Between now and the end of the year, many newspapers will be running the usual heart-warming stories about how this or that church congregation has given thousands of dollars worth of food and other things to the poor.
My own local newspaper ran one such story on Friday.
What these stock examples of what I call "alarm clock journalism" never seem to point out is that the vast majority of the money donated to churches and other religious institutions is spent on things that serve the personal interests and needs of the donors.
From my point of view, it’s like surveying early 20th century newspapers and finding countless stories about John D. Rockefeller handing out dimes to the poor but few stories about how he spent millions of dollars expanding his power, building his mansions, exploiting workers and consumers, etc.
Consider this entry a *very* brief but necessary reminder of the sorts of things huge amounts of church money actually gets spent on while the poor and the hungry are nowhere in sight....
----- Restored Organ Fit For A King (The Border Mail; Oct 4)
If the pipe organ is the king of instruments, the one at Christ Church, Beechworth [Australia], will get a right royal reception this weekend.
A concert by the Sydney Cathedral Singers last night was to be the first chance for the public to hear this rare, precious instrument since a painstaking restoration.
The director of music at the old Anglican church, Mark Stephens (Lazy Harry), is delighted the 126-year-old organ has been given a new lease of life.
“The organ has been fully restored at a cost of $40,000 in a project which has taken 17 months of meticulous labour by Wakeley’s Organ Builders of Melbourne,” Mr Stephens said....
----- First Phase Of Organ Restoration Completed (Wetherby News; Oct 10)
The first of two phases of the organ restoration project at St Mary's Church in Boston Spa [West Yorkshire, England] can now be completed.
After many months of events, more than £71,000 [about $106,000 US] has been raised to ensure the essential repairs can be carried out.
he significant milestone was reached after the Boston Spa Flower Festival two weeks ago, which drew visitors from across the district thanks to support from many local businesses.
But the Organ Restoration Appeal has not closed - and there is still a long way to go.
Although the historic organ can now be repaired, more work needs to be done to ensure it will remain in good condition in the future. It must be lifted away from the floor to prevent from heat damage from the boiler, which is housed in the crypt beneath it.
Appeal chairman Liz Etherington and vice-chairman John Townend are hoping to raise enough money to do more than simply install a heat-resistant layer beneath the organ.
The most ambitious part of the project would see the organ raised up on a gallery where its sound would carry better throughout the church. The plans have been approved so the deciding factor in whether the new gallery is built is money.
Mr Townend said: “Obviously this is not a good time to be raising money for any sort of project, so we are really delighted with the results so far...”....
----- Pipe Dreams Now A Reality: King Of Instruments Enjoying A Resurgence In Greater Toronto Area (John Terauds/The Toronto Star; Oct 11)
As fashions come and go, the pipe organ's star had faded quite a bit by the end of the 20th century. But if the money being lavished on the king of instruments is any indication, it's in for a swift ride back up the musical escalator in this part of the world.
The University of Toronto has just completed a $200,000 refurbishing of the nearly century-old Casavant organ at Convocation Hall. American organ master Todd Wilson will perform the inaugural recital on Oct. 19. The Church of the Holy Trinity, behind the Eaton Centre, is getting an organ transplant, courtesy of the closing of Deer Park United Church. This is one of the city's finest instruments, a three-decade-old organ also made by Quebec builder Casavant Frères.
Just west of the banks of the Humber River, All Saints Kingsway Anglican Church is about to receive the most expensive new organ to be built in Canada since the 1980s. At $1.5 million, this instrument - also by Casavant - should give the grey beast inside Roy Thomson Hall a run for its concert abilities.
Even that organ, built by Gabriel Kney for the opening of the hall, is on the verge of a major overhaul next summer.
This doesn't include the dozens of smaller new organ builds and renovations recently completed or underway in the GTA. All of this work has been made possible by massive private donations, in turn made possible by the just-expired economic boom. "We have never been so busy," says Robert Hiller, who's overseeing the installation of the organ at Holy Trinity. "Over the last year, the phone has been ringing off the hook."...
Only the Roy Thomson and Convocation Hall organs function outside a sacred setting....
Becca Whitla, who heads the music ministry at Holy Trinity, said the parish had a lot to consider before replacing its battered former organ. For one thing, $200,000 is more than a typical church's total yearly budget, and many people might think the money better spent on charitable ends.
Whitla says that, in the end, the organ project fulfilled several needs. "I thought a lot about the question of the relevance of the organ in this day and age," says the calm-spoken musician. "I came down to the theory of ‘both-and.’ I think that epitomizes everything that goes on at Holy Trinity. It's not justice or music, it's justice and music. It's history and the future. It's classical music and music from around the world."
