordia Seminary. (As a bonus, Steven Ball will give a recital on the seminary’s Luther Carillon. It’s a great opportunity for a picnic.)