I have just returned from a marvelous conference at the University of Kansas celebrating the tricentennial of Bach’s arrival in Leipzig, as well as the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Division of Organ and Church Music. The keynote speaker was George Stauffer (Rutgers University), who in Spring 2024 is releasing a new book succinctly titled “The Organ Works of J.S. Bach.”

A full house for Olivier Latry’s recital in Bales Organ Recital Hall at the University of Kansas. October 27, 2023

Stauffer lectured on the concerto transcriptions, the Great Eighteen Nineteen Leipzig Chorales, and a lecture titled “Why Bach Matters,” showing how Bach’s music continues to have universal appeal today because of its ability to tap into emotions, optimism, and confidence through its solid musical framework. Visiting professor of organ Olivier Latry (on leave from Notre-Dame de Paris) not only performed an all-Bach recital, but also lectured on symbolism and numerology in the organ works. This was interspersed with mini-recitals and masterclasses by fellow KU alumni (see photo).

All that being said, I’ve arrived back home just in time for an interim pastor’s arrival and the annual transition to new church lay-leadership. I am refreshed. Events like this are important to all of us, not only from an educational perspective, but also as an opportunity to be fed. To hear excellent music and thought-provoking discussions, meeting new colleagues and catching up with old friends are all benefits of continuing education opportunities in our field. Keep that in mind as we all begin planning our summer schedules.

Shawn Thomas, Dean