Timeless Praise

Six years ago, I played an organ video for Will. It was one of my favorite hymns of all time, Holy God We Praise Thy Name. The organist in the video was Stephen Tharp, one of the world’s leading organists, who had recorded that hymn at his church  in New York. Will was 13 at the time, and was two years away from even starting organ lessons.

(Parenthetically, Will later got to meet Mr. Tharp when he came to perform on the Schantz pipe organ at Gesu Church in Milwaukee. Tom and Will’s first and beloved organ mentor, John Weissrock, posed for a photo after the concert.)

Fast forward to this weekend, and Will is playing the pipe organ at the 150th anniversary for a church. One of the hymns he is playing with the congregation, is this same one, Holy God We Praise Thy Name. His father is accompanying the hymn also with a brass quintet. The roof will be lifted with the beautiful sound of brass, organ and voices.

It goes without saying that the king of instruments, the pipe organ, is the fitting choice for accompanying this great hymn of praise. The organist and music express the words and meaning of the hymn that, in a very clear, doctrinal and confessional way, points to our Heavenly Father, who is worthy of all praise. Here is the full text of the hymn, and below that, the video!

Holy God, we praise Thy Name;
Lord of all, we bow before Thee!
All on earth Thy scepter claim,
All in Heaven above adore Thee;
Infinite Thy vast domain,
Everlasting is Thy reign.

Hark! the loud celestial hymn
Angel choirs above are raising,
Cherubim and seraphim,
In unceasing chorus praising;
Fill the heavens with sweet accord:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord.

Lo! the apostolic train
Join the sacred Name to hallow;
Prophets swell the loud refrain,
And the white robed martyrs follow;
And from morn to set of sun,
Through the Church the song goes on.

Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three we name Thee;
While in essence only One,
Undivided God we claim Thee;
And adoring bend the knee,
While we own the mystery.

Thou art King of glory, Christ:
Son of God, yet born of Mary;
For us sinners sacrificed,
And to death a tributary:
First to break the bars of death,
Thou has opened Heaven to faith.

From Thy high celestial home,
Judge of all, again returning,
We believe that Thou shalt come
In the dreaded doomsday morning;
When Thy voice shall shake the earth,
And the startled dead come forth.

Therefore do we pray Thee, Lord:
Help Thy servants whom, redeeming
By Thy precious blood out-poured,
Thou hast saved from Satan’s scheming.
Give to them eternal rest
In the glory of the blest.

Spare Thy people, Lord, we pray,
By a thousand snares surrounded:
Keep us without sin today,
Never let us be confounded.
Lo, I put my trust in Thee;
Never, Lord, abandon me.

Just a Song at Twilight

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall,
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng
Low to our hearts Love sang an old sweet song;
And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,
Softly it wove itself into our dream.

Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick’ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho’ the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love’s old song,
comes Love’s old sweet song.

Even today we hear Love’s song of yore,
Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore.
Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day.
So till the end, when life’s dim shadows fall,
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.

Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick’ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho’ the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love’s old song,
comes Love’s old sweet song.


Will’s Home – Just in Time for Mother’s Day!

Will’s back home from his first year at college. He had a wonderful year at Wheaton College Conservatory and made the Dean’s List. We are thrilled to have him home again, but he’s working hard this summer with a landscape company, so we’ll catch him when we can.  Here’s Will playing Toccata Festiva by Purvis which expresses the feeling of having our son home again. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

A Little Thunder From Vierne

Will is preparing for three organ auditions at three different schools in the next few weeks. He wrote some things for recently for school about why organ was such a passion in his life, and I thought I would share it.

stroberts1I began piano and violin lessons at age five, percussion when I was twelve, and finally organ before my freshman year of high school. I have spent hours daily practicing one instrument or another for almost 10 years now. I didn’t particularly enjoy the piano, violin or percussion, but when I began playing the organ, I was instantly hooked. In fact, I was so enthralled with it that I quit both violin and percussion soon after, so I could give more time to my new favorite instrument. 3 ½ years later, my passion for the organ has only grown.
Thanks to my background in piano, the learning curve into the organ was not difficult. My teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner, is an excellent organist who studied in Europe with some of the world’s greatest organ names, including Flor Peeters and Jean Langlais. In my early days of playing, she provided me a solid technical foundation by demanding excellence in rhythm, articulation, and musical details. She never allowed sloppiness or shortcuts in fingering or pedaling—her attention to detail allowed me to progress very quickly into more difficult repertoire, and instilled in me a clean, exciting style of playing.
After only a year of lessons, I was presented with my first performing opportunities. Sister Mary Jane had me play several pieces at a weekly concert in October 2011. This performance taught me many lessons about mental preparation for playing—I learned (the hard way) that forgetting to change from dress shoes to organ shoes can lead to trouble in playing the pedals. In January 2012, I also played a joint concert with Mr. John Weissrock at Gesu Parish—performing on the 115 rank Schantz organ, one of the finest in the Midwest. It was a truly memorable experience.
In January of 2012, Sister Mary Jane told me about a position at a local Lutheran Church—I played about 36 Sunday morning services there throughout 2012, experience that truly transformed my playing. Suddenly, I was forced to have new preludes, postludes, offering pieces, liturgy and hymns ready every week. I became adept at mastering pieces quickly, accompanying a congregation, and acting in a professional manner throughout that year of habitual performance.
In March of 2013, I participated in the American Guild of Organists’ RCYO Competition.willsenior14 It was my first experience playing in competition, and it was incredibly good for me. I had to make appropriate registrations for my pieces on an unfamiliar organ in a limited amount of time, and be ready to perform after only a few hours of preparation on that organ. Although I finished 3rd of the 3 contestants, I got high scores from the 3 judges in the competition, and great insights from all of them.
To me, there is nothing quite as exhilarating, satisfying, or profoundly communicative as playing the pipe organ. From the moment I first played an organ, I knew it was the instrument my soul most resonated with—that it reflected who I am better than anything else.”
~Will Schlueter
Here’s a little clip of Will at Gesu Parish this last week playing a movement of  Louis Vierne’s First Symphony, a piece he is playing for auditions. The clip is only three minutes, but it expresses the full power and excitement of the instrument Will loves!

