In today’s society, where high volume production and instant gratification often seem more valued than time-intensive artistic masterpieces, it is easy to overlook the treasures around us. Our city is blessed with exquisite masterpieces. Like the priceless treasurers that fill our historical and fine arts museums, many of Houston’s pipe organs are a magnificent testimony to the time-honored tradition of custom organ building. The HBU Smith Organ, with its breath-taking façade, will be one of the featured instruments at the American Guild of Organists (AGO), National Convention in Houston, June 19-23, 2016. Other equally stunning instruments will be featured in recitals, worship services and competitions. Houston is honored to host the 2016 AGO National Convention, the premier gathering of organists, organ enthusiasts and other musicians. At this five-day event, the timeless craft of organ-building will be showcased through our city’s many exquisite pipe organs. The AGO is a professional organization dedicated to the promotion of the organ in its historic and evolving roles, and encourages excellence in the performance of organ and choral music providing a forum for mutual support, inspiration, education, and certification of Guild members. Every other year, the AGO holds a national convention in a major U.S. city that reflects the diverse aspects of the guild and its official work across the country. In 2010, Dr. Rhonda Furr, professor of music at HBU, was named Convention Coordinator for AGO 2016 National Convention. The AGO National Convention will be held June 19-23, 2016, and will showcase Houston’s superb instruments through performances by world-class organists, present world premiers of creative new music, and provide enlightening workshops and inspirational worship services. AGO National Conventions attract 1500-2000 organists, organ enthusiasts and other musicians from five continents. The AGO is committed to education and community outreach beyond its membership. The Houston convention will engage college students, youth and families by offering significant discounts for college students, a youth day (including concerts at HBU) and family-oriented programs. The convention will host a national performing competition for young organists and showcase several other young artists. The 2016 Convention will also feature winning pieces from a church music composition competition. Unlike many professional conventions that employ a staff to plan, coordinate and execute each detail of national conventions, AGO conventions are designed and led by volunteers who are more accustomed to sitting at an organ bench than learning how to build a web-based registration platform, create contracts, or map out convention spaces. While a National Headquarters office provides guidance, the detailed planning of each AGO convention is dependent on the volunteers. Each person involved committed several years to this worthwhile project. “We are motivated by the global impact of this ‘gift of time’ to our area of passion! It has been both a rewarding and exhausting journey,” said Furr. “When I sought permission from our HBU administrators to accept the position of coordinator of a national convention six years ago, I was not only encouraged to do so, but offered full University support.” In addition to the use of our beautiful Létourneau pipe organ in Belin Chapel, HBU provided office and meeting spaces, a student assistant, administrative support and the use of the HBU vans and buses. This partnership between HBU and the AGO has brought valuable recognition to the University both locally and nationally. You are invited to join organ enthusiasts from around the globe for this historic Houston arts event. For more information and ticket sales for individual concerts, available beginning May 15, go to AGOHouston2016. com. All worship services (excluding Opening Convocation and the Hymn Festival) are free and open to the public. The convention recitals at HBU will be held on Tuesday, June 21, 2:00- 2:50 and repeated at 4:00-4:50 pm. The performances feature the 2014 National Organ Competition winner, Jonathan Rudy, and the 2014 National Organ Improvisation winner, Patrick Scott.
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