Verger’s Voice #33

Verger’s Voice #33

Music has always been an important part of St. Andrew’s and our organ has been central to that love of music.  Silent Night has been played 87 times as our midnight Mass has ended on Christmas Eve, with more magnificent music at Easter.  It has been played at countless weddings and too many funerals. It has been played for community concerts, the seating of eight Bishops and many Christmas services for the college community.  During the 60’s the sounds of soul and rock music came from its pipes and now we hear classical music after the late service. For many of us the organ is a very important part of our church life.

The organ we have now wasn’t built when St. Andrew’s opened.  Our first organ was a foot powered instrument (that would keep Jerry in shape) and used in the St. Andrew’s chapel.  This organ was donated by a Miss McNalty of Chambersburg. Howard Mitten was the first organist.  It was used in the Chapel from 1904 until the church was finished in 1908.  Although, our records do not say whether it was moved to the new building, I feel certain it was.  It would have been used there until 1930 when our present Moller Pipe Organ was dedicated.

In 1925 John Clifford Phillips passed away and not long after that Mrs. Phillips contacted the Moller Pipe Organ Company of Hagerstown, Maryland to supply an organ for a memorial to her husband.  Construction started sometime in 1929 and the new organ was dedicated in 1930.  The Moller Company was known worldwide for making some of the finest pipe organs of the time. The company was started in Greencastle, Pennsylvania and later moved to Hagerstown.  In it’s almost 100 year history Moller made 12,000 pipe organs, three which are in the chapels of our military academies.  They also made two of the largest organs in the world, a church organ named opus and a theater organ named mighty-mo.  Moller Pipe Organ Company closed their business in 1992.

Our Moller organ was not without its problems.  It was always very slow to start up and at times depending on the weather wouldn’t play at all.  Then for a while there was the bat problem.  By the early 70’s someone would have to turn the organ on before 8 am so that it would have enough air pressure to work for the late service.  It was finally discovered that the electrical wiring wasn’t heavy enough to carry the load.  The Episcopal Church Women donated the funds to upgrade the wiring system, adding new lights in the nave and fixing the organs electrical problems. About the same time money was given by the Mears family and Father Ron Lynch to install French Tromette Pipes and upgrade other components.  This was done as a memorial to Richard Bradley Mears.  As for the bat problem, bats and sometimes small birds were getting into the organ equipment room and trying to use the gold pipes in the front as a roosting place.  The trouble was they could get in to the pipes but there wasn’t enough room for them to fly out.  I have been told that at times during a quiet moment during the service you could hear little scratching sounds, so the pipes would be taken outside and dumped out.  The holes where they were coming in were found and sealed, so end of the bat problem.

As stated before Howard Mitten was our first organist and he served until 1927 when he passed away.  Records do not name anyone as organist until the late 1940’s when a Mrs Corl was hired.  She played until 1970 when she retired.  In 1950 Lawrence Bradshaw was attending what was then Shippensburg State College and Mrs. Corl taught him to play the organ.  Between 1953 and 1960 he served as a sub-organist and until 1970 shared the bench with Mrs. Corl.  Upon her retirement Lawrence was hired full time.  Lawrence retired in 1980 and Anne Herman took over as choir director and organist.  Since her retirement Jerry Weale has taken over the duties of the choir and organ.

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