The music sounds so sweet these days at the Chilmark Community Church, thanks to the addition of a new pipe organ. It is not only a lovely instrument to hear, its pipes singing, it is a sight to see. The church organ, custom made by Stephen J. Russell, arrived this summer and its lyrical sounds, under the hands of a talented musician, is already a source of inspiration to many.
An official dedication for the many pieces that have come together, inside and outside of the instrument, will take place on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 4 p.m., when there will be a recital by seven of the Island’s favorites organists. It will be an all-star organ jam featuring Peter Boak, Garrett Brown, Wesley Brown, Phil Dietterich, Carol Loud, David Rhoderick and Nancy Rogers.
For the Rev. Arlene Bodge, the arrival of the church organ meant more than just the purchase of a new instrument.
“This has been a magical experience,” she said. “This was a labor of love for everyone in the community church. Everything, from the idea to going out and looking and listening to church organs. They made so many different trips. They talked about it for years.”
“We have been quietly waiting,” she added.
According to Mr. Dietterich, 81, of Oak Bluffs, the seeds of this project were planted at least eight years ago, when the old Hammond Church organ started woozing, wheezing and whining. The idea for replacing the church organ was not an easy one, though. The church is a small one.
“I started putting out the thought that we might start thinking of where we might go in the future,” Mr. Dietterich said. “I didn’t think there was very much money from this little church.”
Pam Goff, a longtime friend of the church, added, “When that old Hammond organ would gurgle and burp, we started thinking. It seemed as though it was threatening to quit. I think that was three or four years ago. We would get some lubricating stuff and squirt it in the back and it would feel good for a while.”
It became so bad that church organist Carol Loud started to worry about whether the organ was going to even work on a given Sunday. There were times, she said, when she thought of switching over to a piano to get through the hymns posted on the wall.
Mrs. Goff said that the church had accumulated some money through the years. “There was a fund called the Ladies Aid Fund. It was very old, maybe 30 years old. It had $10,000 in it. We combined that with another fund called the Harold Price Music Fund. That fund had been around a while. We remember Harold. He used to sing a cappella gospel songs. He’d sing “Blest be the Tie that Binds.”
The two funds together still wouldn’t have been enough for a true pipe organ, though.
“Before someone went out and bought an electric organ, three people said they’d like to make up the difference and give a pipe organ to the church,” Mrs. Goff said. “I think that was three years ago.”
Mrs. Goff said that already with the new organ, the sound is more than what was expected. “The acoustics of the room are already wonderful. The music enriches the service.”
Originally, they thought the church organ would be installed earlier, Reverend Bodge said. Last Christmas came and went. Then there was Easter. When the organ finally arrived it was packed in many cases.
“For a couple of weeks the pipes were in my office,” Reverend Bodge said. “They were on the floor of my tiny office in the back of the community room.”
During Sunday’s dedication, Mr. Dietterich will share the details of the long journey to bring this new pipe organ to the Chilmark Community Church.
“They wanted a real church organ,” Mr. Dietterich said. “They wanted to hear the real thing. They wanted the real sound. They didn’t want a synthetic sound. They wanted real vibrations in the air that can only come from a pipe.”
The whole Island community is invited to Sunday’s recital, which begins at 4 p.m.