A new church organ could make music for centuries | news/arlington

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St. George’s Episcopal Church is set to officially present Northern Virginia with an extraordinary and enduring musical gift, a magnificent $1.2 million pipe organ designed by world-renowned organ builder Martin Pasi.

The large instrument, intended for use in public concerts as well as for congregational services, is described by Pasi as “unique in the Northern Virginia area and comparable to the best in Europe”. And potentially, he could make music for the next three centuries.

The great organ will be inaugurated on Friday, February 11 during a concert at 8 p.m. by Kola Owolabi, organ professor at the University of Notre Dame. A sought-after solo recitalist, Owolabi will perform spiritual works, classical works and the premiere of Brenda Portman’s “Aspects of Light,” based on the stained glass windows telling stories of St. George.

On Saturday, February 12 at 10 a.m., St. George’s will introduce the organ to children in the community with “Dinosauria and Donuts,” a free concert with dinosaur-themed music and demonstration for families, followed by light snacks .

Concerts are free and masks are mandatory at all events. For more information, visit www.saintgeorgeschurch.org and click on “music”.

The new pipe organ was inspired by Dr. Benjamin Keseley, the church’s talented and enthusiastic music minister who, during his tenure, pioneered concert programming as well as music education for children, dreaming of a future singing school located in St. George’s.

His nickname for the previous organ – “Old Wheezy” – reflected its condition: a tendency to whistle due to outside winds, several unreliable keys, a faulty location that sent sound into the choir members’ ears instead of listeners, and a generally mediocre tone. and manufacturing.

The old organ had been retrofitted for space, not designed for it, and repair would have been an expensive band-aid job at best.

The congregation rose to the challenge and raised funds for the new organ through bequests to the music program from Lew and Valerie Gulick and Norine Florian, supplemented by donations from more than 150 music-loving church parishioners who recognize the power music to heal and praise and want to share his joy with the faithful and the whole community.

(The church is still raising funds for the structural restoration of the 70-year-old Transfiguration stained glass window above the church entrance.)

Hailing from Austria, Seattle-based Pasi used centuries-old craft techniques to build the Organ of St. George, his 28th musical instrument for a variety of churches, cathedrals and private homes.

For nearly two years, he and a team of four wood and metal workers were immersed in “Pasi Opus 28”, inspired by the great German organs of the 18th century and precisely crafted to complement the size and acoustics of the recently renovated nave of Saint-Georges. .

If protected from environmental hazards, the life of this type of hand-made pneumatic instrument is 300 years.

By the end of December, Pasi had nearly completed the project with the painstaking process of mouth-blowing into each of the 2,200 pipes, which range in size from half an inch (the diameter of a pencil) to 16 feet long. This sets the precise height of each pipe in harmony with its fellows.

Pasi’s skill led to his reputation as a master of the “vocal voice”; his organs are known for their rich, unforced lyrical sound that parallels the beauty of the human voice.

Each of the more than 500,000 wooden and metal parts of St. George’s Organ was handcrafted in his workshop and then trucked to Arlington, where the organ assembly process began in October.

“Pasi Opus 28” harmonizes visually and aurally with the church. The carved white oak case is 20 feet high and 25 feet wide surrounding the rose window of the church, showing the pipes and protecting the workings of the organ. In the tradition of master woodcarvers, a hidden emblem – here, St. George and the Dragon – is carved into the cabinets for people to seek out.

The 2,200 pipes, grouped in 39 rows, are controlled in sets by 33 stops which determine the pitch of a note, making it sound, for example, like a violin, a trumpet or a full choir. (“Pulling all the stops” is an organ speech to make the organ as loud as possible.)

“Pasi Opus 28” is played by two manuals (or keyboards) and a pedalboard played by the feet.

With its new arrival, St. George’s Church will expand its music and arts programming to the public, with audiences able to enjoy its location one block from the Virginia Square subway station. In addition to sponsoring five rehearsal choral and bell ensembles, the church already hosts regular performances by Capitol Early Music and the church’s artists-in-residence, the Ninth Street String Quartet.

St. George’s Adult Choir is renowned for its liturgical music in the English choral tradition and its Youth Choir is very strong, performing three years ago in England at Lincoln and Sheffield Cathedrals.

Choir programs are open to all families; they do not need to be members of the congregation.

Other upcoming performances include a May 20 recital by Kimberly Marshall, organ professor at Arizona State University, based on the themes of revival and ostinato forms, co-sponsored by the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

The next morning, Marshall will present a talk on the healing power of sound, followed by a participatory Sound Bath meditation and yoga on the church floor maze.

On September 17, Helloise Dregrugillier (recorder) and Balint Karosi (organ) will perform in a benefit concert co-sponsored by Capitol Early Music. This spring, the Ninth Street String Quartet will perform with the organ; details to be announced.

[Sun Gazette Newspapers provides content to, but otherwise is unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]

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