Organ celebration raises $4,500 for Ukrainian refugees

With appropriate care, organs can last a long time.

Jim Harper

About 40 music lovers gathered on Saturday, February 24, 2024, for a 7:00 p.m. concert celebrating the completion of a ten-year renovation of the historic Newton Highlands Congregational Church (NHCC) pipe organ. Organist Yevgenia Semeina and members and soloists from the NHCC choir performed works by Dietrich Buxtehude, Maurice Duruflé, Léon Böellmann, César Franck, Dominick DiOrio, and Georgi Mushel.

Speaking about the organ renovation, NHCC Treasurer and choir member Jim Harper stated, “With appropriate care, organs can last a long time.”

He continued, “NHCC’s Hook and Hastings organ was given by the Hayward family a century ago to replace a smaller organ, also given by that family in 1883. When the first church building was replaced in 1906, the original organ was transferred to the new building, which had been designed to accommodate a larger instrument. In 1924 the old organ was given to St Paul’s Episcopal Church. 

“The organ consists of the console and four divisions of pipes. The console contains three keyboards, plus the pedalboard played with the feet, and drawknobs that select which sets of pipes sound when keys are pressed. Each set of pipes is called a stop; some are named for instruments whose sound they mimic, such as Trumpet, Oboe, or Clarinet. Others have more exotic names, such as Vox Humana, Grand Bourdon or Open Diapason. Stops vary in both tone and loudness.

“The Great Division is the organ’s workhorse. Pipes over the choir loft were added in 1978. With the new Trumpet, the Great Division has seven stops ranging in size from 2’ to 8’. Longer pipes can play lower notes. 

“The volume produced by an individual stop cannot be adjusted. The organist controls the sound level by choice of stops. But the Swell and Choir Divisions, to the right of the chancel, sit behind shutters that enable the organist to lower the sound level by closing the shutters. The Swell Division has eleven stops ranging in size from 2’ to 16’. The Choir Division has eight stops ranging in size from 1 3/5’ to 8’.

“The Pedal Division plays the lowest notes. The pedal keyboard has 32 keys, while the manual keyboards have 61. With the new Trombone stop, the Pedal Division has five stops, ranging in size from 4’ to 32’

“Pipe organ parts are subject to wear and tear, not only through playing, but also through tuning, which means they require periodic cleaning and renovation. Listeners are often unaware of these issues as the organist works around dead or out-of-tune notes. The renovation involved cleaning all the pipes (nearly 2,000), addressing wear issues, and adding Trumpet and Trombone stops.” 

The money raised has been donated to Cash for Refugees. Donations are still welcome through NHCC under “Ukraine Relief.”

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