Walter Stout in Concert and Peoria AGO Meeting

We would like to invite you to a special organ concert featuring Walter Stout on Sunday, October 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Bethel Lutheran Church, 200 Colona Ave., Bartonville on their newly renovated Casavant organ. The concert will feature music of John Knowles Paine, Dietrich Buxtehude, J. S. Bach, Marcel Dupré, and Louis Vierne. Julie Clemens will join him to sing Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, KV 165 (158a) in Walter’s own transcription.

This concert will be the first event of the 2015-16 Peoria AGO Concert Artist Series. The concert will be followed by a short Peoria AGO meeting and a chapter dinner. To attend the dinner, please RSVP to this e-mail or call Martin Dicke at (309) 696-4797.

Walter J. Stout is a Peoria AGO member who has served as organist at Bethel since November 2010. A church musician since 1976, he has served churches ranging in size from 12 members to 1,500 families in Texas, Oklahoma and Illinois. He holds degrees in Music performance from Texas State University, San Marcos, and the University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma and completed post-graduate work at the University of North Texas and the University of Oklahoma. He began work as Bethel’s parish secretary in January, 2013. He also serves as an Adjunct professor of Musicianship and Class Piano at Illinois Central College in East Peoria.

Hymn Sing at St. Paul’s Lutheran, Brimfield

Nicholas LieseNicholas Liese will present a hymn sing is at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Brimfield at 3:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, July 19, 2015. The hymn sing will feature three pre-selected hymns and the rest will be chosen out of a basket full of choices by the congregation. It will be a fun afternoon of singing the hymns of the Lutheran church from the 1941 TLH hymnal!

Admission is free, however a free-will offering will be taken to help the Lutheran Church Charity Foundation with the wonderful things that they do. Nicholas is a native of Brimfield and a student in church music at Concordia University, Wisconsin where he studied with Dr. John Behnke.

Requiescat in pace – Don Nieukirk

Don NieukirkDonald Nieukirk, 84, of Peoria, IL, died at 1:51 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. He was a member of Peoria Chapter of American Guild of Organists for many years and served on the executive board for two consecutive terms. His funeral was held on July 2, 2015 at Tremont United Methodist Church. Pastor Dan Perry officiated. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Tremont. Memorial contributions may be made to the Tremont Historical Society or the Tremont United Methodist Church.

Don was a member of Tremont United Methodist Church since 1943 and served as church organist for 57 years, with February 5, 2012 his final Sunday playing organ. He helped design and draw specifications for a new pipe organ which was installed in 1965. He also served as chairman of the Administrative Board, chaired various committees and was the church treasurer for several years.

He was born June 16, 1931 at his maternal grandmother’s home at 1013 S. Capitol St. in Pekin. He married Delores Ann Benn on June 23, 1963 at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Peoria.

Surviving are his wife, Delores; one daughter, Leanne Marie (Martin Jones) of Tucson, AZ; one sister, Ruth Ann McCormick of Lincoln; and several nieces and nephews.

Don graduated from Tremont High School in 1949, and graduated from Brown’s Peoria School of Business in 1951 after completing their most comprehensive course in accounting and federal taxation.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1952-1954 where he served in Headquarters, 7th Transportation Corp Major Port, Pusan, Korea. In addition to assigned duties, he played the piano for Port Chapel services.

Don worked at International Harvester Company District Sales office in Peoria from 1954-1962. He later worked in public accounting in Peoria CPA offices for 32 years retiring in 1994. He worked part-time at Illinois Antique Center after retirement.

He was instrumental in reorganizing the Tremont High School Alumni Association in 1951 and served as president of its Board of Directors for several years, and served as General Chairman and Master of Ceremonies for many alumni banquets. Don was named distinguished alumnus in 2003

He was a member and frequent soloist with Pekin Civic Chorus for 35 years, and a charter member of Bradley Community Chorus organized in 1958 and also did solo work with this group. Don was acknowledged at a 1998 concert as a 40-year member and continued to sing until 2006. He was a long time member of Morton Messiah Chorus where he was a bass soloist and later served as pianist for many years.

Don was a member of the American Pencil Collectors’ Society and an avid collector of wooden pencils. In 1997 he appeared on the FX Collectibles Show on national TV with his pencil collection.

He authored the book, “Pekin and Tremont, Illinois, History in Vintage Postcards” in 2000 using cards from an extensive personal collection.

Don was a member of Pekin Bottle Collectors Club.

He was a charter member of the Tremont Historical Society and served as its Vice President from 1985 until 2006, and served more recently as recording secretary. He wrote feature articles on local history for the Tremont News for several years. He was a charter member of Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society where he served on the Executive Board and as recording secretary for many years. The Nieukirk and Dillon ancestors were among the first settlers in Tazewell County in the 1820’s.

