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"When In our Music, God is Glorified" was the final hymn to flow through the vintage pipe organ at First Presbyterian Church in Green Bay, and Don VerKuillen played it.VerKuillen called it the perfect piece of music for an instrument that has served the downtown congregation for more than 80 years."I just let the organ, as loud as it could, make this joyful noise," said VerKuillen, 17, who has been the organist at First Presbyterian for a year. "It's a wonderful hymn. The text is so fitting for that type of occasion."The organ — built in the 1920s by the Wangerin Organ Company in Milwaukee, which is no longer in business — was retired on Sept. 4 in a church service. It was a special moment for VerKuillen and many of the longtime church members who attended."The whole time, I was not thinking about the music whatsoever," VerKuillen said. "I was thinking: 'Oh my God, this is the last thing that the organ is going to play, and I'm playing it right now.' It was kind of this sad feeling and happy feeling all at the same time."The pipe organ had started to wear down, show its age and become unreliable, VerKuillen said. Sometimes one of the pipes would hit a note and keep going even if the key was no longer depressed; other parts of the organ would just quit working sometimes, he said.First Presbyterian is raising funds for a new custom-built organ — with parts from the old one —that church leaders hope will be ready in December. According to the church website, they have raised $122,681. The target is $180,000, VerKuillen said.In the meantime, a piano and a harpsichord are filling in.The church is working with P.J. Swartz Inc., a Georgia-based company that rebuilds and restores pipe organs."There are no two pipe organs in the world that are the same," VerKuillen said. "Each one is custom built for the room that it goes in. You can't just go out and buy a pipe organ. You have to have a builder come to the room. They get a feeling for the room that it's in. A pipe organ is nothing if it's not designed to the room that it's going to be in."First Presybertian's vintage instrument was small for a pipe organ, VerKuillen said. It had nine ranks, with each rank representing 61 pipes. He likened its music to singing.David Wilson, a member of the church for 12 years, said the organ has been an integral part of the church for more than eight decades."I think for most churches — at least with a congregation like ours that has been in this neighborhood for 135 years — an organ and organ music are very important to a religious setting."Wilson said church members in recent years have moved to the suburbs, but they continue to worship at the downtown church. The pipe organ is part of their tradition, he said.The church's organ committee had considered other options for their musical accompaniment. "After much research, thoughtful deliberation and an extensive amount of prayers, the committee announced that a new organ will be built," said VerKuillen, who was pleased with the decision. He said he had a connection to organ music before he could walk or talk, adding that the only time he behaved in church as a little boy was when the organ was playing.VerKuillen said the pipe organ has "a very emotional role" in the church."It's the thing that gets played at the weddings, and it plays the music at people's funerals," he said. "And every Sunday at church, it leads the congregation in singing, which I believe is the most important part of the church service, because it's when the congregation can participate … That's just really powerful."
said VerKuillen, 17, who has been the organist at First Presbyterian for a year.
Kennedy Center Needs a New Pipe Organ Network NewsX ProfileView More ActivityTOOLBOXResizePrintE-mailReprintsBy Anne MidgetteWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, February 28, 2009Imagine you're renting out the Kennedy Center concert hall for your chorus's or orchestra's concert. You do this because the Kennedy Center is the main seat of the performing arts in the nation's capital. Sure, it costs you upward of $21,000, but being there confers a certain prestige. You get red carpeting, plush seats, majestic views of the Potomac from the lobby.You also, unfortunately, get an organ that is prone to emitting loud, sometimes embarrassing noises of its own volition, at unexpected moments. Think of a football referee blowing his whistle during a quiet passage in your Requiem, and you'll get the idea. The Kennedy Center organ is in such poor condition that it has been deemed unplayable and probably unsalvageable.Last year, the Kennedy Center asked the independent organ builder Lynn Dobson to give a professional assessment of the Filene organ. That assessment "recommended that it really is in such an unusable condition, it's not worth saving and it really should be replaced," Claudette Donlon, the Kennedy Center's executive vice president of administration said yesterday.ad_iconDonald McCullough, the director of the Master Chorale, fell victim to the pesky instrument in December. While McCullough was conducting, the organ emitted a very loud sound over his head, and technicians backstage ran around in search of the power switch (which is, inconveniently, on a different level from the stage). Eventually the pipe shut off with a cartoonish, Doppler-like whine (WHEEEEEeeeeeahhh), only to resume full blast when the organ was turned on again. At that point, the decision was made to perform the rest of the concert with piano accompaniment. The audience, however, enjoyed McCullough's informal explanatory lecture while the technicians scrambled. "You do these little things," McCullough says, "and people talk about that more than the great piece you did.""It was all rather comical," he adds.It might be funnier if this had only happened once. The problem is, this kind of thing happens all the time. Washington's chorus directors and organists have simply learned to adapt to ciphers, which, in organ terminology, refers to the sounding of a pipe when no key has been pressed. According to Irving Lawless, who installed the organ in 1972 and still works, harder than he should have to, as its curator, the problem is worst in winter, when there is the least humidity in the hall -- and when Washington's choruses all use it for their Christmas concerts.But you really hate to have it happen to someone like Lorin Maazel, who in November 2007 conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in Saint-Saëns's Symphony No. 3, "Organ." Lawless says the problems began during the second rehearsal. The first performance went fine, but there was a problem during the second performance. During the third performance, as William Neil, the NSO's organist, describes it, Lawless sat