Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy ending for 1923 pipe organ from G’town church

From Philadelphia-

The journey that began in sadness five years ago for the 1923 E.M. Skinner Opus 407 pipe organ came to a happy conclusion Sunday, Sept. 9. The exquisite gem of an instrument that started its life of service to the faithful at the now-shuttered St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Germantown was officially given a second life of making music for the parishioners of Old St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Society Hill with a service of blessing and dedication.

The solo organ recital was performed by Andrew Senn. The Curtis Institute of Music alumnus previously was organist and music director of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Germantown; he now occupies the same position at the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. Senn opened the program with his own transcription of Rossini’s Overture to his opera, “The Turk in Italy.” J.S. Bach’s “Prelude & Fugue in E-flat major” followed. Senn then played the Folk Tune and Andante Tranquilo movements from Percy Whitlock’s “Five Short Pieces,” Franck’s “Choral No. 1 in E major” and closed with Vierne’s “Les Cloches de Hinckley.”

Pipe organs are always designed to fit into a specific space and to support a specific liturgy. In the case of Skinner’s Opus 407, the architectural setting was in the Victorian Gothic Revival of the second half of the 19th century; the liturgical practice was the “low church,” Protestant-leaning worship style of many if not most Episcopal congregations at the time in the U.S. Although Old St. Joseph’s Church is the oldest parish in Philadelphia, its current church is the third structure built on the site. Styled in the Greek Revival fashion of the early 19th century, it was consecrated in 1837. Gothic Revival churches tend toward both visual and acoustical darkness whereas Greek Revival churches tend to be bright and open in look and sound.

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