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Archive for Saturday, December 4, 1999

ANTIQUE KEYBOARD WARMS LECOMPTON HOLIDAY

December 4, 1999

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An aged instrument hasn't lost its music throughout 143 years and will sing again Sunday to bring in the holiday season.

Lecompton --The Christmas season will not come to Lecompton accompanied by a floor-vibrating pipe organ, screaming brass instruments or crashing symbols.

Instead, the holidays will be ushered in quietly and simply by the accordion-like sounds of a 143-year-old melodeon.

The small, keyboard instrument will be a featured part of Christmas Vespers at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Territorial Capital Museum.

In its 17th year, the annual concert has become the unofficial start of the holiday season for Lecompton.

"It's kind of special to all of us here," said Kim Stewart, who directs the Lecompton Community Singers, which will perform during the event.

Solo singers, ensembles, pianists and a bell choir will fill out the program.

And, as has become a tradition, a group photo will be taken to commemorate the day of family and friends.

But the most special moments may be reserved for two solos played on the rosewood melodeon, which has been tied to the town since the instrument was first purchased.

The melodeon was donated in 1856 to the Lecompton Episcopal Church by the Hoad family, said Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society.

At the time, Lecompton was a candidate for the Kansas territorial capital, and its residents had high hopes that the Kansas Episcopal bishop would make Lecompton his home.

But with the capital's location in Topeka, so went the Episcopal church, leaving the instrument to the Hoad family again.

The family's heirs, who now live in North Carolina, donated it to the museum about 15 years ago.

It has only been played once since then, Bahnmaier said, making Sunday's performance a rare treat.

Stewart sat down before the melodeon Thursday evening.

Pumping with only her right foot -- the left pedal is broken -- Stewart started the bellows working and put her fingers to the real ivory keys.

The notes surged hesitantly at first and then took up the tune, more than a century washing away within a few chords.

The notes of first a hymn and then Silent Night floated through the museum chapel, past the red poinsettia leaves, through the boughs of the tinseled cedar tree and up to the high, white ceiling of the open room.

"It really feels like Christmas," Bahnmaier said.

-- Kendrick Blackwood's phone message number is 832-7221. His e-mail address is kblackwood@ljworld.com.

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