As the congregation tries to raise the final $50,000 needed to pay for the installation, Whitla is planning the instrument's concert future....
----- US Churches Buy More Than 80 New Pipe Organs Every Year (Ken Keuffel/The Winston-Salem Journal; Oct 12)
The King of Instruments is about to receive unusually royal treatment.
About 250 "Organ Spectacular" recitals -- including one at Augsburg Lutheran Church on Fifth Street -- will be presented nationwide next Sunday.
The performances are designed to publicize pipe organs and those who play them. They are being billed as the world's largest combined concert of organ music. They will highlight "The Year of the Organ," an initiative sponsored by the American Guild of Organists, a professional association in New York that serves the organ and choral-music fields....
[I]n America, many churches -- including quite a few in Winston-Salem -- still use pipe organs and employ capable musicians to perform them. And churches are still buying new pipe organs.
Robert R. Ebert, an economist at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, compiles statistics for the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America and the American Institute of Organbuilders. He says that 100 new pipe organs are built each year in North America, with more than 80 percent of these in churches. One likely result: "More people hear live organ music than any other kind of live music," Evans said....
Pipe organs cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build -- a fact that might prompt a church to purchase a less-expensive electronic organ instead or to decide that its funds would be better spent on combating social ills.
"What I don't want a church to do is to decide that a pipe organ is a waste of money," [organist Don] Armitage said, adding that there's "room for both" music and programs that address poverty and other problems.
"Every parish has to decide what's appropriate for it and what it can afford," he said. "It should not be afraid to engage in the creation of beauty."
----- Organists Playing A Different Tune (John Dalton/TimesUnion.com; Oct 12)
ALBANY, New York: Out of the choir lofts and into the spotlight, organists are making noise. Though it's is nicknamed the King of Instruments and is said to be heard by more people every week than any other instrument, the organ and those who play it have a reputation of being tame and old fashioned. That may soon change.
Next weekend's Worldwide Organ Spectacular includes a half-dozen events in the Capital Region....
"Most of us who play the organ agree that we were first attracted to it on Sunday mornings, saucer-eyed with fascination as the organist manipulated the switches, keys, lights, pedals and other gadgets," says Charles Jones, organist and music director at Saint Pius X in Loudonville. Typical instruments have two, sometimes three keyboards or "manuals," plus a pedal board controlled by the feet, and sometimes dozens of "stops" that control which families of pipes are sounded.
"Playing the organ is likened to the experience of controlling an airplane cockpit. In fact, many pipe organs today employ fascinating technology enabling the instrument to control limitless acoustic and digital resources," says Jones....
Sunday morning is indeed the time most associated with organ music, but there's a distinct irony in the organ's ties to the church. The institution fostered its growth but inhibits its reputation.
According to Jones, plenty of traditionalists are aghast or even angered by... efforts at shedding the instrument's pious associations....
While the organ may be perceived as an instrument of the past, the profession of being an organist offers plenty of options, albeit usually in the church....
When organists find the right job, they usually stay put. Take Nancy Frank, 70, who last March celebrated her 35th year at First Presbyterian Church in Albany, where there is also a music director and four vocal soloists - all paid positions.
"We have a tradition of good classical music and our congregation appreciates and expects it. It's a joy and a pleasure," she says. "Interestingly enough, the organist before me was there 43 years."
Frank is also proud of her instrument, which was built in 1918. It was completely refurbished in 1996, with all 2,094 pipes disassembled so that decades of dust and dead bugs could be removed. The project, funded by a bequest, cost $100,000. Three years ago some digital stops were added....
----- Iowa Lutheran Church Restores Organ (KEYC.com; Oct 12)
Estherville Lutheran Church has been in search of organ donors for some time.
News 12's Erick Lind found that they finally reached their goal, and now music will be around for years to come.
The current Estherville Lutheran Church was built in the early 1940's. The church's Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ was built even earlier, starting at a theater in York, Nebraska in 1929.Since 2005 members have been looking at renovating the organ. After raising nearly 70-thousand dollars from memorials and personal gifts from congregation members, the church committee approved the renovation earlier this year.
Organ restoration committee chairman Dr. R.N. Lepird says, "In May, the organ console was taken to Ankeny where the Organ Master Bob Arndt took the entire console apart from its wind operation to a computerized and electronic operation."
The Wurlitzer organ has been in the Estherville Lutheran Church for almost as long as the church has been standing. Now the instrument is getting an upgrade.
