Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It had better still work!

Last week, I traveled across the midwest to meet family in Missouri. No, none of us has ever lived in Missouri, it was just a place to meet in the middle. On the way, I spent two nights in Springfield, Illinois. I hadn't been there for several years, and it was fun to return to the tourist sites like Lincoln's home and office as well as Frank Lloyd Wright's Dana-Thomas house.

I also stopped by Springfield's First Presbyterian Church, which is home to the "Lincoln Pew." The building wasn't constructed until after Lincoln's death, but it was the site of Mary Todd Lincoln's funeral, and the narthex of the church proudly displays the pew that the family rented in a previous building.

After being underwhelmed by the pew, I was amazed by the beauty of the sanctuary: the eight Tiffany stained glass windows and, to my surprise, a pipe organ built by John Brombaugh (his Opus 35). Brombaugh is among the major organ builders of the 20th century, and he has a local connection because one of his organs is at First Lutheran in Lorain.

I won't bore you with geeky arcana of organ construction, but I do want to share one of my favorite stories that the docent told about the pipe organ. One Springfield tourist who was used to everything in town dating from the 1860s had commented to her that it was amazing the organ still played so beautifully. To which the docent replied, "It had better still work! We just got it in 2000!"

Yes, pipe organs still get designed and installed in churches all around the world, and they're still playing some of the greatest music and hymns ever composed, whether the music is 300 years old, composed last month, or improvised during the service.

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