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Concert to put 1901 Stone Arabia organ in spotlight

Thursday, May 8, 2014
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Organ builder and tuner Sid Chase points out original stencil work on a zinc pipe from the 1901 pipe organ at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Stone Arabia on Monday.
Organ builder and tuner Sid Chase points out original stencil work on a zinc pipe from the 1901 pipe organ at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Stone Arabia on Monday.

— History will shake the rafters at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Stone Arabia on Friday evening.

The source of the commotion will be a pipe organ that has filled the sanctuary with joyful noise every Sunday for more than a century. The public is invited to come hear its awe-inspiring sound and see its intriguing inner workings at 7 p.m.

In the spring of 1901, the one-manual, six-stop organ was transported in pieces from Utica, where it had been built in the shop of Clarence E. Morey. It likely made the trip on the Erie Canal and then was transported two miles over land to the church.

Church records show the organ cost more than $400, which was paid in installments.

The organ is small, but at the same time majestic. Measuring approximately 8 feet wide and 6 feet deep, it has just one keyboard, above which zinc pipes soar. Its case is a warm-colored oak and, inside, the main chest is pine. Twenty-one pipes are visible, but the organ actually has 342. Some of the interior pipes are made of tin and lead, others of wood.

The smallest is 1 foot high, the largest 8 feet.

Concert details

WHAT: Music played on a century-old organ, and a look at its inner workings

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 5426 Route 10, Stone Arabia

INFO: 673-5443 or 673-2224

HELP: Donations to help pay for organ restoration work will be accepted at the door or by mail to Trinity Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 238, Palatine Bridge, NY 13428

The visible pipes bear original stenciling done in dull, muted colors typical for the turn of the last century, said Sid Chase, an organ builder and tuner who has been performing upkeep on the organ for years.

The sound that comes from the pipes is what sets this organ apart from modern organs that project sound by way of speakers.

“You can’t condense it up and through speakers and have it come out as successfully as you can with windblown pipes spread over a bigger area,” explained Chase.

Trinity’s organ has all of its original parts, including sheepskin on the sides of the bellows and six large chunks of granite used to weigh the bellows down.

At the time when the organ was built, all sorts of things were used as weights atop bellows, including rocks, chunks of iron, bricks and tombstones, Chase noted.

Originally, the bellows on Trinity’s organ was filled with air manually. A long handle on the right side of the organ was drawn up and down to fill it. In 1930, a quarter-horsepower motor was added to do that work.

Proven durability

The organ’s inner workings are all made of wood, so it is easier to maintain than modern organs, Chase said.

“Electricity and all of our computer stuff today does require more maintenance than this. This is virtually indestructible, unless you go at it with a hammer or something,” he said.

The organ did have a brush with destruction a few years ago, however, when the church’s roof leaked on it.

“Water and fire are the great enemies of organs,” Chase said.

It took months for the organ to dry out completely, but no significant damage was done.

Naphtali Rothrock of Sprakers, a former organist at the church who now plays at First Reformed Church of Schenectady and the United Methodist Church of St. Johnsville, will return to the keyboard during Friday’s performance.

She recalled one Sunday when she was playing the organ at Trinity and looked up to find a bird peeking out of the opening in the side of one of the pipes.

“That was one of the strangest things that ever happened to me,” she said with a laugh.

During the musical portion of the program, Rothrock will play selections including “Unter Der Linden Grune” by J.P. Sweelinck and “Prelude and Fugue in D” by G.F. Handel.

Other featured organists will be Eric Stroud, Jan MacLauchlin and Norma Bowley.

The Rev. Kenneth Dingman will contribute vocals, Terry Gordon will play the trumpet and Anne Cooper will accompany on flute.

Friday’s concertgoers will get a look at the inner workings of the organ with the help of a pole-mounted video camera. The camera will be inserted into the organ’s interior and images will be projected onto the church’s wall.

Kathleen Schlotzhauer, Trinity’s special music programs organizer, summed up the program: “It’s about what this small organ can do here in this church.”

 
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