[N.B. This is a draft of an article I will probably submit to our local paper, The Holland Sentinel. I am waiting for my boss, Rev Jen, to okay/edit it. Comments welcome.
The huge semi arrived on an warm April Monday of last year. Inside it were thousands of carefully handmade parts of an unusual contraption, a world class pipe organ. It had been built by Martin Pasi and his team Markus Morscher and Grant Orndorff in his shop in Roy, Washington. Then it was disassembled and shipped to Grace Episcopal Church, Holland, Michigan.
Its arrival was the culmination of a two year long process of choosing an organ builder and commissioning them to build an instrument. Excited parishioners met the truck and helped unload the organ. Now, along with his assistants, Martin Pasi would reassemble the instrument and begin the process of adjusting and tuning it. This would take six weeks. During this time, many organists from the midwest made a pilgrimage to watch the process and engage the builders in conversation.
Before the organ arrived, there was extensive preparation of the room including upgrading the acoustics. For several Sundays, the community moved the Sunday services to the basement to allow this work to be done. When they returned to the renovated room, they were delighted to discover that the singing environment was already improved.
During the time of installation, Martin, himself, attended Sunday services to see his new instrument gradually assume its role in sung prayer. As parts of the organ became workable, they were immediately utilized.
In his original proposal, Martin Pasi wrote “A new organ for Grace Episcopal Church must fulfill with distinction its roles in the church’s liturgies. As a distinctive new musical voice in Holland, it will also become an important resource in the church’s arts outreach to the greater community. The new organ must fit well in the distinguished architecture of the church and give a long life of reliable service… Its distinctive voice will help lead worship and inspire lovers of great music for many generations.”
By June, the instrument was completed. The finished organ is a two-manual mechanical action organ of 18 stops. The key action is entirely mechanical, the organist’s fingers directly opening the valves beneath the pipes through a system of levers and thin wood connections called trackers. This ancient system gives the organist intimate control over the speech and release characteristics of the pipes, for a sensitive control of musical phrasing and articulation
In addition to use in church services, a recital series was immediately begun. Grace Notes has been bringing monthly concerts to the area and continues to do so. For the March recital, Dr. Peter Kurdziel, music director of St. Adalbert’s Basilica, Grand Rapids will perform works by Pachelbel, Scheidt, Bach, Willan, and Mendelssohn. His recital is on Sunday, March 18th at 1 PM. On April 15th at 3 PM, Dr. Stephen White, music director of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Battle Creek, Michigan, will perform works by Buxtehude and Bach. All recitals are offered free to the public.
The organ was donated by Melinda Heiberg in memory of her husband, Eric Heiberg. Melinda, herself, was present the day the organ arrived and helped carry in parts of it. Grace Episcopal Church is grateful for this beautiful new addition to our worship and the community at large.