Matthew Dirst to Open Peoria Bach Festival 2015 with Concert at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, May 31

Matthew Dirst
Matthew Dirst

Award winning organist and harpsichordist and now acclaimed musicologist Matthew Dirst returns to Central Illinois to present the opening concert of the Peoria Bach Festival 2015 at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 31 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 135 NE Randolph Ave., Peoria. Co-sponsored by the Peoria AGO and the Peoria Bach Festival, the concert will include Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in Eb Major (St. Anne) and several excerpts from the Art of the Fugue. It will also include works by organists influenced by Bach: a trio by Hugo Distler, a concerto by Christian Friedrich Rüppe, Variations sur un thème de Clément Janequin by Jehan Alain, and Anton Heiller’s In festo corporis Christi.

For more information on Matthew, please see our May/June newsletter (see previous post) or visit his webpage at

Please help us welcome Matthew back to Central Illinois.

Trinity Lutheran Church
135 NE Randolph Ave. • Peoria, IL 61606 • 309-696-4797
Admission: $12 Adults / $10 Senior Citizens / Children and Students free

Preserving a Local Treasure

Marker near where the Hinners factory was located; the building no longer exists and the site is now part of a city park.
Marker near where the Hinners factory was located; the building no longer exists and the site is now part of a city park.

A pipe organ does not have to be a grand concert instrument to hold a place of significance, especially in regard to local history.  This holds true for the three manual Hinners pipe organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pekin, which was recently rebuilt and restored by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders of Champaign, Illinois.  Although Pekin was home to the Hinners Pipe Organ Company and the location of several of their organs, the pipe organ at St. John’s is said to be the only working Hinners left in the city.

In 1927, the congregation of St. John’s Lutheran dedicated not only their current church building, but also the three manual Hinners pipe organ that still resides there and is used today.  Although the Hinners company had hand-crafted many different organs throughout the U.S. and also overseas, building a pipe organ for St. John’s was seen as a special project and opportunity.  Not only was the Hinners factory only blocks from the church, but records indicate that several Hinners employees were members of the congregation.  While not a particularly large organ, it functioned well for congregational use and the members of St. John’s were quite pleased with it.  Others also found it to be a fine and well-built instrument, including Edward Rechlin, an “eminent concert organist” and Bach interpreter, who wrote a brief letter to Hinners giving high compliments of the instrument after giving two recitals at St. John’s.  Regardless of how this organ is perceived today, it was seen as a fine instrument of good quality for the time and the circumstances.

However, the general wear on the instrument in the following decades and certain decisions left the organ in need of extensive repairs and restoration.  It appears that the only time the organ has been re-built was in the 1960s, and it was during this time that the original console was discarded and additional couplers and a “floating” Positiv division were added.  Unfortunately, the added stops from the Positiv division were out of place with the organ’s original tonality, and it was discovered that the additional stops and couplers overtaxed the organ’s current wind system.  The negative effects of these changes, in addition to a large number of “inconsistent” or “dead” notes on various stops and major air leaks in the wind system, furthered the need for thorough work on the organ.  Occasional mechanical problems with the stop controls in the console, and possibly within the organ chambers as well, also caused some unwanted surprises while practicing and during services.

The organ pipes are housed in two chambers at the front of the church with openings into the nave and the chancel.  Pipes for the Great, Choir, and Pedal divisions are in the left chamber; pipes for the Swell are located in the right chamber along with the harp.
The organ pipes are housed in two chambers at the front of the church with openings into the nave and the chancel. Pipes for the Great, Choir, and Pedal divisions are in the left chamber; pipes for the Swell are located in the right chamber along with the harp.

Fortunately the need for extensive work on the organ was already under discussion, so starting this major project was mainly a matter of planning and financial decisions.  I was asked to gather some information about a few organ builders that could provide an organ evaluation and potentially complete the project along with continuing to maintain the instrument.  Based on this information and their own findings, the church trustees contacted three organ building companies and had evaluations of the organ completed in late 2013 and into 2014.  In spring of 2014 the church trustees decided to present the evaluation and proposal from Buzard to the congregation.  By late June a contract with Buzard was finalized with plans for work to begin in August.

The new organ console, located in the right transept, utilizes a reconfigured 1929 Hinners console acquired by Buzard from a Chicago church.
The new organ console, located in the right transept, utilizes a reconfigured 1929 Hinners console acquired by Buzard from a Chicago church.

