About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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"Bishops have a duty towards both wise and foolish. They have to rouse the devotion of the carnal people with material ornament, since they are incapable of spiritual things."
— St. Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153)

To What Shall We Aspire?
published 11 September 2015 by Richard J. Clark

ANY CHOIRS ARE now resuming their season. Likewise, a number of local chapters of the American Guild of Organists are holding opening services and installing new officers. While such services are ecumenical in nature, there is something that can be discerned from them. How high are our aspirations?

I was fortunate to host the opening service for the Boston Chapter at St. Cecilia Parish in Boston’s Back Bay. Dean Peter Krasinski certainly had high aspirations, reaching among the highest fruit on the tree: critically acclaimed conductor and composer Julian Wachner and the GRAMMY®-nominated Trinity Wall Street Choir with organist Avi Stein. This was a bold move for Krasinski and Bostonians, who especially dislike having New Yorkers showing them what is what.

But, that was part of the point. Go for the best, no matter where it lies because we’ll have something to learn through a transcendent experience.

(Listen to a stunning clip of Wachner’s arrangement of NICAEA here from the Opening Service of the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.)

They were joined by conductor Scott Allen Jarrett, the Marsh Chapel Choir at Boston University, the Majestic Brass Quintet, and Eric Berlin, Principal Trumpet of the Albany Symphony and Boston Philharmonic Orchestras.

UT IN THE MIDST of these extraordinary and seasoned musicians, there was another bold move—one that featured two young organists, Forrest Eimold and Janet Yieh. It paid off, as the aspirations of our young musicians are very high indeed.

Eimold is a tenth grader with the technique and poise of someone decades his senior. His performance with Eric Berlin, trumpet on Wachner’s Blue, Green, Red was technically masterful and more than worthy of a chamber collaboration with the highly seasoned and accomplished Berlin. (You can listen to their performance here.) Berlin was likewise beautifully supportive of Eimold through the rehearsal process. This is mentoring at its best. Also notable, Eimold is the Senior Organ Scholar at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a student of John Robinson.

Yieh, who closed out the service with Wachner’s “Angelus” from Triptych for Organ and Large Orchestra, is a graduate student at Yale studying with Thomas Murray. Her virtuosic performance exuded excitement. It is a joy to see a new generation of organists who set the bar high for themselves, and therefore others.

ACHNER’S MUSIC HAS BEEN HIGHLY ACCLAIMED by the New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Post to name a few. His hymn arrangements and compositions are thoroughly contemporary, yet very clean—not easy to do. A remarkable aspect of his works is that while they employ many accessible elements, he stretches the envelope and carries the listener to another level. Once it appears the piece cannot go any further, his compositions unexpectedly stretch higher to a surprisingly new level of energy, joy, and transcendence.

Wachner sets his bar high, and then surpasses it.

ATHOLICS ALSO HAVE MUSC TO LEARN from fellow Christians in how well they guard and esteem their sacred music. As such, the Reverend Dr. Carl P. Daw Jr. presided over and preached at this ecumenical service. He served as the Executive Director of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada from 1996 to 2009. Furthermore, he was a consultant member of the Text Committee for The Hymnal 1982—an indispensable hymnal for any organist. He spoke passionately about our connections to such great hymns. While these hymns are hundreds of years old, Gregorian Chant is well over a thousand. Rev. Daw’s passion for hymns sets the bar high. We must aspire just as greatly or more for our Chant.

INALLY, A MORE THAN DESERVED THANK YOU is owed to Timothy Edward Smith, President of Chesapeake Organ Service and former chair of the Organ Historical Society Citation Committee. Together with Theodore Gilbert, Smith designed and built the Smith & Gilbert Organ organ featured at this event. We experienced record heat on Boston on that day. With a division of the pipe organ near the air-conditioned sanctuary and the gallery organ in an 83-degree choir loft, Smith made heroic efforts to prepare the organ for this unusual weather. This included some last minute tuning of reeds forty minutes prior to the event.

Such preparation of the instrument and Timothy Smith’s high standards elicited this response from a colleague: “Every time I visit your church my heart soars! Thanks for hosting such an amazing event. You have that instrument honed to perfection! Stunning!” This reaction is appropriate for an instrument that was featured prominently in the 2014 AGO National Convention.

SET THE BAR HIGH. Aspire to offer God and his people your best. We may fall short. We may not have the resources of talent and finances that others have, but guard well and foster what precious gifts you do have to share.

Our sacred Treasury of Music is on the top of that list. Reach for the highest fruit. Doing so will produce much more in return.