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Iowa Lutheran purchases new pipe organ

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  • Iowa Lutheran purchases new pipe organ

    St. Mark Lutheran purchases new pipe organ

    By Jody Ferres

    Photos by Jeff Cook/QUAD-CITY TIMES

    photo caption (above) Sebastien Kardos, who works for Casavant Freres, a Quebec, Canada, company that builds church pipe organs, makes adjustments Thursday to pipes from inside the new church organ at St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in Davenport.

    There’s a newcomer at St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church in Davenport that is creating quite a stir among the congregation.
    Made of red oak and boasting 1,251 metal pipes — as well as the potential for beautiful music — a Casavant Freres organ made in the Canadian province of Quebec has arrived at the church, 2363 W. 3rd St. It fills a void dating to 1969 and completes a fundraising effort that began 14 years ago.
    Even the construction process has been lengthy. The organ arrived in pieces on a snowy Feb. 21 and was still being tuned Thursday.

    As movers carried in each of the gleaming pipes that were handmade for the sanctuary, the church’s director of music, Ellen Bowlin, stood watching the pieces come through the door.
    “It’s a dream come true,” said Bowlin, who has been with the church for almost 18 years. “Having this organ is a dream for many people.”
    In 1969, the church’s original pipe organ, dating to the early 20th century, was removed and an electric organ was put in its place. During the intervening years, Bowlin said, church members decided they wanted a pipe organ again.
    So, in 1992, the congregation established a pipe organ fund. However, the church sanctuary needed renovations, so plans for a new organ had to be put on hold.

    But the dream, and the bank account, did not die. By 2001, the church had $63,000 in the organ fund along with plans to renovate the 80-year-old sanctuary. After visiting several area churches with pipe organs and deliberating over which company to go with, a contract for the organ was signed in the fall of 2002.
    Getting the right specifications and details for a new $350,000 instrument took time, too.
    Carroll Hanson, a representative for Casavant Freres Organs, visited the church more than a dozen times, making sure specifications and measurements were exactly right. Hanson said the organ was made to fit the space perfectly.

    “The process of designing it is related to the building and the cubic volume of the building,” Hanson said. “The specific design of the instrument is constructed to what kind of church it is. Since the Lutheran Church has a tradition of hymn and chorale music, the organ is geared with working in conjunction with that.”
    Casavant Freres builds between eight and 12 organs per year. The company is no stranger to Quad-City area churches. Others with the same brand of organ include Trinity Lutheran in Moline, St. Paul Lutheran in Davenport and St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

    After the initial drawing was completed, the company’s shop in Quebec, Canada, began working on the massive instrument. Hanson said such a job takes “12 to 15 months to finish, from drawing to completion,” which includes three weeks of installation and tuning in the church. But before trucking the pieces to Davenport, the company assembled the organ in its factory.
    That’s where Erica Cunningham got a chance to take a sneak peek. The chairwoman of the church organ committee traveled to Quebec in January.
    “It was so interesting because everything is made by hand,” said Cunningham, who is an organist. “This is all so exciting.”

    While eagerly awaiting the organ’s arrival, church members put together a special event to continue raising funds needed for the instrument. St. Mark’s “Pulling Out the Stops” campaign has raised $50,000 since September. It allows individuals to sponsor a pipe on the new organ, which is now about 90 percent paid for.
    “From the moment the project started, the congregation has owned the project as their own,” said the Rev. Paul Tweeten, the pastor at St. Mark. “This is the fruition of dreams that have been alive for many years.”
    Those are dreams that will live for many years to come.
    “An organ like this can inspire a congregation,” Bowlin said. “You can actually feel the bass. Hopefully people will be moved to live a greater faith.”