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This pipe dream came true
A new organ comes to First Presbyterian Church
First Presbyterian Church organist BJ Mahar plays a short piece on the church’s new pipe organ Wednesday afternoon as church members take part in unpacking some of the new pipes.

Pipe after pipe, members of First Presbyterian Church took part in the creation of future music Wednesday.

In anticipation of the congregation’s new pipe organ, members of First Presbyterian, young and old, lined up for an hourlong ceremony to honor the church’s new pipe organ.

Parishioners helped unload some of the organ’s 2,249 lead and aluminum pipes and pass them up a ladder to employees of Parkey Organ Builders, who will, in the next three months finish installing the custom-made organ that will replace the 1976-era organ that once pumped music through the church.

Though the pipe organ will be mostly new — with three manuals and four divisions — one-third of it will include parts from the 1976 organ, said Michael Henry, director of music at First Presbyterian.

“This is kind of a ceremony to celebrate the first installation of the pipes on the organ,” said Phil Parkey, owner of Parkey Organ Builders.

After she helped pass a few pipes herself, Carrie Hatfield watched as the congregation carried out portions of her late husband Joe Hatfield’s last wishes.

Hatfield, who helped found Fieldale Farms, had a notary public come to the hospital before he died in June 2008 to change his will and designate some of his money for the pipe organ restoration at First Presbyterian, Carrie Hatfield said.

“He just said a church was not a church without music and there was no music without an organ,” Carrie Hatfield said.
And as she looked up at the shiny aluminum pipes already installed in the church, Hatfield said she felt her husband would be pleased.

“It’s beautiful,” she said.

And BJ Maher, organist and music assistant at First Presbyterian, couldn’t agree more. Maher said she is eagerly anticipating the completion of the new organ. In the interim, Maher said she has been accompanying the church choir with the piano.

“I really have enjoyed getting back to the piano for a few months, but I’m really getting excited now,” Maher said. “I told my husband that when it gets to be playable, then I’m bringing a cot and installing it here for about a month.”

Maher said she hopes to have several weeks of practice before the new organ is used in a church service. The new organ has more pipes and one more keyboard than the previous organ, and will allow for greater range in the music, Maher said.

But Maher is not quite sure what song she will play to introduce the congregation to the new organ when it is complete this spring.

“I’ve never been involved with a church when they were installing an organ, so this is really an exciting experience for me,” said Maher. “...I have stacks of music — I mean just absolute stacks in the cabinets — and I have now the job of going through and making some decisions about which pieces I’m going to play. I haven’t made the final decisions on that yet; we’ll have to see.”