At 6:30 p.m. May 6, First Presbyterian Church will hold a spring Evensong to celebrate the church’s new organ. Seven church choirs from across the state will convene at the church to make a mass choir of 150 people, including First Presbyterian’s choir. The mass choir will perform seven anthems, one directed by each of the choir directors.
The other directors and choirs include:
• Cecil Riney with Chapel Hill United Methodist Church from Wichita
• Johnny Matlock with First United Methodist Church from Hays
• Jane and Bill Anderson with Countryside United Methodist Church in Topeka
• Steve Eurbank with First United Methodist Church in Topeka
• Sara Wentz with First United Methodist Church in Lawrence
• Laura McCorkill with First Baptist Church in Lawrence
A free-will offering for the Kansas Arts Commission will also take place at the Evensong.
The façade of First Presbyterian Church has been likened to Bethlehem on more than one occasion. During Tracy Resseguie’s seven-year process of repairing and updating the church’s pipe organ, he realized the church needed a star of its own.
Now it has one — in the form of a Zimbelstern, a star-shaped part of some church organs that rotates and makes a continuous tinkling sound when played.
But the church has much more than that: It has a whole new pipe organ, and this morning, on Easter Sunday, the congregation of the church will hear the organ sing for the first time.
The new organ, which was built by Reuter Organ Company in Lawrence, is double the size of its predecessor. At 37 ranks, the organ will envelope the church with scores of harmonic tones it’s never been filled with before. A “rank” is a set of pipes that make different sounds.
The previous organ was a 15-rank organ built by the Hagerstown, Md.-based M. P. Möller Pipe Organ Company, and installed when the church was built in 1968. After being played for more than 40 years, the organ began to have problems.
“When you turned that old girl on, that was all you got,” Resseguie says.
Müller went out of business in the 1980s, so getting new parts for the organ ranged from difficult to impossible. Reuter, though, was the company who always worked on the organ when it needed to be fixed.
Reuter removed the old organ in late January. The church has been using a piano during service for the past three months.
“It’s amazing how much we’ve missed it,” Resseguie says.
Some of the pipes from the former organ that were in better shape were refurbished and included in the new organ, keeping a touch of history with the new instrument.
The fact that Reuter built the new organ has a place in history, too. Reuter has been designing and constructing organs for more than 90 years. In ’68, Müller outbid Reuter for the project, so in a way, Resseguie says, it’s fitting that the company built the new and refurbished organ.
“The church really felt like it was like righting a wrong,” he says.
The congregation voted on whether to install a new organ in July, and Resseguie said the vote was unanimous. The capital campaign for the organ and a handful of smaller repairs to the church began in October. The church has raised $600,000 so far, well above the $450,000 the organ installation and construction cost.
But before the organ could have its Easter debut, Bill Klimas, artistic director for Reuter, spent several days voicing the organ.
“The organ is a machine that has to be taught how to sing,” Klimas said. “And at this point, we’re giving it very beginning singing lessons.”