American Guild of
Organists is the national professional association serving the organ
and choral music fields.
Founded in 1896 in New York
City, the AGO now serves 21,000 members in 352 chapters throughout the
United States and Europe.
Membership is open to all
and includes working professionals: organists, choir directors,
teachers, organ builders, technicians, and suppliers to the field, as
well as students, clergy, amateur musicians, and dedicated supporters.
Founded as both an
educational and service organization, the Guild seeks to set and
maintain high musical standards and to promote understanding and
appreciation of all aspects of organ and choral music.
Membership is through local
chapters, which hold regular meetings featuring performances, lectures,
seminars, and discussions on a wide variety of topics.
AGO educational programs
include a comprehensive series of examinations for professional
certification and an extensive catalog of publications and audio
cassette learning resources.
The Guild sponsors competitions in organ
performance and improvisation and in organ and choral composition.
National and regional
conventions, held in alternate years, present the finest performers and
AGO Mission Statement
The mission of the American
Guild of Organists is to enrich lives through organ and choral
music. To achieve this, we:
excellence in the performance of organ and choral music;
educate, and offer certification for organists and choral conductors;
networking, fellowship, and mutual support;
generations of organists;
organ in its historic and evolving roles; and
audiences with organ and choral music.
The SFAGO in Its Historical Context:
A Selected Timeline
Northern California Chapter
established on June 20, with 16 members. The first Dean, Wallace A.
Sabin, is organist at Temple Emanu-El & First Church of Christ,
Scientist, in San Francisco, and a faculty member at UC Berkeley.
The San Francisco Symphony
California special election
grants suffrage to women; amendment is passed by 3,507 votes.
Sophie Tucker visits the
The Chapter inaugural
service takes place at First Congregational Church of Oakland.
First dinner meeting of the
chapter is held at Old Poodle Dog restaurant in San Francisco.
Chapter dues are $3 per
In the news: San Francisco
Assessor survives the sinking of the Titanic.
Five recitals on Sundays
June and July bring in a total of $257.65 (nearly $5,900 in 2011
"It was decided that
regular monthly meetings of the entire chapter be instituted."
The last horse-drawn
streetcar in San Francisco ends its journey down Market Street.
Chapter membership grows
The task of creating a
Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition
World’s Fair is given to architect Bernard R. Maybeck,
who chooses as
his theme a Roman ruin, mutilated and overgrown, in the mood of a
Gasoline prices rise to 18
cents per gallon in San Francisco
"Because of lack of public
(and the great demands of war work) it was decided that for the present
it was inadvisable to give any more public recitals,
but that it would
be well to continue the informal ‘Hours in the Organ Lofts’ of its
San Jose and Stockton
members split from the Northern California Chapter to form their own
The annual meeting is held
at the Clift Hotel, marking the end of the chapter’s first decade (ten
Palace of the Legion of
Honor and the Spreckels Organ is underwritten by the Spreckels family.
Market Street Railway
not-withstanding the tremendous advance in all costs, 260,000,000
passengers, including those using transfers, rode on the Market Street
Railway Company . . . for a five cent fare,
which also entitled them to
transfers good all over the system, on cars equipped with modern
The topic of the annual
meeting is a
discussion of organists’ salaries; the SF Board of Supervisors is to be
interrogated regarding recitals by visiting organists.
The War Memorial complex
opens in the
San Francisco Civic Center with a performance of Puccini’s "Tosca,"
featuring Gaetano Merola, longtime General Director of the Opera on the
and the Claudia Muzio in the title role.
A chapter controversy:
"Since 1917, no Dean has been elected who resided on the San Francisco
side of the Bay."
For the first time, women
serve on the Musicians’ Union Board of Directors
San Francisco Ballet,
oldest professional ballet company, is founded as the San Francisco
Opera Ballet, appearing in lavish full-length opera productions and
offering evenings of "all-dance" programs throughout the year.
"Through the courtesy of
founder Wallace Sabin, members enjoyed a delightful day among the
redwoods of the Bohemian Grove on the Russian River. Altogether 31
An organ festival at takes
place at Grace Cathedral for the opening of the Skinner organ.
