Yup. You read that correctly. After many years of faithful service to the church, our 1929 Möller pipe organ needs some serious, serious help. It’s a project I had hoped to put off a little while longer, but the problem is getting worse and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Let me explain what’s going on.
Back in 1929, organ companies used high qualityleather, and the Möller company said, “This will last about fifty years.” True to their word, in the mid-1980s, the leather started to get brittle and break down, requiring expensive patching that was only a temporary band-aid. So, in 1987, the church invested in a full leather restoration. At that time, we were told, “The leather currently available to organ companies nowadays is inferior to the original stuff; this should last about 30 years.” Well, they were right again.
And here we are, 30 years later, and the leather is breaking down, leaking air, causing dead notes, and wreaking havoc on the console and pipe chambers.
Our organ maintenance company has been patching the organ for the past few years, but it has now reached a point where even the patches aren’t holding. The organ is in an accelerating decline. It may not sound like it on Sundays, but trust me—it’s getting worse, and at some point it will just stop working.
Fortunately, there’s a plan in place to undertake another full restoration of the organ, which will replace every scrap of leather to be found as well as address a whole bunch of other issues. It’s scheduled to begin January of 2019, and all the 1,548 pipes will need to be removed and the console disassembled. The whole process will take about a year, during which time it will still be partially functional as they work on one chamber at a time.
As you may imagine, it’s extremely expensive. The amount of labor required is astronomical, and it requires the knowledge of well-trained, experienced, specialized professionals. After experimenting with synthetics and other leather alternatives, organ companies have determined that there’s just nothing that compares to the old techniques using high-quality leather. The upcoming re-leathering project will allow the organ to last another 50 years without another major restoration.
So… I might as well just say it. It’s going to cost $281,850. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, clean your glasses (if you wear them), and re-read that sentence a few times, you’ll realize, as much as I do, that it’s a staggering figure. It’s the cost of a darn nice house.
So why bother? Why not just stop using it, or even buy an electronic replacement for a lot less? Aren’t pipe organs going out of fashion, anyway?
Well, I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe our Möller organ is worth it. It has been the primary instrument to lead music in our worship services for nearly 90 years, and the church has wisely invested in its maintenance for all that time. No electronic instrument can match the power and effectiveness of the real thing.
World-class organists have played on it and continue to play it, and it has several unique features not seen on any other organ in the area. It has been valued at over a million dollars for insurance purposes, and its appreciation is only going up as it gets older. It has a historical significance and is listed on the Organ Historical Society’s Pipe Organ Database (#6841, if you’d like to search for it online).
New pipe organs are being built all the time all around the world. The power and beauty of a pipe organ raises our spirits, moves us to tears, brings us closer to God, can console our grief, and enhance our joy.
It’s a simple historic fact that for centuries, no other single instrument has served as effectively in leading congregational song than the pipe organ. It’s this particular organ that initially attracted me to this church back in 2005.
In the coming months, an organ fundraising team will be assembled, fundraising events will be planned, and a lot more information will be coming your way. In the meantime, if you would like to either be a part of the fundraising team or contribute monetarily, your efforts would be extremely appreciated. Fortunately, we have already had a $35,000 contribution from an anonymous donor—what a blessing! Donations of all kinds—large and tiny—will be put directly toward the cost and will go a long way to making this project a huge success.
I plan on making this a community effort, and I’m convinced we can get there. No doubt, it’s going to be a lot of work, but the end result will be a completely restored instrument worthy of the cost. I hope you’ll consider how you may be able to help. I’d love to talk to you more if you have questions—I could talk all day about it! Just ask Liz!
I’ll be in touch again soon. It’s a privilege to work here and both play and maintain such fine instruments like the organ. We’re fortunate to have it, and with continued maintenance, we’ll have it for another 90 years if not for centuries to come.
Director of Music Ministry