50th Anniversary Celebration


On June 15 members and friends of the chapter gathered in the ballroom of the Blasco Event Wing of the Foundation Building at UNLV for a celebratory program and dinner marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Southern Nevada Chapter. Eighty guests enjoyed an Italian buffet.

Guests included representatives from both the Southern Arizona and the Central Arizona AGO Chapters, our District Convener, Dr. Kristin Holton Prouty; our Regional Counsellor, Matthew Burt; as well as our national AGO President, Dr. Michael Bedford, who addressed the gathering: “The AGO: Where the young and not so young come together.” Our Dean, Steven Wright, was the Master of Ceremonies for the program which included the awarding of honorary membership in the chapter to Mr. Edward Smith for his magnificent gift of the Maurine Jackson Smith Organ to UNLV, built by the Rudolf von Beckerath Orgelbau of Hamburg, Germany, completed in 2004, and which has changed the organ landscape in Southern Nevada; recognition of our two remaining charter members, Ethelyn Peterson and Margaret Hannah; recognition of Dr. Paul Hesselink for his 13 years of service in chairing the Recital Series Committee and managing the series; and recognition of member Susan Lasher for her spectacular contributions as the chapter’s graphic artist. Member, The Reverend Michael Link read the names of the twelve members who have died since 2002. Images of those recognized during the program, and photos of the members who died were projected during a power point on several screens.

A lovely 32-page booklet celebrating the occasion was produced and given to each person attending the dinner. It contained a Proclamation from the Office of the Mayor of Las Vegas; a welcome message from Dean Wright; a letter of congratulation from the AGO’s Executive Director, James Thomashower; greetings from Kristin Prouty, our District Convener; and from Dr. Michael Bedford. Other features in the booklet included: “About the von Beckerath Organ;” “Our History in Brief” written in 1998 by Raymond Barnes, our Founding Dean; an article detailing our 30th and 40th anniversary celebrations; “Milestones” and Activities of the chapter – 1998-2018; a listing of the performers in our Organ Recital Series from 2005-2018; “Chapter Members ‘In Memoriam;’” a listing of Chapter Deans from 1958 to the present. The major portion of the costs of producing the booklet was underwritten by ten advertisers whose ads appeared at the end of the booklet.

A group photo was taken after the dinner.Following the dinner was the Celebration Recital in Doc Rando Hall. The guest recitalist was hometown boy, Jim Kasen. He was assisted by Choral Artists of Southern Nevada under the direction of Marsha Borovicka. The program included audience singing of two hymns, arranged by Mack Wilberg and Jim Kasen; organ works by Bach, Morricone, and Kasen; and choral arrangements by Wilberg, John-son, and Kasen. When Mr. Smith was recognized during the recital for his gift of the organ, the audience spontaneously rose to its feet and applauded at length. Jim Kasen’s anthem setting of “Come, O Thou King of Kings” which played a special role in the history of the Smith gift, was performed by Choral Artists of Southern Nevada with the composer and Dean Wright playing the four-hand accompaniment.

Everyone felt the celebration was a great success. The people who worked so hard to make it so were: Kathi Colman (Committee Chair), Steven Wright, Dr. David Dorway, Carla Swift and David Zechman. A limited number of the Celebration booklets are available at $5.00 each. Contact Paul Hesselink at paulshesselink@gmail.com to reserve a copy.

Kevin Coney