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Used pipe organ was a bargain for Oxford church

‘We were lucky,’ says committee leader.

An organ recital at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Oxford will celebrate the acquisition of a pipe tracker organ.

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The Nordlie Opus 27, a 1,718-pipe tracker organ, was originally built by the J.F. Nordlie Company of Sioux Falls, S.D., in 1995 for Faith Lutheran Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Faith Lutheran Church recently closed its doors due to dwindling membership.

The community is invited to attend the recital at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11. Holy Trinity is located at 25 E. Walnut St. The recital is free. A reception will follow the recital at approximately 4:30 p.m. in the undercroft of the church.

The Nordlie Opus 27 was recently purchased, dismantled, carefully packed and moved to Oxford on two, 26-feet trucks, after nearly a yearlong effort to replace Holy Trinity’s previous organ, which was going to cost more to repair than the purchase of a replacement organ.

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John Nordlie’s crew installed the organ at Holy Trinity in September, and the organ was consecrated on Oct. 29. The organ has been named the Stanley P. Ferch Organ in honor of a donation, given in honor of Ferch after his death.

Organists Robert Wisniewski (Columbus) Bryan Mock (Cincinnati’s Christ Church Glendale) and Holy Trinity’s organist Phillip Roberts will play a variety of selections during the recital, which will feature music composed for the organ from the 16th Century to the present. For more details, go online to www.holytoxford.com.

We talked to Sarah Michael, a Butler County resident and chair of Holy Trinity’s Organ Committee about the new organ. She gave us behind-the-scenes look at her journey through the process.

Q: Tell us about the process and what it took to get the organ here.

A: In January of 2017, I was asked by the governing committee of our church, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Vestry, to chair an organ committee. The charge for the organ committee was to recommend to the Vestry (a body like a board of deacons in other traditions) repair or replacement of the Wicks Organ, a 60-plus-year-old organ in our church that had a lot of mechanical and musical issues. The committee explored repairing the Wicks Organ. We went to three different organ companies, and we had them come evaluate the organ and give us estimates on the cost of repair. The estimates were in the $300,000-dollar range, and we did not have $300,000 to repair the organ. So, we recommended to the Vestry that we start looking for a different organ. Church organs are readily available through the Organ Clearing House out of New Hampshire. They are also readily available from different organ companies, who build, sell and make new organs. So, I began with permission from the Vestry to start looking for a new organ. One of the companies that evaluated the Wicks Organ was Quimby Pipe Organs out of Missouri. The president of that company, Daniel Hancock, alerted me to the Nordlie Opus 27, the organ we now have. He already knew the dimensions of our church, and he had been aware that this organ was coming up for sale, because the church in which it was located — in Prairie Village, Kan., was dissolving for lack of membership. Their membership had been decreasing over the years, and he thought that this organ was a perfect fit for the size of our sanctuary.

Q: What was the cost of the Nordlie Opus 27?

A: We were lucky in our negotiations for the organ in that we had a fund that had been growing over the past 20 years, or so. And, it was a fund of a donation of money that was given in honor of one of our members, who had passed away, and the fund was (designated) for fixing or replacing our current organ. So, 20 years ago, our Wicks Organ was already having issues. This fund had grown substantially, and it allowed us enough money to purchase the Nordlie Opus 27 Organ, which we paid $140,000 for. It also allowed us enough money to pay for the cost of moving it here, which was about $130,000. Another gift from another parish member allowed us both to install the organ and make changes necessary in the sanctuary to accommodate it. (It would cost more than $1.2 million to purchase the organ today, as Nordlie makes each piece by hand.) The organ is beautiful. It looks like it was designed for our church … . The church in Prairie Village was like ours in architecture. We were lucky to find this organ.

Q: What happened during the installation process?

A: We had the builders, J.F. Nordlie Company, the company that built the organ, take the organ apart in Prairie Village, move it here, and they installed it here, beginning on September 18, 2017. It took them about two-and-a-half weeks to put it back together, piece by piece. The organ was moved in two, 26-ft. trucks, and had many trays of individual pipes that were installed, one-by-one. There are 1,718 pipes in this organ, and it has a complex, mechanical working action. It’s called a tracker organ, which means that when you press a key, that the pressure of your finger on the key works to a series of levers, so that pressure on the key brings air up into the pipes and makes it sound. It’s not an electronic organ. It’s an old-fashioned tracker organ, and the wind source is generated beneath the organ, and is directly attached to the organ. The organ is free-standing and not electronic. It makes a fabulous sound. Once we knew we were going to have the organ, and negotiated with the church in Prairie Village, we had to get the organ out of the church in a timely manner, because Faith Lutheran Church in Prairie Village was going to be torn down at the end of September. We had to get everything in order, and we hired the J.F. Nordlie Company to move it. They went to Prairie Village in the beginning of September, took it apart, loaded it on two trucks and drove directly here. We since had a consecration of the organ on October 29 of last year. This upcoming recital is our invitation to the public to come to hear the organ. Music has always been a very important part of the Holy Trinity tradition. And, there have been many choral groups, including singers from Miami University, and other musicians, who have come and performed on our stage. We are hoping that this recital will be the first of many public performances on this new organ.

Contact this contributing writer at gmwriteon@aol.com.

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