Fall Organ Festival to benefit Emmanuel Lutheran

Fall Organ Festival to benefit Emmanuel Lutheran
Scott Daniels

Cindy Smith, Ruth Patrick, Pastor Robert Eller and Marcia Lile plan a series of concerts to raise funds for the church’s 50-year-old pipe organ.


A public concert of classical music for the pipe organ is planned at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in New Philadelphia on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. The freewill offering Fall Organ Festival concert is planned to help raise money for renovations to the church’s 50-year-old organ.

Pipe organs were the favored instrument of generations of composers. Being large, complex and built in place, they must be maintained over time at considerable expense. Even those pipe organs given the best care will eventually begin to fade in sound due to worn or deteriorating parts.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church is the custodian of a large pipe organ built into the sanctuary of the church in 1972 following a fire that demolished the old church on the site in 1970. Though still used regularly for church services and community programs, the organ is in need of considerable maintenance and restoration, a project which will reach into the quarter-million dollar range. The question for the congregation became whether or not to spend such a sum on maintaining one of the finest pipe organs in the area.

“Once a big pipe organ like this is let go,” Emmanuel Pastor Robert Eller said, “there’s little or no chance it will ever be revived. We think it’s worthwhile trying to keep the organ in good working condition.”

A series of planned fundraiser concerts was cut short with the coming of the pandemic in 2020.

“We had the organ looked at about four years ago,” said Ruth Patrick, music coordinator at the church. “At that point we were told it would need a full restoration in about 10 years, so we’re getting closer to that. We want to prepare for that eventuality.”

The Nov. 6 concert will feature musicians from around the state playing classical selections on the Emmanuel pipe organ, accompanied by piano and solo performers. Organists include Cindy Smith from Emmanuel, Kathy Sloan of St. Paul’s Church in Alliance, Nancy Stavely of St. Paul’s, Luke Tetgmeirer from the Schantz Organ Company, Randy Gibbs of First Moravian Church in Dover and John Faust of Emmanuel.

Playing piano selections will be Teresa McMeechan of Emmanuel and Nancy Stavely. Vocalists include John Faust and Wayne York, both of Emmanuel.

The organ, installed by Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, boasts nearly 2,000 pipes, each fitted with a piece of leather that in time hardens and fails. These leathers have been replaced as they have presented problems, but the main need for attention is in the network of pipes connecting the keyboard itself with the sounding pipes on the wall at the front of the sanctuary. They contain many moving parts, and as these parts have begun to fail, the plan is to replace them with a less maintenance-heavy option, bringing the organ into like-new condition and preparing it for another half century of service.

“We have replaced leathers as they’ve failed, but doing things in pieces becomes more expensive,” Patrick said. “The most sensible and least expensive option is to do all the restoration work at once, rather than in stages.”

Eller is determined to hang on to the church’s organ. “It’s the atmosphere it creates when you hear it played,” he said, “especially when you’re hearing this big, bold, boisterous piece of music that fills the building with that amazing sound. It changes how you feel in worship. It adds an extra dimension to the service and engages your ear in a way that other forms of music just don’t. I’m glad that we have it and we use it the way we do.”

“It is especially true of a pipe organ,” Marsha Lile of the church’s worship and music committee said. “A service with an electrical organ is just not the same and doesn’t have the same kind of impact.”

Emmanuel Lutheran Church is at 202 E. High Ave. and online at www.emmanuelnp.com.

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