Polish the Gem


On Sunday, April 27 at 4:00 p.m., St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral will celebrate the Eleventh Anniversary of the dedication of the Berghaus pipe organ with a recital by renowned organist Canon Mark Laubach.

Since January 1985, Canon Laubach has served as Organist and Choirmaster of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre, where he administers an active liturgical and choral music program, concert series, and Music from St. Stephen’s, a radio broadcast heard weekly on WVIA 89.9 FM Public Radio. A graduate of Westminster Choir College and the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, and formerly a Fellow in Church Music at Washington National Cathedral, Canon Laubach has performed in many of the most prominent churches and concert halls in the USA, Great Britain, and Germany. He has recorded three critically acclaimed compact discs on the Pro Organo label … Teutonc Titanics, French Fest, and Mosaics in Sound.

To celebrate the anniversary of his 2003 dedicatory recital, Canon Laubach has chosen a program of music which will entertain those listening and will also exploit the vast colors and range of the magnificent Berghaus Organ. The recital will open with an organ transcription of William Walton’s Crown Imperial March, which was originally composed in 1937 for the coronation of King Edward VIII of Great Britain. As Edward VIII abdicated before he was crowned, Walton’s new, stirring march was instead used for the coronation of his brother, King George VI, the subject of the recent, highly acclaimed film, The King’s Speech, and father of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

After the Walton march, Canon Laubach will play Johann Sebastian Bach’s exciting Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543, followed by four hymn preludes by Bach, Paul Manz, Gerre Hancock, and the recently departed Norwegian composer Egil Hovland. Before the playing of each hymn prelude, all assembled will have the chance to stretch their legs and their vocal cords by singing verses of the hymns upon which the organ pieces are based. Since the primary job of the wonderful instrument is to accompany the singing of congregations and choirs, this will be a most appropriate and inspiring addition to the program.

Following a brief intermission, Canon Laubach will perform Charles-Marie Widor’s beloved Toccata from his Symphony No. 5 for Organ. Interestingly, he has chosen to play three of the previous four movements of this grand symphony, which are performed not nearly as frequently as the famous Toccata. This is to give all in attendance the unique opportunity to hear the Toccata in its proper context.

After the Widor symphony, the audience will have a chance to hear some of the more lush sounds of the Berghaus Organ, including the beautiful harp and chimes in Leo Sowerby’s Carillon.

To close the program, Canon Laubach has chosen a regal, joyous blockbuster that will summon up all the forces of the instrument … the grand Finale from Alexandre Guilmant’s Sonata No. 1 for Organ in D Minor.

Finally, for those who may want something more after the Guilmant, he will present a very special, entertaining encore, which will remain a secret until it is performed. Canon Laubach assures us the encore is sure to bring a smile to the faces of all music lovers present.

Admission is free; however, a free-will offering will be accepted to help maintain the health of the Berghaus Organ. Immediately after the recital, the audience is invited to attend a lovely reception hosted by St. Stephen’s Music and Parish Life Committees.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Pro-Cathedral is located at 35 South Franklin Street in the heart of downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Free parking is available next to the church. For more information, go to its website.

Our Spring Members’ Recital will be held on Saturday, May 3 at 7:00 p.m. at Saint Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, 134 South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre. Mark Ignatovich will be the host organist for this event.

The church’s more than century-old organ, built by the Müller and Abel Organ Company, was refurbished by Patrick J. Murphy and Associates in 2013. The instrument has three manuals (Choir, Great, and Swell) and pedal with 46 ranks of pipes.

All chapter members are invited to participate!

If you are interested in performing, please contact Mike Sowa by Wednesday, April 23 with the titles and composers of the pieces you would like to perform. Classical organ compositions, hymn-based works, and improvisations are welcome.


This coming Sunday’s (February 16th’s) Music from St. Stephen’s on WVIA 89.9 FM will be a program Mark Laubach has recorded in memory of Father Al Wagaman. Father Wagaman, who served as our chaplain, passed away on December 13, 2013.

The program will air twice on Sunday, at 7:00 am and 4:00 pm. People who can’t get good reception of WVIA where they live have the option of listening to the program live online at WVIA’s website.


On November 3, members of the Pennsylvania Northeast Chapter conducted their third annual “Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza” program at Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston. The Rev. Dr. Carol Fleming, pastor, and Carl D. Ruck, minister of music and AGO chapter member, hosted the event. The program opened with the presentation of Daniel Burton’s Rex: The King of Instruments with Raphael Micca, sub-dean, narrating and Mike Sowa, dean, playing the organ. Participants were given a chance to get an up-close look at the organ console and the pipe chambers and to observe a collection of pipes taken from an area organ which is no longer in existence. Several of the attendees of varying ages and levels of experience sat down to play the church’s pipe organ. At the end of the program, pizza and refreshments were served free of charge in the church’s fellowship hall, where chapter member Mark Pall demonstrated a hand-cranked busker organ he built from scratch and chapter sub-dean Raphael Micca led a series of games with the children who attended the program.

The Blessing and Rededication of the pipe organ at St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, 134 South Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre will take place on Friday, November 1 (The Solemnity of All Saints) at 7:00 p.m. The program will include the performance of organ works by J.S. Bach, Francois Couperin, and Gaston Dethier along with hymn singing by all in attendance and by the parish choirs. All are invited to attend the rededication.


St. Mary’s pipe organ was built by Müller and Abel, New York City in 1902 (Opus 60). It was rebuilt in 1927 by the Möller organ company of Hagerstown, Maryland. This year’s rebuild was completed by Patrick Murphy of Stowe, Pennsylvania.

The pipe organ has been called the “King of Instruments.” The sounds of the pipe organ have inspired worshippers for centuries. Great composers have written countless works for the instrument. Pipe organs have been installed in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls and theaters. The American Guild of Organists is passionate about the pipe organ and we want to share our love with a new generation.


Join us on Sunday, November 3 at Church of Christ Uniting in Kingston from 2:00 – 4:00 PM for Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza. Participants will receive a behind the scenes tour of the instrument in addition to a chance to play it themselves (and eat some pizza!). All are welcome to attend. Students currently studying the piano are encouraged to bring a piece to play on the organ.

Presenters for the event are Michael Sowa and Raphael Micca, local organists with backgrounds in music education and church music. Carl Ruck, Minister of Music at Church of Christ Uniting, is the host.



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