…off the old blockflute

The Birmingham Chapter of
the American Guild of Organists


A Word from the Dean

Greetings to all of you! As we look to begin a new program year, it is my hope that you have all found the time for rest and refreshment over the course of the summer. I had the privilege of attending two major events: the Annual Conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM) in Dallas, and the Southeast Regional Convention of the AGO in Augusta. I found both events to be stimulating, inspiring, and rewarding, with many recitals, concerts, worship services (particularly in the case of AAM), workshops, and opportunities for conversation with friends and colleagues. At the convention in Augusta, I had the pleasure of meeting Chief Membership Officer Elizabeth George, who, with her infectious enthusiasm, one might characterize as the “energizer bunny” of the Guild. She, along with Regional Councilor Sue Mitchell-Wallace, led a number of sessions covering a wide range of chapter leadership topics, which I found to be most stimulating and helpful as we (all across the country) seek ways to revitalize our chapters, coming out of the various disruptions of the past three-and-a-half years. It was reassuring to realize that we are not alone among chapters facing these challenges!

We have an exciting lineup of chapter programs for the coming year. We begin on Monday, September 11, at the Cathedral Church of the Advent with dinner at 6:00, followed by a brief chapter business meeting. Then, at 7:00 we will proceed to the choir room, where I will give a presentation (essentially like a lecture-recital) on the keyboard works of William Byrd (1539/40-1623), whose 400th memorial year is this year, using both the harpsichord and the Lammermuir continuo organ. Our dinner will be catered by Southern Chic Catering. The cost of the dinner is $18, cash or check. The menu is: Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes, Squash Casserole, Salad, Rolls, Brownies, and Tea. To make a dinner reservation, please contact Treasurer Mike Burt by text or phone at (205) 201-3838, or by email at Reservations are due by the very end of the day on Wednesday, September 6 (cutoff at midnight).

On Monday, October 9, we will be at the Cathedral of St. Paul (the usual format, dinner at 6:00, program at 7:00) for our headliner event, a masterclass led by Philippe Lefebvre, one of the titular organists of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. M. Lefebvre is performing a recital the day before (Sunday, October 8) at the Cathedral of St. Paul. It has been a while since we’ve had a masterclass in Birmingham led by someone of M. Lefebvre’s stature, so this presents a wonderful opportunity for our local organ students and for the chapter membership. In addition to the masterclass, plans are being made for M. Lefebvre to be available during the day on that Monday to teach private lessons for anyone who may be interested. Stay tuned for more details!

Our program on Saturday, November 11, 11:00 a.m., at Independent Presbyterian Church, will be a session on service playing and improvisation led by Patrick Scott, who is also playing on the November Organ Recital Series at IPC the next day. Many of you will remember Patrick from his student days at Birmingham-Southern College, as well as from the hymn festival he did for our chapter several years ago at Highlands United Methodist. Patrick is currently the Director of Music at Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Memphis. Lunch at a nearby restaurant will follow, for those who wish to join.

On Friday, January 12, 6:00 p.m., we will have our annual Epiphany Party, once again hosted by Barry Norris in his home. For February (Monday the 12th) we are planning for a choral reading session, to be led by chapter members. This will be an opportunity for any chapter member to bring copies of a recently-published anthem, or perhaps a favorite anthem that might otherwise not be so well known, for all gathered to read through. The location is not yet confirmed, but we are working on it, and will let you know in due course. For March, date yet to be determined but on a Saturday, we are planning on an organ crawl to see various organs in Cullman. We will update you with details once we have them. On Monday, April 8, we will bring back the AGO Student Recital, which we’ve not had in a number of years. We have a tentative venue, awaiting confirmation, and will have an update for you once it is confirmed. Finally, on Sunday, May 5, at 5:00 p.m., we will conclude the program year with a Guild Service at Episcopal Church of the Ascension, followed by a recital by Abigail Crafton, the first-prize winner of the AGO/Quimby Regional Competition for Young Organists for our region, held just before the Southeast Region Convention in Augusta this summer. Abigail, who is in high school and who is also the organ scholar at the Cathedral of St. John-the-Baptist in Savannah, played a most compelling and impressive winner’s recital at the convention. I am excited to welcome her to perform for our chapter!

I look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming meetings and programs!

Charles Kennedy, Dean

Executive Committee Update

The election for Members-at-Large for the Executive Committee, class of 2023-2026, concluded on May 22. Mark Hayes and Dan Lawhon were elected to serve on the Executive Committee for the next three years. Their terms began on July 1.

In addition to Mark and Dan, I would like to thank Bill McElwee and Bill Richardson for agreeing to be on the nomination slate for the two open positions on the Executive Committee, and for their willingness to serve. I would also like to thank the Nominating Committee – Natalie Tally, chair; Paul Mosteller; and Jim Cook – for their diligent work in finding qualified candidates willing to serve and be nominated for election. Special thanks, as well, to Sam Burke and Jim Cook, whose terms concluded on June 30, for their service on Executive Committee for 2020-2023.

Christopher Henley, who was elected to serve in the Executive Committee for the class of 2021-2024, has had to step away from his service on the committee for the remainder of his term, due to family and business obligations. In accordance with the Chapter Operating Procedures, the Executive Committee has appointed Mike Sparks to fill the vacancy left by Christopher’s resignation, serving through June 30, 2024. We are grateful to Mike for his willingness to serve.

Website Updates

After many faithful years as chapter webmaster, Jim Cook has decided to transition out of this role, and has made a number of changes to make the website simpler and easier to use, such that we don’t need to depend so much on a webmaster to manage the website. Among these changes is that the only password-protected information on the website is the membership directory, which can now be accessed by a password, which may be obtained by email the chapter website ( Please note that this is a new password, and that we are no longer maintaining unique passwords for each member. Also, Mike Sparks, who has previous experience setting up and managing the website at his church, has agreed to be the point person for technical questions concerning the website, in a sort of simplified webmaster role. We are grateful to Jim for his service as webmaster over the past several years, and also to Mike Sparks for his willingness to step into that role on an as-needed basis. Mark Hayes will continue to manage the chapter calendar. I will, at this time, by making many of the website posts, including the chapter newsletter, which will now be published on the website, rather than sent out aa an email attachment. There are still aspects of this that are in transition, so we do ask your patience as we navigate the various changes, and learn the ins and outs of managing the website.

Upcoming 2023-2024 Chapter Events

Monday, September 11 – Chapter Meeting

     Venue: The Cathedral Church of the Advent

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

     Program: Keyboard music of William Byrd; Charles Kennedy, presenter


Monday, October 9 – Chapter Meeting

     Venue: The Cathedral of St. Paul

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

     Program: Masterclass with Philippe Lefebvre


Saturday, November 11 – Chapter Program                 

     Venue: Independent Presbyterian Church

      Schedule: Program at 11:00 a.m., lunch to follow at a nearby restaurant

      Program: Service playing and improvisation; Patrick Scott, presenter

Friday, January 12 – Epiphany Party

     Venue: Home of Barry Norris

     Schedule: 6:00 p.m.

Monday, February 12 – Chapter Meeting

     Venue: TBA

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

     Program: Choral reading session, led by chapter members

March Organ Crawl to Cullman

     Date and schedule: TBA

Monday, April 8 – Chapter Meeting

     Venue: TBA

     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