Professional organist Glenn Henriksen says, "I think he did a great job. Added some extra. The trumpet rank is something new. Brightened up the flutes and made them all sound good again."...
----- This Organ Would Make Bach Happy (L. David Wheeler/MPNnow.com; Oct 16)
ROCHESTER, New York: The goal of the Eastman School of Music’s ongoing “Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative” is an ambitious one - in project director Hans Davidsson’s words, it’s to “make Rochester the pipe organ capital of America.”
A 30,000-pound, 2000-pipe organ making its debut this weekend during the EROI Festival - built to the specifications of an organ in Lithuania built in 1776, hand-constructed using only materials, and building processes, of that period - is a big step in that direction.
The Craighead-Saunders Organ, installed in Christ Church on East Avenue, is the result of a $2.8 million, eight-year research and construction project - a partnership between Eastman; Christ Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester; the Göteborg Organ Art Center in Sweden, where an international team of organ builders who constructed most of the major elements; the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture; and Rochester-based New Energy Works, who built the church a new balcony and bellows room for the organ, again using only 18th-century materials and processes. The installation of the organ at the church has been ongoing since July 2007 and was still taking place this week - a statue of King David was still being burnished Tuesday to be installed Wednesday - with an aim to be complete by this weekend’s EROI Festival.
The festival includes a number of concerts and recitals using the Craighead-Saunders Organ - named after two Eastman faculty organists, Professor Emeritus David Craighead and the late Russell Saunders - as well as on the new organs at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, First Presbyterian Church in Pittsford and other sites....
The organ is a reproduction of an instrument built in Lithuania by the renowned organ builder Adam Gottlob Casparini and housed at Holy Ghost Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. Built according to the original formulas - the wood, the paint (rabbit glue, gesso, crushed stone and chalk, applied and burnished by hand), even the screws - it is the only organ of its kind in North America....
The project began in 2001 with a complete technical documentation of the Casparini organ in Vilnius, and continued research into its design until 2003, when construction began at the Göteborg center at Göteborg University, a process that extended through August 2007. Meanwhile, New Energy Works constructed the balcony and bellows room at the church from February to July in 2007, using 200-year-old reclaimed pine from a South Carolina site. Over the following month, the action parts, pillars, wooden pipes and other elements were imported from Sweden to Rochester, and installation began the next month....
[T]the organ in Lithuania itself is to undergo a restoration project - for which cues will be taken from how the Craighead-Saunders organ was done. It’s not the only project likely to be modeled on this one, now or in the far future.
The Rev. Bruce Griffith, rector of Christ Church, said the project is one element of a long partnership between the church and Eastman, and that the organ’s presence here has implications for the future of liturgical music as a whole, not just in Rochester....
----- Professional Organist Plays Concert On St. Martin's New $400,000 Organ (Julie H. Mann/The Capital/Encyclopedia.com; Oct 16)
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland: A small crowd of local music lovers enjoyed a feast for the ears Sunday, when world famous organist, Susan Jane Matthews, played the new pipe organ at St. Martin's-in-the Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park.
Having spent ten years raising $400,000 to buy the instrument, the congregation intends to get plenty of enjoyment from their investment....
----- Century-Old Organ Soon To Be Heard Again At First Presbyterian Church (Susan L. Oppat/The Ann Arbor News; Oct 19)
Some time next month, a joyful sound will arise at the First Presbyterian Church in Ypsilanti, when the pipe organ, installed in 1899 by fabled builders Jardine & Sons, finds its voice once again....
Five years ago, during a renovation of the sanctuary, the organ was removed from the sanctuary, leaving only the Greek Revival-style oak paneling that encased the pipes.
The congregation of 375 members wanted the organ upgraded and refurbished in a manner more consistent with the history of the organ.... The effort stalled, however, until German-born Martin Ott, was hired about 18 months ago....
Based on the church's acoustics, which he pronounces "wonderful," Ott designed and built the new console for the electro-mechanical organ, and created a plan for 2,409 pipes. They are made of a tin-lead alloy, and range from 3/8-inches to 16 feet long, some half the width of a pencil, and some pitches too high for some people to hear, and some low enough to rattle the church's Tiffany windows.
Some of the pipes were needed to replace many original wooden pipes, others to expand the organ, and others to fit in with what could be salvaged from the existing organ. The pipes were built by Ott's extended family in Germany.
The pipes will be hidden in a roughly eight-foot-by-20-foot space behind the wooden case facade. They are tin-colored, constructed from 17-foot, cast metal sheets that are hand-formed around mandrils....
