American Guild of Organists regional convention Apollo’s Fire, pipe organists to perform at gathering

Thursday, June 29, 2017



The Great Lakes Regional Convention of the American Guild of Organists will take place in Youngstown Sunday through Wednesday at various locations, and will feature some of the top performers in the genre, including Apollo’s Fire.

The convention is five years in the making and marks its first time in Youngstown.

About 200 participants began arriving this week from the Great Lakes region and as far away as California, said Adam Zagotti, convention coordinator.

The convention-goers are booked at the Holiday Inn in Boardman, where music vendors have set up display booths for them.

The performances, however, are open to the public and will take place at several halls and churches in the area. A complete schedule can be found at

Zagotti wanted to utilize several venues in order to give visitors an opportunity to see all of the city. “We’re going everywhere,” he said. “When they leave, they’ll know a little something about Youngstown.”

Zagotti said it has become a tradition to have the regional convention over Fourth of July weekend because many participants have the time off and are able to get away.

Although Youngstown is lucky to have several large pipe organs, the only other time a regional gathering of these instrumentalists took place here was in 1926.

“It was just for eastern Ohio, and it was also intended to introduce a new hall that had just opened called Stambaugh Auditorium,” said Zagotti with wry wit. Stambaugh, of course, has become widely known for its world-class acoustics and pipe organ. The hall also generously donated its use to the convention and also acted as a major underwriter, along with Denise DeBartolo York and some other AGO chapters.

The four-day event will kick off with a free concert at 4 p.m. Sunday by Craig Cramer, organ professor at the University of Notre Dame, at Bliss Recital Hall on the Youngstown State University campus.

Cramer’s performances are frequently heard on the nationally syndicated radio program “Pipedreams,” and he has 15 recordings to his credit.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, David Jonies will perform Worship Evensong at Christ Episcopal Church, with brass and choir.

The main highlight of the convention will be the internationally known string ensemble Apollo’s Fire: The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, which will present a concert titled “Vivaldi Rediscovered” at 3 p.m. Monday at St. Columba Cathedral on Wood Street. Tickets are $20 at the door.

“Apollo’s Fire is an orchestra centered around a harpsichordist,” said Zagotti. A harpsichord is a piano-like instrument that was a key part of the Baroque era.

The Arsenal Duo (organist Edward Allen Moore and pianist Nathan Carterette) will perform at 7 p.m. Monday at Stambaugh Auditorium, followed by the silent movie “Nosferatu” featuring organist Todd Wilson. Tickets are $10 ($5 for seniors and students) and are available at the Stambaugh box office, by phone at 330-259-0555 and online at

Illuminaire, a local choir under the direction of Jon Simsic, will present a free choral concert at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Church, 410 Oakhill Ave. The performance will make use of a pipe organ that was donated to the parish in 2013 by John Knox Presbyterian Church when that church closed due to declining membership. The organ was first played at John Knox on Christmas Eve, 1927.

Caroline Oltmanns, a music professor at Youngstown State University and a renowned pianist, will give a free recital Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in the Ford Recital Hall at the DeYor Performing Arts Center, 260 W. Federal St.

Acclaimed organist Nathan Laube will present a recital Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 30 W. Front St. Laube is a professor of organ at Eastman School of Music. Donations will be accepted at the door.

Rhonda Sider-Edgington, along with YSU faculty member Stacie Mickens and Kathryn Umble, will perform a concert at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Christine Church, 3165 S. Schenley Ave. The concert will feature organ, horn and flute.

The grand finale concert will take place at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Stambaugh Auditorium with James David Christie, organist of the Boston Symphony and a world-renowned organist, along with the Youngstown Scoring Stage Orchestra. This performance will utilize Stambaugh’s massive and fully restored E.M. Skinner pipe organ with full orchestra. Tickets are $10 through the Stambaugh box office.