Monthly programs for 2017 – 2018

Here is the lineup of AGO meetings for this season, 2017-2018. Our meetings take place at various venues throughout the area and are typically the third Monday evening of the month although there are certainly exceptions. We generally begin with a punch bowl and social time at 6:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 7:00 p.m.

The cost for dinner is $15 and to encourage attendance by younger members the board has underwritten the cost of meals for all AGO members and guests under the age of 30.  The cost of these meals will come from a dedicated fund that has been recently established for this purpose.

The program portion of the meeting follows at 8:00 p.m. and all programs are open to the public. On occasion free-will offerings will be accepted at the conclusion of some evening programs.

Dinner reservations are requested by the Wednesday prior to the meeting and members will be called by the Executive Council. You may also make your reservation by emailing or calling our Treasurer, Errol Shewman at 456-9232.

Sunday, September 24, 2017
5:00 p.m.

Basilica of St. Adalbert
654 Davis Ave. N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

A Choral Evensong with the Installation of Officers of the Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, and Southwest Michigan Chapters of the American Guild of Organists. The Opening of the Year Banquet followed the service.

The Rev. Don E. Saliers, Phd – Chaplain of the American Guild of Organists, Homilist

 The Choir of Saint John’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan
Dr. Huw Lewis, FRCO – Conductor

West Michigan Brassworks

Sunday, October 29, 2017
3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church
107 LaGrave Avenue S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Sing to the Lord a New Song

An ecumenical worship service commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will include participation by ministers and leaders from both Protestant and Catholic traditions, the Calvin Alumni Choir, Mystical Voices, organ, brass, timpani, and the premiere of a new commissioned psalm setting by Antonio Alonso and Adam Tice. These two identical services are co-sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, the Grand Rapids Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and LaGrave Avenue CRC.

This service will be streamed live and you may watch it here:

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
9:30 a.m.

Central Reformed Church
10 College Avenue N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Pipelines – A Program for Fourth Grade Students

Each year the Grand Rapids Chapter of the American Guild of Organists invites fourth grade students from the area to an hour long presentation of the pipe organ. This program was begun in 1995 and has grown to be a very popular feature among fourth grade teachers and students. In recent years there have been approximately 700 students at these programs. You may read more about Pipelines here: PIPELINES

Sunday, November 19, 2017
4:00 p.m.

First (Park) Congregational Church
10 East Park Place N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Organ recital featuring concert organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez

With words such as “sizzling” and “transcendent” used to describe his performances, Raúl Prieto
Ramírez is the first Spanish organist in recent times to establish himself among the elite of the
international pipe organ scene. His global schedule takes him to major music festivals, churches
and cathedrals, concert halls (from Russia to major venues through Europe and the U.S.), for
lectures at universities such as Indiana University and the Moscow Conservatory, and as jury
member at international competitions.

After studies in Spain, Mr. Ramírez moved to Stuttgart to study organ with Ludger Lohmann
and, concurrently, piano with Leonid Sintsev at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St.
Petersburg. He also studied organ under Marie-Claire Alain, Guy Bovet, Eric Lebrun, Lionel
Rogg, and Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini. His compositions for chamber ensemble, pipe organ, and
solo instruments have been broadcast throughout Spain and his concerto for organ and orchestra
premiered in Barcelona. His transcriptions of Liszt’s piano études and Mephisto Waltz and his
interpretations of the music of Buxtehude, Bach, Franck, and Reger have been highly praised by
audience and critics alike.

In September 2013, Mr. Ramírez was appointed the organist-in-residence at Sursa Concert Hall
and the professor of organ at Ball State University, Indiana. He continues as the artistic director
of the annual summer International Organ Festival in Barcelona. Mr. Ramírez has been widely
recorded and interviewed for radio and television in several European countries and in the U.S.
His first two compact discs, on the Brilliant Classics label, were recorded at Milan Cathedral in
Italy (music of Franck, Liszt, Reger, and Saint-Saëns) and at the Palau de la Música Catalana in
Barcelona (music for piano and organ duet). In June 2016, Mr. Ramirez and his wife, Spanish
pianist Maria Teresa Sierra, were featured duo artists at the American Guild of Organists’
national convention in Houston.