Al Capone is incarcerated
on Alcatraz Island.
The Northern California
Chapter Jubilee marks the Chapter’s 25th year (no details recorded).
Construction begins on the
Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
Pacific Coast Convention
chapter’s silver anniversary is held in San Francisco, with 63 people
attending. Program included recitals (Harold Mueller, Clarence Mader),
lectures ("Are Organists Necessary?"),
a choral concert, and "auto
trips around the city."
The chapter Christmas
dinner party is held at Mitzi’s Tea Room in SF, cost is 75¢ per person.
The new San Francisco Mint
The San Francisco-Oakland
opens on November 12. It remains one of the largest bridges in the
world and carries more traffic than any other toll bridge--over 270,000
vehicles each day.
Kirsten Flagstad appears at
the War Memorial Opera House.
Wallace Sabin, organizer
Dean of the chapter, encourages the use of "better English and purer
speaking tone," as Grace Cathedral organist Sidney Lewis makes a strong
plea for organists to "hold a higher opinion of their art."
San Francisco baseball
player Joe Di Maggio, the new "Bambino," tops sporting news.
The search continues for
lost aviatrix Amelia Earhart.
The Golden Gate Bridge is
and opened to pedestrian traffic on May 27; the following day it is
opened to vehicular traffic.
The bridge was first proposed in 1869 by
town eccentric "Emperor Norton."
The new San Francisco
Airport is dedicated.
A memorial service is held
chapter founder Wallace Sabin at Grace Cathedral, with the mayor and
San Francisco supervisors in attendance.
The American Federation of
Musician’s national delegates' report noted: "Certain communistic
influences within [San Francisco's] Local Six have been, for the past
sending out a communistic sheet known as 'The Score,' and certain
communistic members of our Union have been carrying the program of the
Communistic Party into the affairs of our Union."
"Richard Purvis, now in
will represent our chapter at the national convention and will be asked
to report to the chapter in August."
Annual dinner is held at
Girard’s Restaurant, 50¢ and 65¢ per plate. "A very active meeting . .
. A good meeting."
World’s Fair is held on
The chapter sponsors a
recital by E. Power Biggs at Trinity Episcopal Church.
The Membership Committee
produces mimeographed circular, "Why Join the Guild?"
The first European war
refugees arrive in San Francisco.
Headline: "Buses to
Cable Cars in San Francisco; Tracks Removed"
Diego Rivera and Frida
Kahlo visit San Francisco as part of the Golden Gate Exposition.
declares of war in a speech to Congress
Japanese war planes rumored
to be sighted over San Francisco
Gala annual dinner at
Canterbury Hotel, $1.25.
Forced evacuation of
Japanese from San Francisco.
United Nations charter
signed in San Francisco.
"Mr. Gerhart Hadda, an
English singer (personal friend of Benj. F. Britton [sic], of Peter
Grimes fame), will give us a real treat. He will be accompanied by
Richard Purvis . . ."
Ludwig Altman will begin a
on "Chorale Preludes and Organ Sonatas" for the University of
California Extension (at Temple Emanu-El).
The chapter hosts the
Far-Western Regional Convention.
"Ten years ago we had
members, all classifications included. Now our member number over 400.
And though we are four times as large as in 1941,
our facilities for
operating are no more extensive than they were then. Our officers are
therefore greatly in need of additional help."
The Northern California
Chapter hosts the National AGO Biennial Convention in San Francisco.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti and
Peter Martin open City Lights Bookstore.
Board unanimously resolves
Northern California Chapter retain its present organic unity, since
there are more advantages in unity than in division . . .
effort be made to encourage as large an attendance at possible at the
three chapter-wide events of the year: the Christmas party, the Guild
Service, and the Annual Dinner."
Joe Di Maggio marries
Marilyn Monroe at San Francisco City Hall.
5.3 magnitude earthquake
shakes the SF Peninsula, the largest since 1906.
