The Albuquerque Chapter of the American Guild of Organists was chartered in December 1946. The chapter boasted an initial membership of ten to twelve under the leadership of Nina Ancona, a member of the University of New Mexico music faculty. Although the Cathedral Church of St. John (Episcopal) housed the city’s only significant pipe organ at that time, the young chapter thrived and was instrumental in bringing internationally-acclaimed recitalists to Albuquerque during those early years, among them Claire Coci, Jean Langlais, Flor Peeters and Simon Preston.
The late Wesley Selby brought new vigor and vision to the chapter and in 1952 he served as coordinator for a successful regional convention, the first to be hosted by Albuquerque Chapter AGO. Over the next two decades the University of New Mexico acquired a Holtkamp organ for its recital hall, and other important builders Casavant, Reuter, Wicks and Moller completed installations in local churches. Albuquerque Chapter quickly established a pattern of collaboration with those institutions to bring outstanding artists such as Virgil Fox, Gillian Weir and Anton Heiller to the community. The chapter has also collaborated with the Chorister’s Guild, the New Mexico Music Teachers’ Association, the New Mexico Composers’ Guild and other organizations in presenting programs over the years.
Albuquerque Chapter AGO hosted Region VII conventions in 1983, 1993 and 2009, has commissioned several new works for organ by local composers, and has sponsored frequent Pipe Organ Experiences for young people and beginning adult organists. The chapter administers a recital fund made possible by a generous bequest from a longtime chapter treasurer and a scholarship fund established in honor of another influential member whose passion was education. This fund has enabled local young people to pursue their interest in organ playing at both local and national levels. The chapter also provides assistance to churches in need of musicians and to members seeking positions.
Despite its name, Albuquerque Chapter AGO has a large contingent of members in northern New Mexico. Over the past few years the chapter has programmed several events in Santa Fe each season and has elected to the Executive Committee a number of colleagues from the “northern kingdom.”
Edwina Beard, Past Dean of the Albuquerque Chapter AGO