Early one morning a while ago, as I was opening the church for our team of organ builders and tuners who were arriving to begin a day of work on our pipe organ, a young man called out to me asking to see the inside of the church. As I showed him around, we began talking about the organ, and I was amazed to hear him eloquently express how, for him, the sound of the organ elevates things and creates an atmosphere in which one looks upward. He went on to lament that, in some churches, the organ has fallen out of style. I was encouraged by his love of the organ’s majestic sounds, and he even asked to be notified of any future organ concerts! After learning a bit more about our building and concert series, he went off to work in one of the government buildings surrounding the church, and I was left pondering the significance of the encounter.
For nearly two centuries, Christ Church has enjoyed beautiful organ music within its walls. Over the years, four different pipe organs have occupied this space, and many interesting organists have presided over these instruments. Since the mid 1800s our church has been known for its fine music (a reputation that even withstood the Civil War), and this is a tradition we can be proud of and must maintain. Our pipe organ always has been the “voice of our space,” and with continued maintenance, it can continue in this role for generations to come. Recently, it has come to our attention that the organ has suffered from deferred maintenance and design issues. While many of the most urgent issues have been resolved thanks to swift action by the vestry and finance committee, it is clear that an ongoing organ fund is necessary to adequately preserve and plan for the future of this instrument. Pipe organs require routine maintenance to continue functioning and occasionally need renovation and sometimes modification. Therefore, we have established the Cathedral Organ Fund. It is with gratitude to our forebears and confidence in our future that I ask you to read about our organ, attend our concerts, and consider financially supporting the “voice of our space.” More than just a maintenance fund, however, this summer marks the beginning of what I hope will be a renaissance of appreciation and understanding of our pipe organ. Join us as we draw closer to this instrument that has inspired us artistically and spiritually for generations. As part of our renewed awareness project, we will periodically run articles in The Messenger on past organists of the Cathedral.
This month, you may have special interest in the story of Madame Mariah Kowalewski, the longest-tenured organist here at Christ Church Cathedral. Thanks to her, a precedent was laid for fine church music, and this is a legacy we are mindful of and strive to uphold. We are the heirs of a grand and glorious heritage.