AUBURN — Two pipe organs — one rescued from the trash pile, one celebrating its 120th birthday — took center stage at St. Mary’s Church Sunday at a concert honoring their recognition by the national Organ Historical Society.
Auburn native and organ expert David Fedor played a program on the two instruments. In between pieces, he explained the history behind each of them.
The larger organ located in the balcony was made in 1890 by the Carl Barckhoff Organ Company of Salem, Ohio. It has been refurbished several times in the 120 intervening years; the church had its pipes repainted for the 120th anniversary. Red roses and fleur de lys represent the Virgin Mary, the Rev. Frank Lioi said.
The audience watched on a projector screen as Fedor, sitting at the instrument high above them, swelled and rolled through pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and other composers.
The pipes sent rumbling lows and searing highs tumbling over the balcony to fill the church. The notes were sometimes moody and crashing, sometimes light or triumphant. Fedor jitterbugged on a set of foot pedals laid out beneath his feet like a raft of floating logs.
“It’s more of a workout than I expected it to be,” he admitted.
After intermission, Fedor played a piece on the other organ, made in 1872 by Garrett House in Buffalo.
It was first played at Holy Family Church in Auburn before being shipped to St. Patrick Church in Aurora.
There, it fell into disrepair and was out of use when Fedor and a fellow musician found it and restored it.
After stops in Horseheads and Ithaca, it has been at St. Mary’s since 2006.
“It has toured central New York extensively and it has come back home, half a mile from where it first sat,” Fedor said.
David Correll, the former musical director at St. Mary’s, flew to Auburn from his home in Oregon to hear the concert and see the restored pipes.
“The acoustics in this building are phenomenal,” he said. “I flew across the country to be here today. It’s not a minor event.”
Fewer than 500 organs in the United States have received citations from the Organ Historical Society.
Only four other Barckhoff organs and one other Garrett organ have been honored.
Fedor, a former St. Mary’s parishioner who once performed for Pope John Paul II, said playing older organs is more physically demanding because they do not have any electronic components.
“The hard thing to get used to is the touch is heavier. This is the way it was before electricity made everything easier,” he said. “It was lovely and an honor to come back here for this day.”
The concert ended with a group chorus of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”
As the audience stood and applauded, Fedor bowed, then waved his arm toward the Barckhoff organ as if to redirect the cheers.