The chapter changes its
name to the
San Francisco Chapter and hosts the Regional AGO Convention: "An
exciting program was held (both sides of the Bay), some new music . . .
and a "different" kind of affair as a "wind-up" or a "let-down" theater
party with some theatre organ, which will be quite an antithesis of
what we’ll have heard all week."
A new cantata by Leo Sowerby, "The Ark
of the Covenant," is written especially for the Convention Guild
The convention also features the premiere of Kevin Norris’
concerto for organ and strings, conducted by Sowerby, to whom the music
SFAGO sponsors weekly
noontime organ recitals at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San
The Grateful Dead is formed
and play at the Fillmore Auditorium the following year.
Annual dinner is held at
First Methodist Church of Oakland. Cost is $2.25 per person.
organist Lionel Rogg is featured at the Far-Western Regional Convention
in San Francisco, July 19-23.
The Summer of Love brings
flower power to the Haight Ashbury.
Harold Mueller gives a
(45-hour) course of instruction for Guild Examinations preparation, an
annual class that is offered under his tutelage for several years.
An all-day midwinter
Conclave Day" is added to the chapter calendar, featuring recitalist
Bedrich Janacek, and exploring the theme "New Dimensions in Church
American Indians occupy
Alcatraz to protest treatment of native peoples.
"The matter of having a
chapter telephone number was discussed. The consensus was that it was
Ted Alan Worth presents an
organ recital and "light show."
A three-session workshop
of German, French, English and American Schools of Organ Building and
Their Organ Literature" is conducted by Richard Purvis.
The opening program of the
season features Porter Heaps at Trinity Episcopal playing the Sowerby
The SFAGO presents the
first E. Power Biggs memorial concert, establishing an annual event
that continues through 1985.
Assassinations at City
Feinstein, President of the Board of Supervisors, announces,
George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot . . . and
killed. The suspect is Supervisor Dan White."
SFAGO hosts the National
Convention in San Francisco. 2,200 attended to hear recitalists
including James David Christie, David Craighead, Pamela Decker, Fenner
Douglass, Eileen Guenther,
Joyce Jones, Thomas Murray, Simon Preston,
Richard Purvis, Rollin Smith, Frederick Swann, Harald Vogel, John
Walker, John Weaver, and Gillian Weir. Music was commissioned from
composers Fred Bock,
Thea Musgrave, Henry Brant, McNeil Robinson, David
Raksin, George Crumb, Ron Nelson, John Cage, Heuwell Tircuit, and
The SFAGO Special Projects
Fund is established with $100,000 generated from hosting the 1984 AGO
Our 75th anniversary is
celebrated during the term of Dean Richard Webb
The NAMES Project AIDS
Memorial Quilt is started in San Francisco to remember those lost to
The Loma Prieta
7.1 magnitude, hits the Bay Area – initial jolt broadcast live during
the World Series.
The Palo Alto/Peninsula
Chapter is formed from the SFAGO.
The Oakland firestorm
engulfs East Bay hills.
Richard Purvis dies on
A summer Pipe Organ
Encounter is held, the chapter’s first such endeavor.
The chapter sponsors a hymn
competition "in celebration of the many diverse talents and varied
gifts of our membership." Winning hymn tune is Alexandra by John Karl
The Ethel Elizabeth
fund is established by a bequest from Mrs. Crummey in her will. Mrs.
Crummey served as Dean of the chapter from 1968-1970.
SFAGO Board establishes
Richard Purvis Memorial Fund to support organ competition scholarships.
Cable cars get first
grip operator, Fannie Mae Barnes.
The chapter sponsors its
second Pipe Organ Encounter.
The San Francisco Giants
win the World Series.
An unrestricted bequest of
is received in memory of Joanna Smullin from the First Congregational
Church of Redwood City, where she was organist for forty years.
100th anniversary of the
founding of the Chapter.
Convention in San Francisco on July 3-7, 2011,
including a 100th anniversary commemoration at the opening service.
Deans of the San Francisco
known at the Northern California Chapter