The Park Forest Village United Methodist Church has purchased the pipe organ formerly located in Esber Recital Hall on Penn State’s campus — however, the instrument won’t be played until the church can fund its installation.
As part of Penn State’s renovation plans for the recital hall, the organ was to be sold through an online auction and removed by Aug. 1. The church won with a bid of just less than $16,000, but Pastor Don Smith said winning the auction was the easy part.
To remove the organ from Esber, the church contracted SDG Organ Services, of Millersville, to dismantle, pack and transport it to the church. Over the course of a week, SDG employees and church volunteers worked together to bring the instrument to its new home.
“We were carrying wooden wind boxes, large air compressors and wires and tubes you would never imagine are parts of an organ,” Smith said. “Most of it was heavy and almost all of it was delicate.”
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In celebration of its 25th anniversary reunion in 1963, the Penn State Class of 1938 commissioned the Holtkamp Organ Company, of Cleveland, Ohio, to build the instrument, which has almost 2,000 polished metal pipes and stands more than16 feet tall.
In 2005, the organ received an extensive renovation and is valued at about $350,000, Smith said.
Park Forest Village UMC’s organist, Cynthia Mills, has been playing the church’s Wicks organ since she played her first notes there more than 25 years ago. Before Mills started performing during church services, she took lessons on the Esber Holtkamp for three years.
“I’m excited to play it again,” Mills said. “I think it’s going to sound great in our church.”
When Smith became pastor about one year ago, he was informed of the poor condition of the Wicks organ, which he said was installed in the 1960s. Over the years, it has received minor repairs, but it is due for a renovation, which could cost nearly $100,000, he said.
“Cynthia knows how to play around the quirks of the organ,” Smith said. “She can make the slightly broken organ sound beautiful, but now she’s going to have a significant upgrade and I’m excited to hear her play it.”
Installation of the organ will cost about $40,000 and could be completed next summer, he said. If the church can’t raise enough money, Smith said they will consider taking out a loan to fund the installation.
“We’re committed to using an old-style pipe organ for not only the nostalgia, but for the beautiful sound it brings to our church,” Smith said. “Music is an important part of our history and who we are.”