A piece of history sits in the First Presbyterian Church in Independence, and this weekend is an opportunity for residents to hear history and music brought to life.
According to church member Nancy Ehrlich, the organ has been enlarged and renovated over the years. She said records detailing its history have been lost, but it will still be heavily played as part of the church’s summer music series.
“It’s not a church service. It’s just enjoying the instruments that are there,” said Ehrlich, explaining that it’s better to bring in music lovers to appreciate the instrument, since “you can’t pick up a pipe organ and move it back.”
She said the concert allows residents to experience a style of music that has grown uncommon in the mainstream circle of music, and is worth being a part of simply to hear something new.
The concert is at 7 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian, 100 N. Pleasant St. The program lists work by Mendelssohn, Bach, Mozart, Sibelius, Saint-Saens and other composers.
The concert is performed and directed by academic music faculty and students from the surrounding area.
“It’s here, it’s a new experience, one you haven’t had,” Ehrlich said. “It doesn’t last very long, probably less than an hour, but it’s worth hearing what people who know music are playing.”
The concert will feature Dr. Christine Liu of the University of St. Mary and Jacob Hofeling, the director of music ministry at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Shawnee, who is pursuing a doctorate in musical arts at the University of Kansas.
The organ, a centerpiece of the first concert, is a remnant of a time when such instruments were a status symbol and were often gifted to church as part of quiet contests between individuals seeing who could furnish their local houses of worship with the biggest instruments, according to Ehrlich.
The organ’s history, prior to its electronic renovation, features a deaf organist who played on memory and faith in the sheet music, and wooden log pipes that cracked because the company creating it didn’t factor local climate into its production. The organ was originally much smaller, and required a single individual to “pump the bellows,” providing it air to function while it was being played, a physically demanding position, according to Ehrlich.
“The janitor pumped the bellows and did not need a gym to keep in shape,” she said.
All concerts in the summer music series are free and open to the public, although a donation of $10 is suggested to support the musicians and cover administrative costs.
While the concert takes place in a church, Erhlich explained the program features music infrequently heard in churches. Erhlich compared the music coming from the organ to a rock concert in that listeners feel it with their entire body.
“This you feel, you feel your bones vibrate,” she said, adding the experience is entirely different from a concert with electronic instruments.