The Post-Standard Local, April 2009

PIPE DREAM A REALITY
OSWEGO CHURCH CELEBRATES
RESTORATION OF 1867 ORGAN

The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)
April 17, 2009
Section: News
Edition: Oswego
Page: A4

Brenna Cammeron Contributing writer

The lush chords of the wooden pipe organ first filled the sanctuary of the West Baptist Church in Oswego in 1867. After a 21-month-long project to rebuild it, members of the congregation will hear the massive instrument as it sounded more than 140 years ago.

The church will commemorate the return of the pipe organ at its 10 a.m. worship service Sunday, followed by a 5 p.m. recital.

Two years ago, the church’s pipe organ had fallen into disrepair. The electric parts installed in 1951 were once thought to be an upgrade, but time had told a different tale.

“The electric parts wore out and were corroded,” said Abel Searor, organist at the church. Searor said air was leaking from the organ, depriving the instrument of its once-powerful sound.

“Church members who have been coming here for years would say that they remembered the organ being louder,” Searor said.

Now, the electric parts have been replaced by traditional mechanical pieces similar to the ones initially created for the instrument. Two-thirds of the organ’s 1,803 pipes belong to the original, but Tomasz Lewtak, the master craftsman who rebuilt the organ, crafted an additional one-third of the wooden pipes by hand.

“I’ve tried to go back to the original plan for the organ,” Lewtak said.

“There are no modern gadgets. Now, it looks very old-fashioned, but pretty much everything inside of the organ has been rebuilt.”

The result is an organ that plays with the grandness it was once intended to display, Searor and Lewtak say.

Rebuilding the organ was not easy.

“This is the result of faith, prayer and a lot of hard work by the people in this church,” said Searor, who has served as church organist for three years. “It was an enormous project, and a huge commitment from the congregation.”

Searor and the church’s pastor, the Rev. David Nethercott, declined to estimate the cost of rebuilding the organ. The project was funded in part with $30,000 obtained through donations and fundraising.

Nethercott said Lewtak went beyond expectations in his dedication to rebuilding the piece.

“He has really made it a showpiece for his craftsmanship,” Nethercott said. “He’s a phenomenal craftsman. Tremendous complexity and detail go into his work. It is truly remarkable.”

Searor will play the organ at Sunday’s worship service. The inaugural recital features Dr. Hans Davidsson, an internationally recognized Swedish organist and teacher at the Eastman School of Music.

Nethercott said that he expects the church to be packed.

“It’s a very special time for this congregation,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this.”

Unveiling the pipe organ

What: West Baptist Church shows off its rebuilt, vintage-1867 wooden pipe organ.
When: 10 a.m. service Sunday, 5 p.m. recital the same day.
Where: At the church, 39 W. Mohawk St., Oswego.
Who’s playing: Church organist Abel Searor at the service; Hans Davidsson, organist and teacher at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, at the recital.

Copyright, 2009, The Herald Company