It’s hard to believe that it has been five years this week since we consecrated our spectacular, 160-rank Anne S. and Henry B. Paup Sanctuary Pipe Organ. With his homily of the same title presented during the organ’s Service of Consecration on October 26, 2014, Organ Builder Dan Garland presented to this church what he still calls his “magnum opus” — and the largest instrument he has ever built. “The most exiting attribute of this instrument to me is its excellence as an instrument for the worship of God in this sacred space for generations to come.”
Organist and Associate Director of Music and Worship Arts Peggy Graff, who was, if you’ll pardon the expression, instrumental in seeing this exciting grand-scale project to fruition, says that the addition of this organ has made a tremendous difference in what she is able to play in the Sanctuary. “The various manuals and divisions of this organ really show off the spectacular timbres (or colors) of this instrument.”
“I still can’t believe that God has blessed me in such a way that I get to utilize my gifts on such an unbelievable instrument,” Peggy adds. “Our worship is definitely enhanced by the various colors it creates for all we do — hymns, preludes, postludes, accompaniment for choirs, concerts, weddings, funerals and lately American Guild of Organist (AGO) exams for other organists.”
As the official exam site for the AGO, and Peggy as its Certification Coordinator, our beautiful sanctuary and its amazing pipe organ touches many lives far beyond the walls of our church. “I get to share this instrument with a number of organists in the process of certification,” Peggy relates, “and give them a tutorial, because even turning it on is complicated! It is very often overwhelming to them at first, and then once they get more comfortable, they are just captivated by all it can do beyond the 2- or 3-manual organs they are usually used to.” (Ours has five!)
In addition to organists who come to First Church for certification exams, Peggy says that organists from all over the world have come here just to experience playing this organ. Several highly acclaimed concert organists, including Dr. Bradley Welch, Dr. Yoon-Mi Lim, Chelsea Chen, and Kirk Rich have performed in our sanctuary as part of our annual Gift of Music concert series.
And beyond these big performances, Peggy says that what is perhaps most dear to her heart is seeing tears come to a bride’s eyes the first time she hears it playing her processional, the week to week experience of playing preludes, postludes, and just feeling how it beckons congregational singing through its unique abilities to stir and inspire even the most timid of churchgoers. She adds that she also loves accompanying our Choral Union and Adoramus Chamber Choir — as well as being part of the performance of such masterworks as John Rutter’s Gloria, Herbert Howell’s Magnificat, and coming up this Advent Season, Dan Forrest’s Jubilate Deo on December 8 during 9:30 and 11:00 am Sanctuary Worship.
Reflecting on this anniversary, as well as his own experience in building this instrument, Dan Garland says, “I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to build it — and working in such an extraordinary space was such a pleasure. It’s a place I’ve admired all my life.”
Echoing Dan’s nostalgic look backward to instruments and spaces he admired as a youngster, Peggy recalls her own beginnings, dreams, and inspirations when she began playing the organ at age 12. “It is my hope and prayer that there are budding young organists out there — maybe even in our congregation now — who dream of becoming an organist in this church someday.”