Pipes for organ, moved from filthy barn to historic York, Pa., church, will soon sing

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Workers lift pipes for the organ at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in York, Pa., as part a program to rehab the instrument. Some of the pipes weigh 200 pounds each. Olivier Latry, head organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, will attempt to make the pipes sing during a dedication slated for Nov. 15. (See video of the installation below.) Also of interest: The organ: ‘It is a whole orchestra in itself’ and Red Lion’s Don and Ruth Warner: ‘They’re lovely people’ and Two York County union churches vestiges of bygone era.

Pipe organs have always fascinated me.
So I was particularly enjoying a pipe organ concert, one of several performances planned that evening, at a York church a few years ago.
The organist and a vocalist had run through their program and had some time left, so launched into Handel’s “Messiah,” specifically the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
It was unrehearsed and neither performer used music.
But it was beautiful, and many in the audience joined in.
At the height of the magnificent music, a hand from someone representing the next act poked into the organist’s line of vision.
The hand held a watch.
The implication?
Time to end a piece that cannot be abbreviated… .


The organist concluded as quickly as he could without unduly disappointing the audience.
There’s probably a metaphor about faith or life in there somewhere.
Anyway, given this fascination, I was captured by a recent York, Pa., Daily Record/Sunday News (4/1/11) story about a rehab job on St. Matthew Lutheran’s pipe organ.
Here are excerpts:

The music the pipes could play had been lost.
Through all the filth in a barn, James Hoover could envision what the pipes could become.
“They could be beautiful; they could be rehabilitated,” said Hoover, an SDG Organ employee. The company has been hired to use the 24 pipes taken from an Adams County barn and refurbish the organ at St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church in York.
An organ builder had been leasing the barn, Hoover said, then the builder died. The property owner wanted to get rid of the pipes and contacted SDG Organ.The organ will have about 2,600 pipes, Noel said, and be will be a “French Romantic Symphonic” style opposed to the 18th century German style of the previous organ. Now the sound will be reminiscent of “something you would have heard in Paris starting in about 1850,” he said.
On Thursday, workers were hoisting some of the large Bombard Pipes, which arrived Monday, into one of the two chambers in the church. Weighing about 200 pounds each, 12 large pipes are many the church is replacing, music director Jon Noel said. The pipes are about 22 feet high, but 32 feet long because they are curved, he explained.
Other pipes taken from the barn are still at the shop in Millersville, said Harold Ulmer, shop foreman. Of the new pipes, 12 of them actually came from First Presbyterian in York, he said. Other pipes were made in two other locations, Ulmer said.
In addition to a new console, about “800 new pipes” will be added to the organ, which will now be digital, Ulmer said. “Parts of it — wooden ones — were from 1933 and it was rebuilt in 1966,” Noel said. The wooden pipes will be painted a burgundy color in the tradition used by the French of Cavialle Coll, a famous French organ builder in the 1800s, Ulmer said.
Easter 2010 was the last time the organ was played, Noel said, having been dismantled.
Years before, the organ actually stopped playing during a wedding ceremony as the bride and groom where walking down the aisle.
“The organ just suddenly stopped playing. No sound at all,” he said. Thinking quickly, Noel rushed to the piano to save the day. “I don’t know that they noticed the organ shutting down.”
A big air leak was the problem. Additional things went wrong with it later, he said.
The project will cost just more than $500,000 and is part of a larger capital campaign that started years ago, Noel said.
Admiring the pipes, Clair Starner, a parishioner, said he was looking forward to hearing them in all their glory.
Adding more pipes would be a stretch, Noel said.
“This is about as big as its going to get. I think they used every inch of space up there,” he said.

A York Daily Record/Sunday News video captures the installation of organ pipes at St. Matthew Church.
Archives:
- All York Town Square posts from the start. Then use “find” function on browser to search for keywords.
- Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and Lutherans, you get this.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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