Make a joyful noise

Goshen. First Presbyterian Church of Goshen seeks to replace organ console.

| 30 Mar 2020 | 10:17

The First Presbyterian Church of Goshen is raising money to replace the console of its pipe organ.

The Chronicle met with Rev. David Kingsley and Music Director and Organist Jonathan Hall to find out what is involved.

The present console, a replacement made by another manufacturer about 20 years ago, was acquired before Kingsley or Hall were with the church.

Problems have continued to plague it. A lot of the mechanical elements are not working. Pedal stops for low notes have had to be disconnected. Pipes have had to be disconnected.

There’s also a fundamental electrical difference, Hall noted, which, while challenging, can be overcome.

“The technology has just not worked; it’s failed,” Hall said. “The console is dying.”

A console, pipes, a complex system of wiring and a wind system make up the whole organ. There are the traditional mechanical pipes as well as “digital voices” which imitate organ pipes. The organ, with 2,300 mechanical and digital “pipes,” can produce sounds that exceed the range of an orchestra. The console, where the organist sits, is the business end — like a cockpit, Hall noted. And indeed there is a dizzying array of things the organist must operate. Three keyboards, called manuals — from the word for hand, a pedal board, operated by the feet, and numerous knobs called stops and other buttons (couplers).

The original console and pipes were manufactured by the Austin Company of Hartford Ct. in 1931. The Austin Company was founded in the 19th century by John Austin, an Englishman, and Hall said his great contribution was in the technical or engineering aspect.

With the console failing, a decision was made to seek an Austin console from the same period.

“Austin organs are known for their longevity. So we’re going to get a beautifully re-built Austin console that will outlive all of us,” Hall said.

“We were very lucky that they had one in mind for us,” added Kingsley.

“They happen to have a beautiful old console from the same period, 1931, as the rest of our organ. We’d like to have a contemporaneous console,” said Hall. “It will be re-done with modern action inside. It’s not all mechanical now; there are digital elements. It’s a much higher quality.”

According to Hall, the total cost of the organ console is $170,000, which includes not just the console, but rewiring and reconnecting the pipes. Further improvements will be made in subsequent years as funds allow

Kingsley noted they’ve raised a good amount to start, but they’re still about $40,000 short. If they can raise that amount in the next few months, then “We could say (to Austin) ‘go ahead with this,’ trusting the rest will come in. It’s going to take a long time, but we’ll have time to come up with the rest of the money.”

Hall said he had a late start, but he caught up. “It’s never too late to start,” Hall said, “Anyone interested in music should start right away.”

Hall grew up in New York City. As a child, he attended organ recitals at Calvary Episcopal Church with his father. There he heard and was greatly inspired by the organist Calvin Hampton. And, he noted, “When the Lawrence Welk Show was on TV, my parents called me out to watch the organist — Bob Ralston.”

“I went to kindergarten at St. George’s on Stuyvesant Square when that organ was taken apart for repairs and they showed us all the pipes. That’s a famous organ. I just always loved the organ,” he said.

Hall started piano in 12th grade and had his first formal organ lesson at 25. He received his doctorate in music theory at 40 and presently teaches at New York University.

Hall also plays at Holy Rosary Church in Greenwood Lake as a volunteer.

“He’s a spectacular organist," said congregant and choir member Kathy Alevras, “and occasionally does a recital. The organ has so many things that need fixing, he can’t do some things.”

Hall’s favorite things about this organ? “When it’s all working it has a beautiful warm ensemble; it’s not overbearing; it’s not shy. It’s suitable not only for sacred use, which is its main purpose, but for repertoire as well. This organ has a very deep and very high tone.”

The church has welcomed the community in with sing-alongs at Christmas, Fourth of July and Halloween. “They’ve been very well received by the community and they keep asking, ‘When’s the next one?’” said Kingsley.

Donations may be sent to The First Presbyterian Church, Goshen, 33 Park Place, Goshen, NY 10924. Write “organ” on the memo line.

Editor's note: The organ is dedicated to the memory of Paul E. Wright, known as Goshen’s Music Man, who played the organ for 40 years.