After nearly 19 months, the sounds of a pipe organ echo once again at the historic .
Visitors to the city's Christmas Lighting Ceremony will also hear the notes wafting through the air as music from the organ is broadcast live over the .
The pipe organ had been silent since February 2010, when years of service took their toll.
But a fundraising drive and work from Leek Pipe Organ Co. of Oberlin has restored it to a playable condition by upgrading the organ’s electrical system to modern technology. More work is yet to be done.
The organ was dedicated at the church service Oct. 2.
Fundraising started two years ago, with more than 100 people donating to the cause, estimates Jim Heinrich, committee chairman. Events included a box lunch auction and strawberry social; volunteers also sold gift cards and music recordings made by members.
Heinrich’s father, Robert, was an organist before he died in 2010 and although he was not a member of the church. he loved the sound of the organ. Many of the donations to the organ fund were in memory of Robert, his son said.
The committee was pleased with Leek's work.
“They are all about us.” Heinrich said. “As Leek works on it, we’ll have to decide what else to do.”
The Rev. John King, interim pastor of the church, added, “The Leek Organ Co. has been wonderful to work with because they have the technical expertise to restore this extremely complex instrument and also the love and passion for it.”
James P. