AGO Milwaukee Chapter History

Alice Leisman



millslabeled.jpgThe Milwaukee Chapter AGO was organized May 5, 1919. The first Dean was Dr. Charles H. Mills and since 1919, forty-two persons have served consecutively in this office. The Milwaukee Chapter AGO has over 300 members and is one of 350 Chapters nationwide that comprises the American Guild of Organists. The national organization was founded April 13, 1896 in New York City and celebrated its Centennial during 1995-96. The total national membership of the AGO is approximately 21,000 persons.

The most detailed history of the Milwaukee Chapter originates from the 1940’s. The first student organ contests were held then and have continued since. The chapter began publishing its newsletter PipeNotes in November 1954 with Dr. Eunice Bardell as the first editor.

The Milwaukee Chapter has hosted regional conventions of the AGO in June of 1946, 1957 and 1981. The Chapter has also presented international music festivals. The French Romantic Music Festival in 1984 and the English Romantic Music Festival in 1988 were weeklong events focusing on music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Internationally renowned artists and lecturers, including organists Robert Glasgow, Brian Jones, John Scott, musicologist Percy Young, and conductor Sir David Willcocks, presented various concerts and programs of French and English Music.

The Milwaukee Chapter urged for many years that a pipe organ should be included in the Performing Arts Center (now the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts). In 1969 this goal was realized with the installation of a 54-rank Aeolian-Skinner organ in Uihlein Hall, donated by the Miller Brewing Company. Organist E. Power Biggs played the Miller Organ in a concert with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on October 17-19, 1969. Since 1984, the Milwaukee Chapter has been a sponsor of the Miller Organ Series, which has presented renowned recitalists including Jean Guillou, Thomas Murray, Frederick Swann, Thomas Trotter, John Tuttle, Gillian Weir, Anne and Todd Wilson, and the late Keith Chapman.

Each season, the Milwaukee Chapter presents recitals, concerts and workshops that serve to further the advancement of organ and choral music. Organists who have appeared in recitals over the past 78 years have included E. Power Biggs, Diane Bish, Clay Christiansen, Clair Coci, David Craighead, Marcel Dupre, Maurice and Madeleine Durufle, Virgil Fox, Fernando Germani, Gerre Hancock, David Higgs, David Hurd, Jean Langlais, Michael Murray, Thomas Murray, Robert Noehren, John Obetz, Flor Peeters, Mary Preston, Simon Preston, Cherry Rhodes and Alexander Schreiner. Since 1991 the Chapter has presented in recital the winner of the AGO National Young Artist Competition in Organ Playing (NYACOP).

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