Wednesday, June 29, 2016


On May 14 I graduated from the University of Maine (UMaine) with a Bachelor of Arts in Music!  I learned a great deal in my classes, and through participation in ensembles. I had the opportunity to use these skills in my music internship at St. Paul the Apostle Parish.  I now have a solid foundation of music knowledge that I can build on in the coming years.
Because I already have an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Delaware, I only had to take music courses to get my UMaine degree.  I completed the music course requirements in five semesters.
The UMaine professors and my fellow students were very supportive of me, even though I am not a traditional college student.

The day of graduation, the School of Performing Arts hosted a graduation breakfast reception at the University Club.  So, not only do we get to see our professors and fellow graduates, we get to campus early so it is easy to get a parking spot!

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With fellow graduating seniors from the School of Performing Arts at the University Club

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With my husband, John Bruno, and my organ professor, Kevin Birch

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With Stuart Marrs, my music history professor, and Beth Wiemann, who taught me theory, music research, and composition

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With my diploma!

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With John after the graduation ceremony

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Senior Lecture and Recital

One of the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Maine is a capstone Senior Project.  I chose to do a lecture and recital on the topic, Organ Music Through the Liturgical Seasons.
About fifty people attended my Senior Lecture and Recital on April 29, 2016 at 8:30 a.m.  I felt supported by family, University of Maine professors, and friends from church, school, and the American Guild of Organists.  Some friends flew in from New York and my brother, Gerry, and his wife, Teresa, drove up from Boston to attend.
In my lecture, I described the six liturgical seasons of the Catholic church, some resources to determine the bible readings for each day, some considerations in choosing organ music for liturgies, and some resources for church musicians.  I compiled a list of common hymns for each liturgical season and some composers who wrote organ music based on those hymns.
I then presented two posters that provide a visual way to connect organ music selections to the various liturgical seasons.
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Describing one of the posters

Here is a link to my program with the outline of my lecture, the recital program, the two hymns, translations of the Latin texts, program notes, and the stoplist for E. & G. G. Hook’s magnificent Opus 288.
I was fortunate to be joined by two special guest musicians:  Dan Conte, bass-baritone, and Anthony Viselli, violin, who both took the time to rehearse with me and perform as part of my recital.
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With Anthony Viselli and Dan Conte
I was privileged to play my Senior Recital on E. & G. G. Hook’s magnificent Opus 288, which was built in 1860 for St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor.
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At the console of E. & G. G. Hook’s Opus 288
This was a participatory recital.  You will see in the program that the people who attended were invited to join in singing two hymns.
I posted recordings of two of the recital pieces on soundcloud.
1.     St. Columba: The King of Love from Ten Hymn Preludes for Organ, Set 1 by Healey Willan (1880-1968)
Healey Willan (1880-1968) was a composer and organist who was born in England and emigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1913 where he was an Anglican church musician.  He composed for many genres, and he is best known for his sacred choral and organ music.  St. Columba is used in two hymns in the Ritual Song hymnal:  “The King of Love my Shepherd Is” and “O Breathe on Me, O Breath of God” and based on an ancient Irish tune.  Listen for the melody played in the tenor on the Choir Cremona (clarinet).
2.     Christ Lag in Todesbanden (Christ lay in death’s fetters), BWV 625, from the Orgelbüchlein by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer and musician who is generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.  During his lifetime, his abilities as an organist were highly respected. The Orgelbüchlein is a collection of 46 chorale preludes and includes music for all of the liturgical seasons.  The source of the melody for Christ Lag in Todesbanden is the Gregorian sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes (Praise the Paschal Victim), which is used in the Catholic Church as the Easter Sequence.
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Applauding my guest artists and the magnificent organ
My sweet and supportive husband, John, prepared food and coffee for a reception following the recital, so I could greet and talk to my family and friends.
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With my husband, John
I am grateful to many people for their support and encouragement as I pursued my passion for organ music and my goal to be a church musician.  I would like to thank my teachers, friends, and family.  In particular, I would like to thank my organ teacher and mentor, Kevin Birch.
To increase my skill as an organist, I need to practice regularly.  I don’t have a pipe organ in my home.  Three churches provided tremendous support by allowing me to practice on their tracker pipe organs:  St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor, Hampden Highlands United Methodist Church in Hampden, and Orono United Methodist Church in Orono.  The music directors, pastors, church administrative staff, and congregations of all three churches are very supportive and I am very grateful.  I also practiced on the small chamber pipe organ at the University of Maine.
Since last September I have been the music intern at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, St. John’s and St. Teresa’s churches.  I had many duties in the music office with the choirs and for liturgies.  I played the organ for Masses twice a month.  This experience playing for liturgies has been very helpful in building my organ-playing skills and my confidence.  I also put into practice the information I learned preparing my Senior Project when I chose the music to play for these liturgies.  I assist with the St. John’s Youth and Adult Choirs and the St. Teresa’s Schola.  In addition to excellent practical experience conducting choral music, I receive much support and encouragement from the people who give their gift of music to our congregations through these choirs.
My sister-in-law, Teresa, generously documented my lecture and recital in pictures.  Here is a link to see more pictures.
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With my brother, Gerry, and his wife, Teresa
Two friends flew from New York to attend and help with my recital.  Helen Levin and Fran Morton ushered for my recital and helped with reception logistics.

