First Thursday organ recital series begins this week


Monthly performances return to Asbury UMC

Special to The Gazette



For the past nine years, on the first Thursday of every month from October through May, organ recitals have been performed at Asbury United Methodist Church in Delaware.

Offered during the lunch hour, each recital is thirty minutes long, from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. The recitals are organized by Asbury’s Director of Music and Organist Sally Casto and are offered at no charge to the community. Beverages are provided and tables are set for those who wish to enjoy lunch during the recital.

Organists who will perform during the coming season, which begins Thursday, include Delaware organists Sally Casto, Joe Musser from First Presbyterian Church, and Jan Swanson; Delaware Community Chorus Director Joshua Brodbeck; OWU graduate and University of Oklahoma graduate student Alex Armstrong; and Columbus organists Robert Wisniewski, Mark Meuser, and Carol Ann Bradley.

Wisniewski, who will be the October soloist, is making his first appearance on the series. He recently retired from serving as principal organist and assistant director of music at St. Joseph Cathedral from 2004-2017. Prior to his work at the cathedral, Wisniewski was minister of music for St. Catharine Parish, Columbus, and St. Mary Parish in Marion. A native of Pennsylvania, he is a graduate of Lebanon Valley College and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.

For his program, Wisniewski has chosen to share his original composition, Sortie on “Nicaea” (Holy, Holy, Holy), J.S. Bach’s Sonata in G, the Fugue in F minor by Marcel Dupré, and the final movement of Mendelssohn’s Sonata in B-flat Major.

The decision to begin the recital series came after Asbury United Methodist Church installed a new Klais pipe organ in the spring of 2007. During the organ’s first year, many special recitals were held to introduce the organ. The first of these featured nine organists from area churches: Muriel Byers and Liza Blakeslee from St. Mary’s Catholic Church; Carol Hallenbeck from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church; Bryan White from Zion United Church of Christ; Margaret Van Sickle from Methodist Theological School; Amy Dennis from the Seventh Day Adventist Church; Joe Musser from First Presbyterian Church; Ernestine Peebles from Peachblow United Methodist Church; and Bill Johnson from St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Mansfield.

To continue the pattern of performances by area organists, Casto organized a series of recitals for the 2008-09 season, offering programs during the noontime hour. While the first recital audience was quite small, the popularity of the series has steadily grown, and now audiences frequently number between 80 and 100 listeners. The invited organists donate their services for the enjoyment of organ music fans.

Casto and Musser have played for all nine seasons and will perform again in the current recital cycle. Listeners are treated to a variety of performance styles and a broad sampling of organ repertoire. When asked to comment on why he continues to perform in the series, Musser offered these observations.

“Why play recitals at Asbury? If you want to play a flute or guitar, you can buy one. But if you want to play a pipe organ, which is so expensive and takes up so much space, you must depend on the astounding generosity of an entire community,” he said. “The members of Asbury’s congregation pooled their resources to acquire the complex and beautiful Klais pipe organ. Most of them did so with little or no expectation that they themselves would ever play it. Instead, they knew they would invite others to play it for their worship services, and for their enjoyment, edification, and delight. We who are invited to play such an instrument cannot help but to be grateful for such generosity.”

For information, please contact the Asbury Church office at 740-363-3611. Asbury is handicapped accessible from its rear parking lot entrance. The church is located at 55 W. Lincoln Ave., Delaware.

Monthly performances return to Asbury UMC

Special to The Gazette