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American Guild of Organists in Boston

posted Jul 5, 2014, 2:47 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 5, 2014, 2:49 PM ]
Two weeks ago I went to Boston for the fifty-second biennial National Convention of the American Guild of Organists. A convention is like a gigantic reunion: it provides an opportunity to see colleagues as we reinvigorate ourselves; and plan and strategize more inspiring music for our worship services. But it's also a big 'organ crawl", touring churches and their organs... 

Mass is celebrated twice daily at the Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Because of its long association with the Redemptorist Fathers, “Mission Church” is one of fifty-four minor basilicas in the U.S. entitled to its own coat of arms and a papal umbrellina, kept half-open to signify its readiness to host His Holiness at any moment. Holy Cross Cathedral, with a seating capacity of 1,700, is New England’s largest church. And its 1875 Hook & Hastings organ is now the largest surviving nineteenth-century organ. The Memorial Church at Harvard University in Cambridge has two organs; one just built in 2012 and a recycled, re-engineered and reconditioned one from 1930.

By 1862, Boston’s West End was largely Irish Catholic, so the diocese purchased a Congregational church and created St. Joseph’s. Then their steady influx into Protestant Cambridge led to yet another retrofitting of a disused church, creating St. Paul’s in Harvard Square in 1873. By 1888, Irish staff working for fashionable Back Bay families appealed to the bishop for a church closer to their live-in employment, so St. Cecilia’s was born.

Oddly, the AGO didn’t plan an event at the Historical Old North Church. But I went there anyway, whispering to myself, “One if by land, two if by sea…