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With Helen and Fran
In summary, my Senior Lecture and Recital demonstrated the results of years of preparation and the support of many people.  I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Practice, Practice, Practice

This is my last semester in the undergraduate program at the University of Maine; I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music on May 14.  I am also serving as the music intern at St. John’s and St. Teresa’s Catholic Churches this school year.

This semester I have the luxury of having the time to practice organ, piano, and singing every day.  This is a great privilege for me.  Mostly I practice the organ for playing at church services and in preparation for my Senior Project.

About twice a month, I play the organ and prepare and lead the schola at St. Teresa’s Catholic Church.  Schola is another name for a church choir.  This is both challenging and joyful for me.  Hymns are a substantial part of the music I learn for church services.  Learning hymns and getting them up to tempo is one of my biggest challenges.  I played the organ for Easter Mass this year; it is the first time I have played for Easter, which is the most important day of the church year. 

My Senior Project is a lecture recital:  Organ Music Through the Liturgical Year.  I will describe how I choose the organ music to play for Catholic Services during the different liturgical seasons (e.g., Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter).  Then I will play some examples from various seasons.  I will be joined by violinist, Anthony Viselli, and singer, Dan Conte.

You are all invited to attend my Senior Lecture/Recital:
Organ Music Through the Liturgical Year
Friday, April 29, 2016, 8:30 a.m.
St. John’s Catholic Church
207 York Street
Bangor, Maine
A reception in the Church Hall will follow.

 I am blessed to play my recital on E. & G. G. Hook’s Opus 288 at St. John’s.  This organ is a treasure and delightful to play.  It is very responsive, has such a rich variety of sounds, and is housed is a fantastic acoustical space.

I would like to thank Collin Richardson, Assistant Professor and University Organist at Hampton University, who I met at the 2015 Organ Historical Society convention.  Collin gave me the idea to focus my Senior Project on music for the liturgical year.  This has worked very well for me because I can play the pieces I am learning for my Senior Project in church services.  As an example, I learned Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chorale Prelude, Christ Lag in Todesbanden (Christ lay in death’s fetters) from the Orgelbüchlein.  The source of the melody for this piece is the Easter sequence, Victimae paschali laudes (Praise the paschal victim).  I played this triumphant piece as the postlude on Easter Sunday.

As part of my music internship at St. John’s and St. Teresa’s churches, I assist Kevin Birch, the music director for St. John’s and St. Teresa’s, with two choirs:  The St. John’s Youth and Adult choirs.  I lead the vocal warm ups and assist with directing these two choirs.  This experience conducting is very valuable because choral conducting is very interactive and I learn so much by actually leading these choirs.

