A festival of hymns: Kilgore Church rededicates historic pipe organ | News


Devotees of many denominations gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore on Sunday evening for a common purpose: to raise their voices in musical worship while celebrating the rededication of a historic Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ.

“Praise be to the Lord, the Almighty” was a festival of hymns and church music held at First Presbyterian to officially celebrate the completion of major repairs to the 1949 Aeolian-Skinner, Opus 1173 and the return of the organ for regular use in worship.

“This is a significant occasion in the life of our congregation,” said the Reverend Will Wilson, first Presbyterian pastor.

“For a year, our Opus 1173 has been undergoing restoration. Tonight we gather in thanksgiving to rededicate this magnificent instrument to its use in worship by the people of God and we dedicate it to the glory of God.

Many parts of the organ were originally made in the 1930s and installed in the 1940s. The original installation and finishing work was supervised by Roy Perry, former organist and choirmaster of the First Presbyterian .

Over the decades, many of the wood, metal, and leather components of the pipe have suffered wear and tear. The organ was due for routine repairs and maintenance last year when a record-breaking blizzard hit eastern Texas in February. Inches of snow caused further damage to the organ and more extensive repairs were required.

Finally, after months of painstaking work, which involved bringing in specialists from out of state and painstakingly repairing and replacing thousands of parts by hand, the Aeolian-Skinner organ was brought back to life before a congregation.

First Presbyterian Organist and Choirmaster Gala Strunk welcomed everyone to the ceremony.

“As I watch this gathering, I see friends from Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Lutheran, United Church of Christ and Catholic faith communities all raising our voices in praise of the one God in whom we all believe.”

“As most of you know, a year ago our organ was removed, loaded onto trucks and taken to Pennsylvania and Connecticut for restoration work that was done. The restoration is complete and we are delighted to have it back. We wanted to express our gratitude to Steve Emery (of Emery Brothers Pipe Organ Restoration in Pennsylvania) and his talented team. They put it all together, and it was a wonderful experience.

The hymn festival was conducted and performed by Dr. Bradley Hunter Welch, concert organist and resident organist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Welch performed with a choir consisting of members of the First Presbyterian Chancel Choir, First Baptist Sanctuary Choir, and St. Luke’s United Methodist Church Chancel Choir.

“It is an honor for me to be here to lead this hymn festival,” Welch told the congregation.

“I have always been an admirer of this iconic and iconic Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ and to now be part of the celebration not only of its preservation, but also of the next chapter in its life, is nothing short of extraordinary.

The hymn festival was designed to include a number of different selections of sacred and church music, with each section taking its title and drawing inspiration from part of the hymn title “Praise be to the Lord, the All -Powerful”. Welch said it’s one of his favorite hymns and helps fulfill one of the primary purposes of a church organ: to help God’s people unite their voices in praise.

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