Westminster Presbyterian to dedicate new church organ with free Friday recital

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Sounds not heard before now fill the sanctuary at Westminster Presbyterian Church. A new organ, in place for only a few months, has the church organist in awe of the instrument’s sounds and capabilities.

&uot;It has the sound of a pipe organ. It leaves me in awe,&uot; said Dot Sanders. &uot;I’ve played organs all over the south. This is the best I’ve ever played.&uot;

The congregation will celebrate and dedicate the organ with a free recital open to the public on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the church, 33 Fatherland Road. David Pettit, an accomplished organist and composer, will play for the occasion. Sanders said Pettit will demonstrate the power and beauty of the instrument. &uot;He is an expert on this organ, and I’m sure he will use the full organ,&uot; she said.

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The Rodgers 837 Trillium organ is made by Rodgers Instruments Corp., for nearly 50 years the creators of some of the most celebrated organs installed in U.S. churches. The Trillium series, introduced in 1999, &uot;have redefined the standards for clear, clean organ tone generation,&uot; the company literature says.

Sanders agreed. &uot;It’s absolutely wonderful. I’m thrilled just to go and practice on it,&uot; she said. &uot;And even though I’ve played it for a few months, I’ve probably reached about a tenth of it.&uot;

The church made the commitment to buy a new organ just more than a year ago, Sanders said. &uot;We all pledged a certain amount.&uot;

The Rev. Brock Watson, pastor, said the purchase is a great story of one small congregation’s dedication. Watson said he advised the congregation to make the commitment. The sanctuary already was equipped with a fine grand piano. He urged them to find an organ that complemented the elegantly simple, historic church. &uot;This is an expression of confidence in the future by this congregation; it’s an investment in the future,&uot; he said.

The simple brick church with its large clear-glass windows was first home to the Greenwood Presbyterian Church, built near Cannonsburg in 1854.

With the demise of that congregation, the Southern Mississippi Presbytery fell heir to the building and in 1979 voted to give the building to Westminster.

A 10-month project to move the historic building to Fatherland Road was completed in June 1981 by Willard

Builders. The building was dismantled and reconstructed, including the original bricks that cover the outside of the church.

Mary Willard, church secretary and longtime member, said the new organ is top of the line. &uot;We could have bought a Chevrolet, but we decided to buy a Cadillac,&uot; Willard said. Willard said the 82 members of the congregation pledged and paid the $48,000 to buy the organ.

The service of celebration and dedication for the organ will be a joy for the congregation, she said.

Pettit, the son of a Methodist minister, attended the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship. Recently he studied in Paris with Naji Hakim, a renowned French composer and organist. Pettit plays more than 30 concerts a year and teaches workshops and master classes, including a recent event for the faculty and organ department at Julliard School of Music. He began composing during 11 years as organist of Westwood First Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. His catalog of music includes 45 compositions, from piano solos to choral anthems and full orchestral writing. Recently he was commissioned and has completed &uot;An Ohio Symphony&uot; for the Summit Choral Society of Akron.