Today’s DYKYAGO features Alan Lewis, Director of Music at Calvary Episcopal Church in Shadyside. A special “Thank you!” goes out to him for being a part of the series.
Thank you for agreeing to be a part of the DYKYAGO series. When did you start to take an interest in Organ?
I first became interested in the organ at about age 10, when our church organist offered some lessons at a fund-raising auction; I started studying more seriously in high school. If I weren’t a musician, I’d probably be a teacher of some sort–that’s what I expected I’d do right through graduate school. But by some miracle, the position at Calvary was offered to me, back in 1997, and I took it. I’m awfully glad I did. I’ve been a member of the Pittsburgh Chapter since I moved here from the Bay Area.
What is your favorite Liturgical season?
Liturgically, I’m especially partial to Advent and Lent; maybe it’s just the color purple, but I also find a depth and intensity to those seasons, and their music, that is especially satisfying. If I could take only one hymn with me to a desert island, it would probably be Hyfrodol: so much music there, with only six melodic notes! A single musical work for that same exile would be Byrd’s Gradualia–I’m cheating, of course, because that’s made up of many motets, so I wouldn’t get too tired of any one of them! And “desert island” is about right, as well, for my favorite escape–Mount Desert Island, and its environs, in Maine: no summer would feel complete without it.
You are on the committee for the Organ Artists Series of Pittsburgh. Can you give us a little information about the events scheduled for the year?
I’ve had the privilege of being involved with the Organ Artists Series almost every year since I moved here, and have thus watched a great many remarkable performers come through as its guests. The coming season is still under wraps, but I can give a sneak-preview of the 2013-14 season, since we’ve just signed a contract to bring Olivier Latry back for a recital in October of 2013.
You and Ann, our Dean, are leading the AAGO preparation group. Would you like to tell us a few words about why you think AGO Certification is important?
As a sometime-educator, Guild Certification seems to me important as a way of holding up standards, valuing our profession, and demanding the best from ourselves. Being challenged by external standards of this sort can seem artificial, but it can also draw us into deeper engagement with things we might’ve allowed ourselves to leave to one side, be it particular repertoire (Sweelinck? Persichetti?), particular skills (figured bass? transposition?) or particular areas of knowledge (you name it!). It may be rather like the practice of Confession in the Anglican tradition: “all may, none must, some should.”
What are some of the joys you find in being the Director of Music at Calvary Episcopal Church?
The joys of my work at Calvary are too many to isolate, so I’ll let one occasion stand in for them all. In the Bach concert the choir sang earlier this month, the program closed with a cantata I’d fallen in love with as an undergraduate. The emotional impact of bringing that music to life here was almost too much for me, and is certainly too much to relate coherently in anything short of poetry.