Raúl Prieto Ramírez is represented in North America exclusively by Phillip Truckenbrod
Concert Artists, LLC.

Monday, November 20, 2017
6:30 p.m  Punchbowl
7:00 p.m.  Dinner
8:00 p.m.  Program

First (Park) Congregational Church
10 East Park Place N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Masterclass with organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez


Sunday, January 14, 2018
3:00 p.m.

Grace Episcopal Church
1815 Hall Street S.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Recital featuring organist Peter Sykes.

Peter Sykes is one of the most distinguished and versatile keyboard artists performing today.

On Sunday afternoon, January 14, we were treated to a varied and well played recital by Peter Sykes on Grace Church’s Noack’s 1981, Op. 94 56 rank instrument. Works of Buxtehude,  Woodman, Gade, Scheidt, Chaumont, and Bach showed the versatility of tone this instrument offers.

While Sykes is well known as an interpreter of early music, this program demonstrated that he is equally at home with modern and romantic music, as well. The program was beautifully rendered and his stunning technique was always evident. The program was open to the public, free of charge, and a good turnout on a very chilly afternoon in Michigan resulted.



Monday, January 15, 2018
6:30 p.m.  Punch Bowl
7:00 p.m.  Dinner
8:00 p.m.  Program

Grace Episcopal Church
1815 Hall Street S.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Masterclass with organist Peter Sykes. 

At the Monday evening members’ meeting, Sykes worked with Bethany Dame, a high school junior, on Buxtehude’s Prelude, Fugue, and Chaconne, BuxWV 137. The masterclass was very informative on methods of articulation and ways to practice that would achieve those results. His ideas on shaping a phrase and directions were specific and offered specific ways to attain the result. The student, who was well prepared and able to mimic Sykes’ ideas, had amazing abilities. The suggestions for practice and musical playing provided significant ideas for the GRAGO members to add to their repertoire of practice habits.



Monday, February 19, 2018
6:30 p.m.  Punch Bowl
7:00 p.m.  Dinner
8:00 p.m.  Program

Aquinas College
1700 Fulton Street S.E
Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Choral Workshop featuring Shirley Lemon

The Grand Rapids Chapter of the American Guild of Organists meeting was held at Aquinas College in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel, completed in the fall of 2017.

The College Chorus with guest clinician Shirley Lemon presented four pieces which had been prepared by the choir under Dr. Mark Webb, their director, with Jonathan Tuuk as organist. Ms. Lemon, a member of the choral staff at Grand Valley State University presented her ideas and techniques to the GRAGO which she felt might be useful to those working with church choirs. As the students had not rehearsed with her, there were surprises, which they handled with facility.

The pieces that were chosen for the event included Handel’s “And the Glory of the Lord”, Philip Stopford’s “Do Not Be Afraid”, Harold Friedell’s “Draw Us in the Spirit Tether”, and Paul French’s, “The Greater Gifts.” Topics such as diction, phrasing, tone production and agility were addressed. The College Chorus performed admirably in the lovely acoustics of this new space.

A dinner was held before the meeting in the Aquinas dining hall with Aquinas’ liturgical music students present as our guests.

Larry G. Biser, Photo by Dennis Fleisher

Monday, March 19, 2018
6:30 p.m.  Punch Bowl
7:00 p.m.  Dinner
8:00 p.m.  Program

Calvin College Chapel
835 Knollcrest Circle S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Church Music Today: A conversation with James and Marilyn Biery, composers

James Biery (born 1956) is an American organist who is Minister of Music at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. He was Director of Music at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota from 1996-2010. Biery was featured regularly as a performer on the Cathedral’s monthly concerts. He and his wife, Marilyn, shared the organ and conducting duties at the Cathedral. Before moving to Minnesota, James Biery was Director of Music at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut, where he performed often on the 140 rank Austin organ.