A team from Buzard spent the entire first full week of August removing, packing, and taking all the components of the organ (except the organ blower) back to Champaign where most of the work would be completed.  Along with the general task of rebuilding the organ, a 1929 Hinners console acquired by Buzard was renovated for use at St. John’s.  In addition, the pipe organ was restored to its original specifications, removing the additional stops and couplers that were added in the 1960s.  During this time the church trustees had some necessary electrical work related to the organ completed within the church and also cleaned, repainted, and installed proper lighting inside the organ chambers.  Re-installation, voicing and tuning of the organ began in mid-November and was completed just in time for Christmas, although one feature of the instrument–a “harp”–was still being rebuilt and would not be reinstalled until later.

Name plates on the  organ console
Name plates on the organ console

The organ was first used for services again on Christmas Eve, with specific mention made in regard to its re-dedication during services the following Sunday.  A special Epiphany service held at St. John’s on January 11th also provided the opportunity for others from the community and surrounding areas to come and hear the organ as well as sing several Epiphany hymns together.  The congregation also received a little surprise on Easter Sunday:  the harp, which was finally reinstalled in late February, received its “debut” during the prelude that morning.

Response regarding this extensive project is both positive and enthusiastic.  Parishioners at St. John’s had many questions to ask, interest in each step of this process, anticipation in finally having the organ back again, and great satisfaction (and some surprise) in the final result.  Having an organ restored is a major project, but the result makes the expense worthwhile and helps to ensure the instrument’s further use and the ability for its musical sounds to be enjoyed by many for years to come.

Jonathan Rudy to Perform at St. Mary’s Cathedral

Jonathan Rudy
Jonathan Rudy

Jonathan Rudy, most recent winner of the American Guild of Organists’ National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (NYACOP) will perform at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 607 NE Madison Ave., Peoria, Illinois on Sunday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. Entitled “World of Pipes:King of Instruments,” this innovative program will feature a variety of works from many different eras gathered together by these thoughts from the artist:

The Organ―grandest instrument the hand
Of man has placed in Music’s galaxy;
In which all Nature’s wondrous sounds are linked
In golden chains of countless harmonies.
Responsive to the touch of man’s weak hands
As if a giant’s fingers swept its keys
And called concordant voices from the depths,
The diapason of the storm-struck sea,
The thunder’s peal, the wind’s wild whistling wail,
The songs of swift-winged warblers in the air,
And the soft sighing of the ambient breeze
Temple of Tone art thou! The shrine supreme
Of Sound’s mysterious powers and richest gifts,
God-given thought alone could have inspired
The human mind to frame so grand a work;
Great Organ―Monarch of all Instruments!

—George Ashdown Audsle

Words such as “strength” and “magnitude” often accompany descriptions of the pipe organ.  Yet the true beauty of this glorious instrument is its flexibility and variety; for as Audsle’s poem suggests, it can articulate every tone and picture that human thought could possibly imagine.  Today’s program will capture just a few of these “worlds” – distinct realms of sound and color – and will demonstrate just how diverse, and divine, organ music can be.

Jonathan D. Rudy

Works on the program will include the Grand Dialogue in C Major by Louis Marchand (1669-1732), the Prelude and Fugue in A minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), selections from Four Biblical Dances by Peter Eben (1929-2007), Fantasie No. 2 in D-Flat Major Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), as well as works by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643), American composer Pamela Decker (b. 1955), and French organist and composer Jean Guillou (b. 1930). Admission is $12 for Adults and $10 for Senior Citizens. Students and children are free.

For more information on Jonathan, please visit

Cathedral of St. Mary
607 NE Madison Ave. • Peoria, IL 61603 • (309) 682-5823
Admission: $12 Adults / $10 Senior Citizens / Children and Students free

New Recording by Peoria AGO Member

Cover ArtRachel Keehner, one of the Peoria AGO’s youngest members and also one of our Board Members, has just released a recording entitled “Savior of the Nations: Music for the King of Instruments.” It was recorded on the 1983 Schlicker organ at Trinity Lutheran Church, Peoria, and in conjunction with the Trinity Music Ministry. It features music by Bach, Buxtehude, Mendelssohn, Reger, and Alain among others. A list of the works on the recording and samples of each track are available by visiting

To order this CD, click here or call the Trinity Music Ministry at (309) 676-4609 (x207). It is also may be downloaded from iTunes and other digital music suppliers or from by visiting Note that the digital version does not include the Alain for copyright reasons.

A previous recording by Jonathan Wessler entitled “Praise Him With Pipes…” is also available from the Trinity Music Ministry. Both Jonathan and Rachel grew up as members of Trinity and began their pipe organ studies on this instrument.