The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965) states: “In the Latin Church, the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument, and one that adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up one’s mind to God and to heavenly things.”
In its long history, St. Mary’s Church has promoted and fostered this musical tradition. Like so many of the large cathedrals of Europe, St. Mary’s Church in Auburn came together in several phases. The current structure was dedicated in 1874, not too long after another instrumental piece of the church was installed. In 1890, the church’s Carl Barckhoff pipe organ was installed.
On Nov. 7, the church will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the organ with a special performance.
The Rev. Frank Lioi said that the organ has long been an important part of the church and, to the best of his knowledge and church records, it is the only organ that has been in use at St. Mary’s. To this day, it is still well used.
“There could have been a small pump organ to accompany the choir,” Lioi said. “The organ is used at St. Mary’s every Sunday for the weekend Masses, for funerals and weddings and all special occasions. St. Mary’s is one of the few churches that still maintains a full adult choir of 25 singers. The organ is especially effective when accompanying the choir.”
For many years and for this performance, the person who will be playing the organ will be David Fedor, who grew up listening to the organ at St. Mary’s.
“My family became members of St. Mary’s around 1951, when I was 7 years old,” Fedor said. “I attended St. Mary’s regularly until 1962, when I went away to college. From 1962 until 1972, I always attended the church when I was home. Since then, whenever I come to Auburn, I always spend some time at the church.”
Fedor said that one of the things that quickly grabbed his attention as a boy was the church’s organ.
“I remember being amazed by the size of St. Mary’s when I first walked in,” Fedor said. “I heard the music and turned around to see this huge organ being played by what appeared to be a tiny man.”
Fedor would go on to attend St. Mary’s School, where that tiny man, Mr. Conroy, was a teacher, and Fedor began to learn the rudiments of music and the pipe organ.
“I finally got the nerve to go up into the organ loft when I was in fifth grade to find out how this thing worked,” Fedor said. “Mr. Conroy explained some things and let me sit at the keyboard. I played a bit of the latest piano pieces I learned. Now I was hooked. I wanted to do this — I wanted to play the organ.”
Fedor would go on to take organ lessons from Bob Kendall at the First Presbyterian Church. Since then, the organ and church music has always held a special place in Fedor’s life.
Though he has not played at St. Mary’s on a regular basis, he has been a performer there on many occasions and for special services. Fedor said that he is proud to be playing for this special performance.
“The Barckhoff organ at St. Mary’s was the first pipe organ I ever heard,” Fedor said. “That, plus the singing of the choir was the inspiration that led me to a lifetime career as a church musician. This organ and the beautiful church into which it sings is where my life’s vocation began. I consider it an honor to have been asked back to celebrate the organ’s 120th anniversary by giving a concert.”