- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Read the history of organ music at Trinity Episcopal Church and there’s so much material there, you could write a sequel to “Under the Greenwood Tree,” Thomas Hardy’s novel set in mid-19th-century England.

“By 1892, however, the parishioners had begun to complain that the organ was frequently out of tune,” read the beginning of one entry, part of a litany of starts and stops for the downtown Fort Wayne church in search of musical satisfaction. In 1907, “the motor faltered and one of the choirboys rushed out of his pew to pump the bellows,” read another.

There will be no more faltering motors or bellows pumping now that the refurbished Wicks Organ, installed in 1948, was inaugurated recently at a special concert played by the church organist, Wayne Peterson.

So much has changed since January when pipes were removed one by one and placed in special wooden boxes for a trip to North Carolina, that the organ is now a Cornel Zimmer Opus 136.

Cornel Zimmer is the name of the company that did the work and the number means it is the 136th instrument to receive the company’s special attention, said Anthony Nichols, voicer, and Aaron Pannebaker, shop foreman for Cornel Zimmer.

Both men had come to make sure the organ was perfectly pitched, they said.

Peterson, who has been the organist there for 28 years, knew the day he auditioned “the organ did not function properly,” he said. Politely put, “it was unreliable.”

Lynn Neher, a choir member who also serves on the music committee, said it wasn’t so much out of tune - but yes, it was that, too - but that “sometimes the notes didn’t even happen.”

Church members knew what needed to be done, but in a 150-year-old church, money from the capital campaign will only go so far, Neher said. What put the project into motion was a gift from Alice Crume Thompson, a former church member who made a special bequest to get the organ fixed.

Although no one wanted to put a price on it, a letter from the rector, Thomas P. Hansen, put the gift into perspective: “Alice’s generous gift of a significant portion of her estate inspired the hearts of church members to join with her to fulfill the dream to refurbish and enhance the old instrument, a dream which for a time seemed beyond our reach,” he wrote for the program.

On the rededication day, Peterson sat at the organ’s console in the middle of the altar and played, receiving two standing ovations toward the end of the concert that ran six pieces.

People stood and clapped after “Dieu Parmi Nous” by Olivier Messiaen, possibly because the knowledgeable audience knew it was “such a hard piece to play,” Peterson said. The composer “had his own musical language. Every note has a flat or sharp,” he added.

The closer, “Danse Macabre,” by Saint Saens, was a “fun” piece, according to Peterson. The “danse” begins with church bells and moves on to Gothic runs, rumblings, tiny music for naughty sprites and a couple of passages when an organist can “pull out all the stops,” as the saying goes.

Every seat in the church was filled as former members from as far away as Chicago, the West Coast and Boston came back for the concert. Some of Peterson’s colleagues attended, including Geoffrey North, organist for the German-made concert organ at First Wayne Street United Methodist Church who called Trinity’s new organ “a lovely instrument.”

People took photos of the console with their cellphones and stood in line to talk to Peterson after the concert.

Anita Cast, a church member who was on the search committee that found Peterson 28 years ago, was teary-eyed after the concert. Peterson “not only does music, but he ministers to the people,” Cast said. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love him.”


Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette, https://bit.ly/1GSQnd1


Information from: The Journal Gazette, https://www.journalgazette.net



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