backstage "in one of the organ chambers in the organ itself with a flashlight and all the lights turned out, poised to pull pipes out on the fly because notes were sticking."Washington's musicians have diverging views on many things, but you'll find little argument about the Kennedy Center's organ. "The thing is nonfunctional, really," says Julian Wachner, music director of the Washington Chorus.The Filene organ seems to have been doomed from the start. Donated by Catherine Filene Shouse, it was built during a period of change in the aesthetics of organ sound, when the trend was toward thinner, higher, lighter, neo-Baroque organs. "There's a lot of clarity, a lot of point," says J. Reilly Lewis, director of the Cathedral Choral Society and the Bach Consort, and an organist. "But it just doesn't have the eloquence, the spaciousness, the majesty you really need." In other words, it doesn't cut through the orchestra.The construction wasn't very good either. Aeolian-Skinner, the organ's maker, long represented a pinnacle of American organ-building, but the firm folded while the organ was still being installed, and the instrument was significantly affected by the company's last-ditch attempts at cost-cutting. Skinner's air chests were normally "built like a Mack truck," Lawless says, but those on the Filene organ used an experimental construction. So did the console, which Lawless had to rebuild some years ago."I've done a lot of installations for Aeolian-Skinner," he says. "This one has been giving me gray hairs all along."It hasn't helped that the organ has been subject to a certain amount of extra wear and tear over the years -- such as the time the humidifying system backed up a few years ago, pouring water into the chest.[/size]
And the renovation of the Kennedy Center didn't do it any favors. The acoustic canopy that helps focus orchestral sound actually obscures the organ, and the instrument was moved 15 feet farther back. "Technically, it's outside the room," Lawless says.The problem is clear enough. But in these tough economic times, nobody is quite sure what to do about it. Dobson's report estimates the cost of a new organ at $3 million to $5 million; "raising money," says the Kennedy Center's Donlon, "is more difficult than it's ever been"; and the center has other demands on its resources, like continuing to bring the building up to code. "We really haven't determined a timeline" for dealing with the organ question, Donlon says.Is an organ a necessity or a luxury? Certainly, there are many pieces in the orchestral repertory that call for an organ: Neil cites the Brahms Requiem and Strauss's "Alpine Symphony," both coming up this season, as works that could put the instrument to the test. Nigel Boon, the NSO's director of artistic planning, said through a spokesman that he does "bear the state of the organ in mind when planning" the orchestra's seasons. Recently, McCullough opted not to use the organ in a performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah." "I couldn't count on it," he said.ad_iconWashington's organists and music directors look wistfully at other new halls across the country where significant instruments are helping to develop a stronger organ culture: Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, Dallas's Meyerson Symphony Center, Seattle's Benaroya Hall, or the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. They believe that the nation's capital should be able to hold its own in such company and dream of finding a donor who agrees with them. "There have to be Mrs. Shouses out there," says Neil, "who would love to see a grand instrument."Yet many orchestral halls do without pipe organs. The Baltimore Symphony just performed the Saint-Saëns at the Meyerhoff and Strathmore on an electronic organ without incident. True, an electronic organ isn't the same as an acoustic instrument; "literally, you're just playing a recording back," says McCullough. But some of them sound pretty good. And they have the distinct advantage of working.And choral directors are tired of gambling, particularly when they're shelling out the big bucks to perform at the Kennedy Center. "My recommendation to the board of the Washington Chorus," Wachner says, "is that we should rent an electric instrument this Christmas."As for the pipe organ: At least it looks pretty.
Kennedy Center extends Eschenbach’s contract; new organ in worksBy Anne Midgette, Published: September 25The National Symphony Orchestra opened its 80th anniversary gala concert at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday night with a double-barreled announcement from the center’s chairman, David M. Rubenstein. Christoph Eschenbach, the internationally renowned conductor and music director of the Kennedy Center, will extend his contract for two years, through the 2014-15 season. And the concert hall will, at long last, be getting a new organ.The new organ comes courtesy of Rubenstein, who is donating the instrument — valued at about $2 million — as well as the cost of installation, which is slated to take place next summer. Built by the Canadian firm Casavant Frères, the new 5,000-pipe organ will replace the Filene organ, which was built by Aeolian-Skinner.Although installed in 1972 and relatively young in organ terms, the 4,000-pipe Filene organ was problematic from the start — Aeolian-Skinner folded as the instrument was being put in — and has become so erratic, in part due to flooding and other wear and tear sustained during the renovation of the concert hall in 1997, that it has been virtually unusable.In 2008, Lynn Dobson, an independent organ builder whom the Kennedy Center called in to assess it, said the instrument was not worth saving.The new organ will retain 61 pipes from the old instrument in a special “Filene stop.”Eschenbach’s contract extension comes after only one season. That first season was generally successful, certainly from the point of view of the orchestra’s musicians, who are in full honeymoon mode about their conductor.Eschenbach has given a couple of free chamber concerts with individual musicians on the Millennium Stage. It’s hard to say what larger effect he has had on the Kennedy Center’s programming, and he has not necessarily raised the orchestra’s national or international profile yet (though an international tour is said to be in the works). Still, extending the contract offers more stability to an orchestra that has gone through a long period of uncertainty about its artistic leadership, and offers a vote of confidence to a conductor whose last tenure in Philadelphia was far less harmonious.
Some of the article I dont think was worded quite the way I wanted it to be.
removing proven defects can lead to meaningful improvementof an instrument and hence to its increased estimation