The congregation of Providence United Methodist Church is ready for a brand new sound to start blasting out of the sanctuary next year.
The church is soon to be the beneficiary of the Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1472 – or, to those not in the know, a one-of-a-kind pipe organ. Providence UMC already has an organ, but not like this one. It’s not every day you can bring home a piece of history from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
“This organ has played several hundred performances, and been played by some notable people from around the world,” said Phil Parkey, who is working to refurbish the organ at his shop in Georgia.
But the organ seemed to have finally reached the end of its life in the nation’s capitol, and was destined to be used for parts if not for a relationship between Parkey and the staff at Providence UMC. Now, Adam Ward, the director of music ministries at the church, couldn’t be more excited about the new tool in his worshipping arsenal.
“First off, we’re getting a Aeolian-Skinner – it’s like having a… a certified, pre-owned Bentley,” Ward said, struggling to put the organ into an analogy some might understand a little better. “Second, we’re also doing the ultimate in recycling. It could have gone to scrap, but we’re giving it a home.”
And the organ will get quite a Welcome Home party.
“When the new instrument comes, we’re going to be having a ceremony to bring the organ off the truck and into the room where it’s going to go involving as many members of the congregation as we can,” Ward said, adding it’s important the congregation knows this organ is theirs. “Once it’s in place, we’ll have a weekend of dedicatory events in September … and then a hymn festival in October and November will be our singing requiem.”
But the organ isn’t just for special occasions, like it was when it played for dignitaries and the nation’s leaders in D.C. Here it will be a part of every Sunday’s worship service starting in July.
“We’ve tried to do a good job of educating the congregation,” Ward said of the importance of the instrument. “The Organ was developed through the years to accompany the human voice, to accompany large singing groups. It’s like our orchestra in worship. So having this instrument will draw in new people who find interest in the organ being used as an evangelistic tool.”
The current organ just isn’t strong enough, Ward said, careful to point out there’s a difference between a “loud” instrument and a “strong” instrument. Strength shouldn’t be a problem with the new organ, seeing as how it has 63 sets of pipes – or around 3,500 individual pipes – according to Parkey.
Crews will start serious work getting things in order in mid-February, Ward said. They have to take out the old organ, that’s been there since 1964, and put in the refurbished “Bentley.”
Said Ward: “It’s going to be incredible!”