History

The American Guild of Organists (AGO) is the national professional association serving the organ and choral music fields. The Guild serves approximately 14,700 members in approximately 300 chapters throughout the United States and abroad.
Founded in 1896 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.

1911

Northern California Chapter is established on June 20, with 16 members. The first Dean, Wallace A. Sabin, was organist at Temple Emanu-El & First Church of Christ, Scientist, in San Francisco, and a faculty member at UC Berkeley. 

1912

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 year.  

1913

Five recitals on Sundays in June and July bring in a total of $257.65 (nearly $5,900 in 2011 dollars). 

1915

Chapter membership grows to 48. 

1917

Because of lack of public interest (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 members." 
San Jose and Stockton members split from the Northern California Chapter to form their own AGO chapters.

1936

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 year.  

1925

FThe Northern California Chapter Jubilee marks the Chapter’s 25th year (no details recorded). 

1912

"Pacific Coast Convention marking the 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. 

1937

Wallace Sabin, organizer and first 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." 

1938

A memorial service is held for chapter founder Wallace Sabin at
Grace Cathedral, with the mayor and San Francisco supervisors in
attendance.

1939

Richard Purvis, now in Philadelphia, 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."

1940

The chapter sponsors a recital by E. Power Biggs at Trinity Episcopal Church. 
The Membership Committee produces mimeographed circular, "Why Join the Guild?" 

1942

Gala annual dinner at Canterbury Hotel, $1.25. 

1940

"Mr. Gerhart Hadda, an outstanding English singer (personal friend of Benjamin F. Britton [sic], of Peter Grimes fame), will give us a real treat. He will be accompanied by Richard Purvis . . ."

1949

Ludwig Altman will begin a new course on "Chorale Preludes and Organ Sonatas" for the University of California Extension (at Temple Emanu-El). 
The chapter hosts the Far-Western Regional Convention.

1951

"Ten years ago we had about 100 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."

1952

The Northern California Chapter hosts the National AGO Biennial Convention in San Francisco.

1954

Board unanimously resolves "That the Northern California Chapter retain its present organic unity, since there are more advantages in unity than in division . . . 
[and] an 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." 

1961

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 Service. 
The convention also features the premiere of Kevin Norris’ concerto for organ and strings, conducted by Sowerby, to whom the music is dedicated.

1965

SFAGO sponsors weekly noontime organ recitals at Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco. 
Annual dinner is held at First Methodist Church of Oakland. Cost is $2.25 per person.

1967

Thirty-year-old Swiss organist Lionel Rogg is featured at the Far-Western Regional Convention in San Francisco, July 19-23. 

1968

Harold Mueller gives a 30-week (45-hour) course of instruction for Guild Examinations preparation, an annual class that is offered under his tutelage for several years.

1969

An all-day midwinter "Chapter Conclave Day" is added to the chapter calendar, featuring recitalist Bedrich Janacek, and exploring the theme "New Dimensions in Church Music."​ ​​

1971

"The matter of having a chapter telephone number was discussed. The consensus was that it was not feasible." 
Ted Alan Worth presents an organ recital and "light show."

1973

A three-session workshop on "A Survey 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 Symphony.

1977

The SFAGO presents the first E. Power Biggs memorial concert, establishing an annual event that continues through 1985.

1984

SFAGO hosts the National AGO Biennial Convention in San Francisco. Our 75th anniversary is celebrated during the term of Dean Richard Webb

1985

The SFAGO Special Projects Fund is established with $100,000 generated from hosting the 1984 AGO Biennial Convention.
SFAGO hosts the National AGO Biennial 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 Miklos Rozsa.

1990

The Palo Alto/Peninsula Chapter is formed from the SFAGO.

1994

Richard Purvis dies on December 25.
Purvis is best remembered for his 24 years (1947-1971) as
Organist/ChoirMaster at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco. Purvis studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia - organ with Alexander McCurdy and conducting with Fritz Reiner. Further studies were with Josef Levine in New York, Edward Bairstow in England, Marcel Dupré in Paris and, after his graduation from Curtis in 1940, with Charles Courboin (Saint Patrick's Cathedral, NYC, 1943-1973) and Charles Heinroth.