Before I began studying music at the University of Maine, I never imagined that I would write music.  My concept was that people like Bach and Mozart wrote music, and I know that I am not a musical genius like they were.  In my music theory classes last year, I wrote a couple of short pieces of music for assignments and realized that I could write music!  This inspired me to study music composition with Professor Beth Weimann, who is an accomplished composer.  This semester, I wrote a solo oboe piece inspired by the Easter Sequence, Victimae paschali laudes.  I also wrote a vocal piece with words from psalms 42 and 43.  The refrain text is “Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.”  This text is part of the Easter Vigil and can be used for funerals and other occasions.  I am learning a tremendous amount studying with Professor Wiemann.  I notice that I listen to music differently now.  I listen for interesting rhythms and harmonies that I might be able to use in compositions.  I am just beginning to write a chamber music piece, which will be the final assignment for this semester.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Final Semester and Winter Break

This is my last semester at the University of Maine, as I will graduate in May with a BA in Music.  Spring Semester started on January 19.  I am taking 12 credits this semester:

  • Senior Project.  I am developing a lecture and recital on the topic of Organ Compositions for the Liturgical Year.  My advisor is Professor Kevin Birch. This is open to the public.

Friday, April 29, 2016, 8:30 am
at St. John’s Catholic Church
207 York Street, Bangor
A Reception will follow in the Church Hall.

  • Independent study composition class with Professor Beth Wiemann.  I will write three pieces:  one for solo instrument, an art song, and a chamber music piece.
  • Piano Literature from Robert Schumann (1810-1856) to the present.
  • Organ Lessons with Kevin Birch
  • Piano Lessons with Phillip Silver
  • Voice Lessons with Marcia Gronewold Sly.

In addition to my coursework at school, I am serving as music intern at St. John’s and St. Teresa’s Catholic Churches, where, in addition to service playing, I am gaining more experience in choir training and program administration.  I am playing the organ for services at St. Teresa’s twice a month, and I am assisting Kevin Birch with the St. John’s Youth (first through eighth grades) and Adult choirs.

I sing in the St. John’s Chamber Choir, the St. John’s Adult Choir, the St. Teresa’s Schola, and the St. John’s Voices of Love (which sings at funerals).

The St. John’s Chamber Choir will present:
Musica Sacra – Lent 2016
Saturday, March 12, 2016, at 7:30 pm
St. John’s Catholic Church
207 York Street, Bangor.  
We will be performing Allegri’s Miserere (ca. 1630).  Until 1770, the Pope forbade writing this music down, so that it was exclusively performed in the Vatican.   This piece was made famous because when Mozart was 14, he heard it performed in the Sistene Chapel in the Vatican.  He then wrote it down entirely from memory.  Because of Mozart’s fame, instead of excommunicating him, the Pope praised Mozart’s musical genius.

Winter Break

During winter break I was joined by my daughter, Carletta, in New York January 13-17.  We visited friends and had the opportunity to attend several music events.

On Thursday morning, January 14, I attended a rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic in Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, under the baton of Alan Gilbert.

A poster in the lobby of David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center

The Program

Ottorino Respighi
Church Windows (1926) based on Gregorian chant melodies

Magnus Lindberg
Violin Concerto No. 2 (U.S. Premiere—New York Philharmonic Co-Commission with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra) with Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin

The Rite of Spring (1913)
This was written for the Ballet Russes in Paris and the revolutionary nature of the music and the choreography caused a near-riot when it was first performed.

Maestro Gilbert at the podium

Friday afternoon, Carletta and I visited the Museum of Modern Art where they had a special exhibit of Picasso and his contemporaries.  I particularly admired this Homage to J. S. Bach.

On Friday evening, Carletta and I attended a performance of Puccini’s Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera.

With Carletta in front of the orchestra area at the Met during intermission

On Saturday morning, I had the good fortune to practice on the Hellmuth Wolff, Opus 14 (1974), organ at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

This link shows the stop list of this mechanical-action organ:

Saturday afternoon, I attended Bizet’s Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera.

With Carletta and Julia and Helen Levine in Lincoln Center Plaza after the Pearl Fishers performance

Sunday afternoon, I attended the Choral Evensong at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.  This was followed by an organ concert by Australian Kurt Ison on the magnificent Taylor and Boody Organ.  

He played works of Heinrich Scheidemann (1595-1663), Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748), and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).