…off the old blockflute

The Birmingham Chapter of
the American Guild of Organists

MARCH 2024


Greetings to all of you! To begin, I would like to thank Barry Norris for graciously hosting our chapter Epiphany party in his home in January. As always, it was wonderful to have many of us together for this always enjoyable event. Thanks also to Southern Chic catering for the excellent food, and to Sherelyn Breland for her work in coordinating with the caterer and assisting with the evening’s setup.


I would to express my sincere appreciation to the Nominating Committee – Mark Hayes, Sam Burke, and Debby Holmes – for their commitment of time and effort to produce a slate of nominees for Officers and for a new Executive Committee class.  As previously announced in an email sent to Chapter members on February 14, the nominees as are follows:

                  Dean: Charles Kennedy

                  Secretary: Dan Lawhon

                  Treasurer: Mike Burt

Executive Committee Class of 2024-2027 (2 positions to be filled):

                  Thomas Graves

                  Rachel Julian

                  David Renaker

                  Michael (Mike) Sparks

Chapter members are invited, if they so desire, to submit additional nominations to the secretary by March 31st.  Each nomination is made by a petition signed by five members of the Guild.  Nominees and petitioners must be voting members in good standing.

Complete guidelines for nominations and the election process are defined in “Section 4. CHAPTER GOVERNANCE” and “Section 8. ELECTION PROCEDURES” of the Chapter Operating Procedures at

Nominations from the chapter and the slate proposed by the Nominating Committee will be combined into a single ballot.  Members will elect a Dean, Secretary, and Treasurer to serve two-year terms (2024-2026), and two (2) of the nominees to serve a three-year term as the Class of 2024-2027 as Members-at-Large.

We will again be using online election software for this year’s election.  Online and absentee voting will begin Wednesday, May 1st and end Wednesday, May 21st. In-person voting to conclude the election is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 22nd.


March Organ Crawl Update: Organ Crawl Postponed

We had originally planned to have an organ crawl to the Cullman area and northern Jefferson County for our March Chapter activity, organized by Sam Burke and to take place on a Saturday. As it turns out, the two organs of the greatest interest for this organ crawl are both in progress and are not yet ready to be seen by visiting organists. One of these, the new Austin at Sacred Heart Church, Cullman, hasn’t yet been installed, and the other, a rebuild of a transplanted Reuter (with additional existing Austin pipework) for Hope Community Church of Gardendale (formerly known as Mount Vernon United Methodist), is not yet finished. Given the circumstances, Sam feels it best to postpone the organ crawl to a time when both instruments will be ready. Stay tuned for a further update!


AGO Student Recital Returns in April

We are pleased to have the return of the annual student recital for our April program on Monday, April 8, at Samford University. Dinner will be at 6:00 p.m. as usual (stay tuned for the exact location of the dinner), with a short business meeting, and the recital will take place in Reid Chapel at 7:00 p.m.


May Guild Service and Recital by Abigail Crafton

To close out the program year, we will have a Guild Service (with hymns and readings) on Sunday, May 5 at 5:00 p.m., to be followed by a recital performed by Abigail Crafton, 2023 winner of the AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists, Southeastern Region. I had the privilege of hearing Abigail’s winner’s recital at the AGO Southeastern Region Convention in Augusta this past summer, and was most impressed by her poise and musical maturity. This is an event you will not want to miss!


Looking back to the past months, it was a true pleasure to have Philippe Lefebvre here to teach a masterclass to some of our area college organ students, coming on the heels of his magnificent recital at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The students gained valuable insights in the playing of French organ repertoire in a variety of styles, as well as helpful hints on how to practice. We also benefited from hearing Lefebvre’s fascinating perspectives on organ improvisation. Below are several photos from that occasion for you to enjoy!

It was also a true delight to have Patrick Scott share his practical insights with us on organ improvisation in a liturgical context for our November program, the day before his excellent recital at Independent Presbyterian Church. He succeeded, with enthusiasm and good-natured humor, in demonstrating an accessible, step-by-step process of mastering the skill of improvisation.


More recently, several of us were privileged to hear concert organist Lynne Davis, Distinguished Professor of Organ ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre Arts et des Lettres‘ at Wichita State University, perform on the annual Binford Organ Recital Series at First Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa (Jason Pedeaux, host organist), on February 25, with its magnificent 75-rank Létourneau organ (Ops 129). This was her second time to perform at First Presbyterian, having performed there previously in 2017 during the POEA (sharing that program with Nathan Laube and Bruce Neswick). She gave a wonderful recital with insightful and thoughtful interpretations of works by Marchand, Sweelinck, Bach, Franck, Barber, Alain, and Widor. See the photos below.

First Photo (left to right): Jason Pedeaux, Lynne Davis, Jeff Binford, Marjorie Johnston

Second Photo (left to right): Thomas Graves, Bill McElwee, Jeff Binford, Lynn Davis, Jason Pedeaux, Charles Kennedy).

I look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming events!

Charles Kennedy

Dean, Birmingham Chapter AGO

Upcoming 2023-2024 Chapter Events

March Organ Crawl to Cullman

     Date and schedule: Postponed

Monday, April 8 – Chapter Meeting

     Venue: Samford University (Reid Chapel)

     Schedule: Dinner at 6:00 p.m., followed by program at 7:00 p.m.

     Program: Student Recital

Sunday, May 5 – Guild Service and Regional Competition Winners’ Recital

     Venue: Episcopal Church of the Ascension

     Schedule: 5:00 p.m.

     Program: Guild Service, followed by recital by Abigail Crafton, 2023 winner of the AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists, southeastern region