Were the entire organ and case facade new, designed from scratch, Ott estimates the job would have cost the church $1 million. As it is, the original oak case, which would have cost $200,000, is all retained, and some parts from an organ Ott built in California were offered back to him at a discount.
That still left $300,000 for the church to raise. More than a third came from the estate of former member Doris Milliman, an EMU librarian....
----- Call To Refurbish Old Organ (The Henley Standard; Oct 20)
HENLEY-ON-THAMES, England: A call has been made for St Mary’s Church in Mill Green to think again about replacing its organ.
The church decided the £150,000 [about $225,000 US] needed to restore the instrument was too much so it raised £30,000 [about $45,000 US] for a new one.
But Tony Elliott, of Braybrooke Road, Wargrave, wants the money used to start a fund for restoring the old one.
In a letter to Wargrave News, he said: “The people of Wargrave are very generous, particularly when it comes to a cause with which they can identify, which they can see and appreciate and which will benefit future generations. Given the will, determination, enthusiasm and commitment, the money could be raised. The proposed new organ will never be a church organ. Is this what we really want? Is it too late to reverse the decision not to repair and refurbish the church organ?”
----- Restored Organ Brings A Wealth Of Sounds For Worship At First Presbyterian (Shelia Smith/Herald-Review.com; Oct 25)
DECATUR, Illinois: Zelna Lucas Lowe would be proud to see that her church's pipe organ was restored, revoiced and rededicated.
She played the pipe organ for nearly 55 years at First Presbyterian Church. The longtime organist died in March 2004....
The Reuter organ was brand new when it was installed at First Presbyterian in 1962. It had been purchased for the church by Jack and Helen Powers.
"An organ is built to have a life span of only 40 years," said Jeannie Rade, who has been the church's organist for the past five years. "When the congregation found out the old girl was sick, they raised $125,000 within three weeks."...
Rick Koetje sings in the choir at First Presbyterian and substitutes for Rade on the organ....
Koetje said the reason he joined First Presbyterian Church after moving to Decatur in 2006 was because of the church's pipe organ....
----- After 9 Months Of Repairs, Pipe Organ Returns To Renovated Chapel (Sandy Alexander/The Baltimore Sun; Oct 26)
After the pipe organ in the chapel at Bon Secours Spiritual Center underwent full-scale renovation, workers returned the instrument to a spot just a few feet from its former location, near the back wall of the balcony.
But the difference - visually and sonically - was dramatic.
Seven towering gold-colored pipes now hang in front of the balcony railing and dozens more ranging from a few inches to more than 6 feet in length are mounted on either side. Formerly tucked away inside the wood case, the pipes are suspended above the congregation, where they can be seen and heard.
The rest of the 800 pipes reside in a new wood cabinet just behind the railing. A row of wooden slats on the front can be opened to adjust the volume.
With a new design, repaired parts and electronic upgrades, the organ is a welcome sight after many years when it worked poorly - or not at all - and nine months of refurbishing in a New Jersey workshop.
"It is a wonderful voice that can be raised to God," said Thomas E. Little, the center's executive director....
The organ was installed in the early 1960s, when the center was built. It was made by the M.P. Moller Organ Co. in Hagerstown, which once was among the world's largest organ makers.
Over the years, the leather covers that opened and closed the pipes wore out, Little said. The deterioration grew worse as time passed.
"People had to learn to play songs that didn't have certain notes in them," Little said.
Eventually, the organ was not used at all.
The center hired the Peragallo Pipe Organ Co. of Paterson, N.J., to overhaul the instrument. The company was founded in 1918 by John Peragallo Sr., and later his son and grandsons joined the business. The Peragallos build six to eight new organs each year and repair many more. They hold maintenance contracts for more than 400 locations, including St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
Many pieces of the Bon Secours organ could be reused, said Frank Peragallo, co-owner of the company.
"Moller built a fine product," he said. "It was easy for us to rebuild."
Little liked the concept of reviving the organ, a longtime fixture in the chapel.
"We didn't want to throw it out and start over; we wanted to conserve what we were given," Little said.
That approach also reduced the cost from as much as $1 million for a new organ to $300,000 for the refurbishing....
Founded as a home for sisters of the Roman Catholic order of Bon Secours (meaning goodhelp), the center still serves as the sisters' provincial administrative offices, a residence for retired and infirm sisters and a place of learning for newer members.
In the mid-1960s, the sisters decided to open their doors to the public, expanding the site's role as a place for spiritual retreats. Today, the center offers accommodations for individual or group retreats, regular educational and spiritual activities and space for other groups with compatible missions to hold meetings....