- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Clear, crisp musical notes filtered through the air as Claire Bushong played the new pipe organ at Sinai Lutheran Church.

At one point, there was the sound of tinkling bells, later followed by a low, almost rumbling note on the organ - both showing the new instrument’s range and versatility.

Bushong, the church’s organist, did a lot of smiling as she played. So did Cynthia Lauritsen, chairman of the committee that spent many hours working to get just the right pipe organ for the Fremont church.

Now, church members look forward to Sunday services and future concerts in which the new organ will be played - the fulfillment of a longtime dream for the church, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

The Fremont Tribune (https://bit.ly/2foVJoH ) reports that Juget-Sinclair of Montreal, Canada, built the mechanical action organ.

“It’s especially designed for Sinai,” said organ builder Stephen Sinclair. “No other organ is exactly like this.”

More than 7,000 hours went into building the organ, which has more than 700 pipes. The organ case is made of white oak and the pipe shades are of bass wood.

The design on the pipe shades incorporates a vine motif seen in the church’s stained glass windows and is made to look like the burning bush from the Old Testament Bible story.

The burning bush design seemed fitting considering the church’s name.

In Scripture, God appointed Moses at the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The church is named Sinai, as in Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the 10 Commandments.

“We thought that was a good connection,” Lauritsen said.

Considering the Scripture reference in which God tells Moses at the burning bush that he’s standing on Holy ground, the church had the word “Holy” written in 11 different languages - including English, Spanish, Pawnee, Swedish, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic and Hindi - below the pipes.

Even the variety of languages represented is symbolic.

Bushong said the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Al Duminy - considering the church’s mission to the community and wider world - was interested in having languages that reflect an interest in looking forward as well as looking back.

The organ was built in Canada, then dismantled and reinstalled at the church in Fremont last week. On Monday, organ builders were voicing each pipe to make sure it would resonate perfectly in the space, Lauritsen said.

And although the work isn’t completely done, Bushong was able to play the organ on Sunday.

“It was a real thrill,” she said.

More music lies ahead.

The public is invited to the inaugural concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 in the church at 950 E. Eighth St. The free event is part of the “Sinai Festival Sounds” concert series. Bushong will be the organist.

Three more events, also free and open to the public, include the pipe organ dedication at 3 p.m. Dec. 11 in the church and a Hymn Festival at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at the church. The pipe organ dedication is part of Sinai’s 125th anniversary celebration. At the Hymn Festival, organist David Schack, a Sinai member, will play. Theologian Paul Westermeyer will speak and church choirs will perform. The theme of the event will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Michael Bauer, who has taught at the University of Kansas in Lawrence since 1987, will play a recital at 3 p.m. May 7. Bauer has performed organ concerts in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Russia. This will be the final concert of the season.

The church’s new pipe organ is the result of hours of planning and some long-distance trips.

Bushong said the church once had a Hammond organ. Its last organ was a mass-produced instrument not constructed specifically for the church. That organ came to the church in 1969, but was small and didn’t provide enough sound for the sanctuary.

Worship space renovation in 2000 would enhance the acoustics. During that time, the ceiling was opened into the wood vault and tile floor replaced the carpet.

“We had wonderful acoustics, but not a wonderful organ,” Lauritsen said.

For years, church members had talked about getting a new organ. Congregants formed an organ committee in 2011 and Bauer became a consultant.

“We started learning about organs,” Lauritsen said. “Michael is a fabulous teacher. We learned what different organs do and went back to when organ building started.”

Committee members conducted a lot of research, making trips to various cities to see organs. They investigated the possibility of getting a used organ, but decided a new one would be the best solution, Bushong said.

With three bids and pledges in hand, they had a congregational voters meeting. The congregation voted to have Juget-Sinclair build the new Opus 46 organ.

Juget-Sinclair was working on another project, but was able to start working on Sinai’s pipe organ in last spring. The organ was brought to Fremont on Nov. 7 and the installation began. On Sunday, the organ builders demonstrated the instrument’s different sounds. They also showed the workings of the instrument’s interior.

“That was cool,” Lauritsen said. “Everybody liked that.”

On Monday, Sinclair talked about the instrument.

“Organ building is incredibly laborious,” Sinclair said. “It’s a lot of work, but we like the work. It’s something we’re passionate about.

“The work we’re doing now is going very well, because the acoustics are good here. That makes it easy.”

Lauritsen noted a few other things.

“Music has been the core of Sinai’s identity as a congregation for the past 125 years,” she said. “Sinai is proud to introduce our beautiful instrument to Fremont and our desire is to share it with the community.”


Information from: Fremont Tribune, https://www.fremontneb.com

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