Biery was educated at Northwestern University, where he earned Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Organ Performance. Mr. Biery also holds the Choirmaster and Fellowship Certificates of the AGO. In 2006, 2007, 2008 James Biery was awarded the ASCAP Plus award for his compositions. In 1986, he was the prize-winner for the highest score on the FAGO exam administered by the American Guild of Organists. The winner of several organ competitions, he was named Second Prize Winner in the 1980 AGO National Open Competition in Organ Playing.

Biery developed his compositional skills from two disciplines: years of study of the organ and its literature and intense scrutiny of the orchestral scores of numerous composers whose music he transcribed for organ duet and organ solo. As an organist, Biery has distinguished himself by performing much of the repertoire of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His facility at the organ combined with his demonstrated ability to perform and study a vast amount of literature has given Biery a firm basis upon which to compose for the instrument. His organ and choral compositions are published by MorningStar Music Publishers, Concordia, Augsburg-Fortress, GIA, and Oregon Catholic Press. He has recorded for AFKA and Naxos.

Marilyn Biery, AAGO, ASCAPlus award winner, was born in Elmhurst, Illinois, in 1959. Her childhood years were spent in Sandwich, Illinois, where her father, a Presbyterian minister, was pastor of The Federated Church.  Her organ training began there, with Norma Washburn Kentner, a student of Robert Reeves at Northern Illinois University.  She is a Pi Kappa Lambda graduate of Northwestern University with Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Organ Performance, where she studied with Richard Enright and Grigg Fountain.  In 1982 she was a finalist in the National Open Competition in Organ Playing, sponsored by the American Guild of Organists.  Marilyn has served as Director of Music Ministries at The First Church of Christ in Hartford, Connecticut, Associate Director of Music at the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Minister of Music at Metropolitan United Methodist Church, Detroit, Michigan, and is currently Music Director/Organist at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.  She holds the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in organ performance from the University of Minnesota, and has been on the music faculty at Wayne State University.  Marilyn is a former Director of the National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance, sponsored by the AGO. Marilyn has collaborated with a number of American composers, including Libby Larsen, David Evan Thomas, Stephen Paulus, Pamela Decker and James Hopkins.  A series of her articles on American Organ Music was printed in The American Organist from July 2000 to June 2003; other articles have been published in The Diapason, on composer Harold Stover, organ professor Grigg Fountain, and the late Roy Johnson, former organ professor at the University of Arizona.


Monday, April 16, 2018
6:30 p.m. Dinner
7:30 p.m. Competition

First (Park) Congregational Church
10 East Park Place N.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Annamae Rotman Young Organist Competition

For information about the Annamae Rotman Competition go to this page: Annamae Rotman Competition


Monday, May 21, 2018
6:30 p.m.  Punch Bowl
7:00 p.m.  Dinner
8:00 p.m.  Program

St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church
171 West 13th Street
Holland, MI 49423

Hymn Festival with Bob Batastini

Robert J. Batastini is the retired vice president and senior editor of GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago. Though retired from management, he maintains an active role at GIA. Bob has over sixty years of service in pastoral music ministry, having served as director of music in several parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago and one in the Diocese of Joliet. He served as executive editor and project director for the Worship hymnals (three editions), Gather hymnals (three editions), Catholic Community Hymnal, and as executive editor of RitualSong. After retirement, he served as project director for Lead Me, Guide Me—Second Edition, and served on the editorial committees for Worship—Fourth Edition, and Oramos Cantando/We Pray in Song. He presently serves as coordinator on two Protestant ecumenical hymnal projects: one bilingual, in the spirit of Oramos Cantando/We Pray in Song, and the other an interdenominational African American hymnal.

In 1993, he became the first recipient of the Father Lawrence Heimann Citation for lifetime contribution to church music and liturgy in the U.S., awarded by St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, Indiana, and was named “Pastoral Musician of the Year–2000” by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM). At its 2006 conference, he was named a Fellow of the Hymn society in the United States and Canada, and in 2015 was named NPM’s Chapter Director of the Year.

Bob is past-president of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, served as a member of the Council for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and was a member of the Music Advisory Committee of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy which drafted the Bishops’ document, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship.

He is very active in the music ministry of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Holland, MI, and is in his second term as chapter director of the NPM-Grand Rapids Chapter, which hosted the 2015 national convention.