Matter of Faith: 84-year-old organ installed at Marion church - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Matter of Faith: 84-year-old organ installed at Marion church

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MARION (KWWL) -

The console is how most of us recognize a church organ, but the console is actually the smallest part of the 10 ton musical instrument.

Jeff Weiler is the President of JL Weiler, Incorporated based in Chicago. The company restores and installs historic pipe organs.

A crew of 14 is currently installing a Skinner Organ at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Marion. Skinner Organ Company was started in 1903 by Ernest Skinner.

"His instruments are arguably among the finest ever built. This particular instrument was built in 1928 and was first installed in a Lutheran church in the Bronx in New York," said Jeff Weiler.

After being removed from the church in New York, the organ underwent 18 months of restoration in Chicago. In May, installation started at St. Mark's. Closely watching the process is church organist Barbara Ritchie.

"This is a once in a lifetime experience for an organist. I can't tell you how delighted I am to have this opportunity," said Barb Ritchie.

Ritchie has played at St. Mark's for 28 years and has a degree in organ performance from the University of Iowa.

She said the organ is an integral part of the church's new faith center, where traditional worship services take place each Sunday morning at 8:30. While it will take her some practice to get used to the new instrument. Barb Ritchie hopes it helps draw even more people to St. Mark's for worship.

"This is a legacy for our church. This is an 84-year-old instrument that's coming back to life and so it's a legacy for us and our community," said Ritchie.

The installation includes two lofts at the front of the church with 1700 pipes.

The pipes will range in size from 3/8ths of an inch to one that's two stories tall. There's also a mechanical room downstairs. It includes two turbine blowers to furnish wind for the organ.

"It's a colossal piece of machinery that just happens to be a musical instrument," said Jeff Weiler.

Soon, wiring will happen, the pipes will be put in place and then one of the final steps: tone regulation. After almost two years of work, the goal is to have the organ ready for worship by mid-October.

Then during the afternoon on November 18th, the church is hosting a special event with internationally known recitalist, Ken Cowan.

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