A blessed organ for NW church - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

A blessed organ for NW church

Bishop to bless rebuilt instrument

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Posted: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:20 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

A Northwest church has acquired, rebuilt and installed an historic pipe organ, which will be blessed and played for the first time this weekend.

The Right Rev. Kirk Smith, the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona, is expected to attend Christ the King Episcopal Church at 2800 W. Ina for its services and to bless the instrument this Sunday, Nov. 21.

Getting the project this far has been like a shuttle launch, according to Christ the King Rev. Mike Smith.

“We had the funding to move ahead with this first round of the rebuild in September” 2009, Smith said. “We were targeting a July date. Clearly they (the pipe organs) take what they take.”

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, contracted the pipe organ, which is an Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1192, for construction in 1949. After years of neglect, water damage and insect infestations, the members of the Christ the King decided to buy and rebuild the organ, which has 26 ranks.

After being cleaned, tuned and rebuilt, it has taken time to get to a point where the console can be plugged in and notes played. To date, Smith has heard only one note on it, “which actually was kind of exciting.”

When completed, the $130,000 organ will have 1,300 wires, 1,200 pipes, and enough circuitry and computer chips to modernize a musical instrument that dates back near the third century, BC.

Matthew Whitehouse, the church’s organist and choir master, will be at the controls of all the pipes and valves. Now 28, Whitehouse is working on his doctorate at the University of Arizona. He started playing the piano when he was in the second grade. By the seventh grade, he was playing the organ.

Whitehouse fulfills his passions for both music and astronomy by composing music on the organ inspired by the cosmos. One of his pieces, “Nebulae,” was played in Paris at Notre Dame and St. Sulpice.

“It’s very hard to actually describe the process other than you just do it,” Whitehouse said. “For me, it’s very intuitive.” He sits at an instrument, and writes music “pencil to paper,” working through his pieces.

“I’m excited,” Mike Smith said. “We’ve experienced, here, the same sort of decline all the main denominations are experiencing. With that organ and some community outreach things we’re initiating, and some other stuff, I am beginning to see the pieces that would move us in the direction of thriving.”

To help fund the project, the church is asking for $75 donations. In turn, the donor will be able to name a pipe in honor of someone in their lives.

Pipe Blessing

Christ the King Episcopal Church

2800 W. Ina Rd.

8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Sunday

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