Making beautiful music


By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

Messenger photo by Andrea Cordle Alice Sweeley and Charles Kegg are pictured  here next to some of the large pipes that are part of the new pipe organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Messenger photo by Andrea Cordle
Alice Sweeley and Charles Kegg are pictured here next to some of the large pipes that are part of the new pipe organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Alice Sweeley is a self-proclaimed organ buff.

The Grove City resident is not an organist, she just loves music, especially the organ.

“Some people like opera music or classical guitar,” said Sweeley. “Well, I like organ music.”

When it was time for her church, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, to replace its pipe organ, Sweeley was up for job. As chair of the organ committee, she set out to find a new pipe organ that would last a lifetime.

The previous pipe organ at St. John’s was built in 1928. Some of its parts are more than 91 years old. So why go with a pipe organ over a standard organ?

“The sound quality cannot be equaled by an electronic instrument,” said Sweeley.

A pipe organ produces its sound by driving wind through organ pipes selected through the keys on the console. Each pipe produces a single pitch. They are common in churches and concert halls.

Sweeley and the five-member organ committee went to different churches to hear their pipe organ. They started the replacement process in August 2014. They interviewed several builders and finally decided on Charles Kegg, a man with an international reputation for his organs. He is president and artistic director of Kegg Pipe Organ Builders, based in Hartville, Ohio.

Kegg played on his first pipe organ when he was just 13 years old. Music has been a big part of his life ever since.

“I was bit by the music bug at a very young age,” said Kegg, who is spending several weeks in Grove City to install the pipe organ.

Kegg said the new St. John’s pipe organ has 1,705 pipes. The pipes range in size from three inches up to eight feet. They are installed in the church’s chambers and cannot be seen.

Kegg said the pipe organ is used to support congregational singing and accompany soloists and ensembles, which is why it is the perfect musical instrument for St. John’s.

“In the Lutheran church, there is a huge heritage of music,” said Kegg. “Some focus on the written word, but the Lutheran church leads in singing.”

According to Kegg, pipe organs are not uncommon, but it is uncommon for a new one to go into a church because they last so long. He said a well-maintained pipe organ can last for more than 100 years.

The cost ranges from $200,000 upwards.

According to Sweeley, the church spent approximately $600,000 for not just the new pipe organ, but also some updates and electrical work. She said the cost is worth it because they last so long and the sound is superior.

“It’s really a century event,” said Sweeley. “This is not just an addition to St. John’s. This can benefit the whole Grove City community.”

Sweeley compared the new pipe organ to a fine, custom-built piece of furniture or artwork.

“An organ is a work of art and at the same time a complicated piece of machinery. Organs are often called the king of instruments and the instrument of kings.”

St. John’s Lutheran Church, located on Columbus Street in Grove City, will display the new sounds of the pipe organ at a special service at 10:30 a.m. June 12, where Pastor Ray Rosenthal will celebrate his 50th anniversary with the church.

There will also be a dedication recital in the fall to demonstrate the complete pipe organ sound.


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