Midnight Music

Late one night recently I came downstairs for some water and was surprised to see the basement door open and the light on.

Putting my (hearing impaired) ear down the stairway, I heard the soft strains of music. It was Will, keeping a lonely vigil at his organ in the night hours. Will’s love of organ has become a single focus in his young life. I find him in the family room listening, listening, listening to organ performances on YouTube and on CD’s and spending hours alone practicing in his basement hideout.

What does a 17-year-old young man find in music written so long ago? The answer is that he finds in it the same thing that the composers did, and perhaps only serious musicians who write or who play the music fully understand what that is. We who love to listen to music understand up to a point. Those who can look at a page of black squiggles and markings and translate that into glorious sound understand and love it at an even deeper level. At least that’s what I think.

You can’t give love of music to a child. You can create an appreciation and share what you know, but passion for making music is something inside a person. It’s either there or it’s not. Will has been surrounded by good music from before he was born. When I was expecting him, I used to lie next to my boombox and play classical music from Bach to Stravinsky. I thought it couldn’t hurt to give a preborn babe some music appreciation. Then he accompanied his father to trumpet performances at churches all over. He sat through a Skylight performance at age 6 in the orchestra pit and never moved an inch the whole time. He was taken to the Chicago Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony and many other concerts. He has heard musicals and operas and symphonies of all kinds. But ultimately, his own love and desire to make serious music has come from inside of him. And only God can give that. Nobody can take credit for the interests and gifts our children have, whatever they are. We can only try to be good stewards of them.

In a world where entertainment media dominate so much of our children’s lives, it was a glad moment to realize that Will could be satisfied late at night, with only God and himself, making music on his organ.

(I found this music on his desk today! I’m not sure what it is, but it looks a little challenging.)


A Little Night Music

Will’s concert last Saturday evening went well. Sometimes as a parent you step back and just ask, “Where in the world did that come from?” My favorite pieces that he played were improvisations on several hymns, including, Savior of the Nations Come, Be Thou My Vision, Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word, and Alleluia, Sing to Jesus. Also, I enjoyed his playing Bach’s In Thee is Gladness, a joyful burst of sound in that dark church. Many times, I don’t get to hear what he is practicing in the basement, so to hear the final result is always interesting.

I have the recording of the Bach piece which I’d like to share, but non-techno Mom has to wait for son to turn it into an individual mp3 from the digital recording. At the end, he was asked if he had an encore in his pocket somewhere. When he whipped out with the opening measures of the Widor, it drew laughs from the organists in the crowd. (Pretty big pocket if you have the Widor in it!) He played it from memory and then told me in the car that he was glad he hadn’t forgotten it as he hadn’t played it in a while. (Well, yes, it is a good thing!)





Notes from the Basement

I post a lot of music on here, because it is such a part of my life. Last night I realized how long it had been since I’d touched an organ. I play piano, but had not played the organ since I had a small one of my Grandma’s in my living room when the kids were much younger. I used to play hymns at night and found it very restful.

Last night, I sat down at Will’s digital Hauptwerk organ in the basement and decided to play a few hymns and songs. After enjoying myself thoroughly, I asked Will if he would give me lessons. He agreed good-naturedly with a grin. (It’s funny that roles are reversed as I used to help him when he began piano!)

It’s a very healing and joyful thing to make music of your own, no matter how humble. Taking music lessons as a child may not always produce a grand musician, but it can be a source of great personal enjoyment, and I think music in the home is a very lovely thing for children. Emmy sat on the bench next to me, amused that I was playing her “Bubba’s” organ. (Will’s nickname is “Bubba” to Em.) Then I asked if she would like to sing some of her Bible songs. She belted out her favorite, pleased to have my organ accompaniment.

Here is a lovely rendition of the first song I played on the organ in many years last night. The video features a harp and a voice singing the (Swedish) gospel song, Day by Day. The words are on the screen. I love it when they put up the words!