The First Congregational Church, Williamstown, is pleased to announce the inaugural program of the Markgraf Memorial Organ Series. The series is designed to feature the church’s fine pipe organ and to honor the memory of Hodge and Nancy Markgraf, long-time dedicated members of the congregation and supporters of music at the church. This year’s recital will be held on Sunday, October 30 at 3:00 p.m. at the church, and will feature organist Timothy Pyper.
An accomplished recitalist, Pyper has won First Prize in numerous regional and national organ competitions including the Arthur Poister Memorial Competition (2008), and the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ National Competition (2001). He was a featured performer at the 2002 R.C.C.O National Convention and was described by The American Organist as possessing “effortless technique and sensitive musicality.” His solo recitals have been broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and by National Public Radio’s Pipedreams.
Pyper holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Cornell University where he studied with Annette Richards and David Yearsley. His dissertation focused on the performance practice of early 20th-century English organ music. He received his B.M., M.M. and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music as a student of David Higgs and he holds the Fellowship diploma from the Royal Canadian College of Organists. Other significant teachers have included Giles Bryant, John Tuttle, William Porter (improvisation) and Barbara Lister-Sink (piano). He presently divides his time between western Massachusetts and New York City where he is a teacher-trainee of the Alexander Technique
From 2010-2015, Tim Pyper was Director of Music at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Under his leadership, the choir developed into a highly refined ensemble, giving the North American premiere of David Briggs’ Messe pour Saint Sulpice with the composer at the organ. Both CD recordings made at the cathedral under his leadership were nationally broadcast and in 2013 the choir spent a highly successful week as choir-in-residence at Exeter Cathedral. Dr. Pyper’s previous church appointments include tenures as Assistant Organist at St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto and Organist of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rochester, New York.
For the 1914 remodeling of the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church, the choir loft was moved to a position at the back of the room, traditional in Colonial New England design. The original organ in this configuration was by the Hall Company, of New Haven. In 1956, the Andover Organ Company was brought in to design the current instrument. In this excellent acoustical environment, they created an organ that sounds full, yet clear and bright. According to Minister of Music, Edwin Lawrence, the sound quality would have been surprising in its day, different from the “orchestrally designed” American organs and pointing to a move back to an older ideal. In fact, Charles B. Fisk, who joined the Andover Company on this project, went on to found his own organ-building company which has been at the forefront of this movement over the past 60 years.
Mr. Pyper’s program will include music by Baroque masters Dietrich Buxtehude and J. S. Bach, as well as 19th century composers Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann and César Franck. Continuing to demonstrate the versatility of the organ, music by the British 20th century composer, Herbert Howells will be offered, as well as a transcription from an opera by American composer, Philip Glass.
J. Hodge and Nancy Markgraf were long time members of First Church, joining shortly after they moved to Williamstown in 1959 when Hodge began a distinguished teaching career in the chemistry department at Williams. Hodge served the College in many capacities including membership on the Angevine Committee which recommended dropping fraternities, as provost and as vice president for alumni and development. The stone bench in the science quad, designed by Jenny Holzer, is Hodge’s iconic memorial. It features many of the chemical equations he taught for so many productive years.
After raising their daughters Carrie and Sarah, Nancy Hart Markgraf headed the Visiting Nurse Association while serving on multiple church committees and being an active College hostess. Nancy and Hodge always sat and listened to the organ postlude at church while most of the congregants were scrambling for the exits. Their practice eventually became incorporated into the church service. Now everyone remains seated for the organ postlude.
The organ recital is open to all, with a suggested donation of $10, students free. The church is handicapped accessible. For more information, contact the office of the First Congregational Church, 413-458-4273.