The Last Songs of an Old Friend -- Pipe Organ Removal

By Brian Ebie

It's all too often the way of things these days.  Congregations age, worship styles change, members move away and churches find themselves struggling to adapt, retain membership, and attract new members.  Such is the case at a local church I service, a congregation who has served their community for nearly 190 years.  I was once part of their membership and served as music director and organist, and I have serviced their pipe organ for the past 26 years.  And so it was with great sadness I watched their decline, and although no longer a member of that faith community, nonetheless felt a spiritual kinship with their people and history. 

The church was a pioneer in small town Ohio.  Founded in 1827 by the founders of its faith, the early members first met in a home, then a barn, and finally erected their first building in 1832, followed by a second building in 1850, and their present edifice in 1925.  By the 1950’s the church was filled to capacity each Sunday and active in the community. 

Music was always important to this congregation.  The early singing school met there and singing hymns by lining out was part of their early practice.  There’s an oral tradition that a small pipe organ from “out east” was installed in the 1860’s in the second church building, and a reed organ from that building (“pump organ”) built locally, survived and was finally sold in the 1980’s at a church rummage sale.  In the new 1925 building a space was made for a pipe organ and one was installed in 1929.  A WurliTzer Theatre Organ.  Purchased from a movie theatre in a town many miles away, the organ became available when both “talking pictures” and the Great Depression hit the local theatre with significant financial troubles.  The mighty WurliTzer was installed, complete with the toy counter (sleigh bells, drum, car horn, harp, and castanets) in the space made available.  How exciting it must have been to have that sort of organ power in the new building.  This instrument served reliably until 1977.  More on the 1977 organ in the next post.

Sadly, the pipe organ must come out of the building now before the church closes.

In the coming days I'll be blogging the process of removing this wonderful pipe organ through pictures and video, and sharing a bit of history along the way.  I hope you enjoy. 

Below is a short video I made on the day we began removing the instrument.  This is the last time the organ would play.