Monday, June 26, 2017
10:00-10:50 a.m.
Omni Hotel

Choose one of two workshops:

Choir Rehearsal Strategies: The Key to Your Ensemble’s Success

Erin Freeman, Michael Simpson

This workshop is sponsored by organists and AGO members who sing in the Richmond Symphony Chorus: Kevin Barger, Sharon Freude, Liz Goodwin, Ella Johnson, Kenna Payne, Nancy Reed, Jayne Sneed, and Sally Warthen.

Creating a rehearsal environment that is exciting, educational, and entertaining has very little to do with the personality of the leader, the jokes told from the podium, or even the music being rehearsed. It comes down to planning. A well-thought-out rehearsal allows the director to build little successes rather than constantly fix mistakes. This leads to a regular sense of accomplishment for your singers. Learn techniques of small-scale “additive” rehearsing, large-scale rehearsal preparation, and long-term strategic planning, all geared towards uplifting the singers and, ultimately, your choral program.

Hailed by the press as engaging, elegant, and entertaining, Erin Freeman holds a joint position as the Director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus and the Director of Choral Activities at Virginia Commonwealth University. This joint position follows seven successful years as the Richmond  Symphony’s Associate Conductor. It includes overseeing all choral ensembles at VCU as well as vocal chamber music, and preparing the 150-voice Richmond Symphony Chorus for all of its performances. In addition to her work in Richmond, Ms. Freeman just completed her second season as Artistic Director of Wintergreen Performing Arts, a summer music festival and academy in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. In summer 2015, she made her debut with Berkshire Choral International and the Springfield Symphony. She has instructed national seminars for the Conductor’s Guild, which she serves as vice president. Winner of numerous awards, including the Women’s Philharmonic Conducting Scholarship, Freeman was selected by Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly as one of Virginia’s 50 most influential women. She holds degrees from Northwestern University, Boston University, and Peabody Conservatory. Her teachers have included Gustav Meier, Victor Yampolsky, Markand Thakar, Helmuth Rilling, Murry Sidlin, and Robert Shaw.

Michael Simpson is a graduate of the University of Richmond with a major in organ performance. He served as Minister of Music and Organist at Ginter Park Baptist Church in Richmond for more than 30 years. He was then Assistant Director of Music at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. He directed and sang with the Richmond Renaissance Singers for 20 years. He currently serves as Organist of Second Presbyterian Church, Coordinator of Music for the evening Contemplative service at St. Stephen’s, and Assistant Director and accompanist for the Richmond Symphony Chorus.


The Legacy of Anton Heiller

Thomas Lee Bailey, Grant Hellmers, Christa Rakich, Paula Pugh Romanaux, Bruce Stevens

This workshop is sponsored by Thomas Lee Bailey, CAGO.

Anton Heiller was one of the most famous and important concert organists and organ teachers in the last half of the 20th century. He gained world-wide admiration for his interpretation of the works of J.S. Bach and Max Reger. His recordings were considered definitive. His Bach classes at the famous Haarlem Organ Academy in Holland every summer were always sold out and are now legendary. He attracted scores of students from all over the world to his teaching studio in Vienna. Five of those students will discuss the amazing performances and revolutionary insights of this towering musician–the one who simply understood.

Tom Bailey began his organ lessons with Verta Blake and Ron Davis in Hopewell, VA. Later studies and a degree in organ performance were at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with Lawrence Robinson and Ardyth Lohuis. Bailey then traveled to Vienna, Austria where he specialized in the music of J.S. Bach with organist and pedagogue Anton Heiller. Learn More

Grant Hellmers is Organist and Choirmaster at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia.  Prior to this position he was Organist and Music Director at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia.   In Richmond he directed the Richmond Renaissance Singers then the Richmond Concert Chorale for many years.

A native of Australia, Grant Hellmers holds an honors degree in music (B.Mus.) from the Canberra School of Music and a graduate degree in education (M. Ed.) from the Canberra College of Advanced Education.

In Europe, he studied organ with Anton Heiller in Vienna at the Hochschule für Musik, and with Marie-Claire Alain in Paris.  He participated in master classes at Haarlem (Anton Heiller and Daniel Roth), with Jean Guillou, and with Hans Vollenweider (Zürich).   In the U.S. he has participated in master classes conducted by Dame Gillian Weir, Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, Marie-Claire Alain, Guy Bovet and many others.

He has given organ recitals in Vienna (Austria), Paris (France), for OHS Conventions, and in Richmond, Roanoke, Staunton and elsewhere.

Active in the Richmond Chapter of the AGO, Grant Hellmers has been Dean and has served on various committees including the Program Committee for the 1995 and 2017 Mid-Atlantic Region Conventions. He has also served as a POE teacher in Richmond.

Concert and recording artist Christa Rakich currently directs the music program at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in West Hartford, CT, in addition to her appointment as Artist-in-Residence at First Congregational Church in Somers, CT. Previous Artist-in-Residencies include the University of Pennsylvania and First Lutheran Church in Boston. Teaching posts have included New England Conservatory, Westminster Choir College, Brandeis University, and the University of Connecticut. She has also served as Assistant University Organist at Harvard University. Learn More

Bruce Stevens has received accolades for his “artistic organ playing” in which “discretion, cleanness, clarity, and stylistic awareness are tempered by purely musical values…one of the few who is able to achieve expressivity in the romantic sense via agogic stresses and to do it without sentimentality.” (American Record Guide, 9/10, 2001) He is active as a recitalist in the U.S. and Europe and has performed recitals for 21 annual national conventions of the Organ Historical Society, for several regional conventions of the American Guild of Organists, and for national conventions of the American Institute of Organbuilders. Learn More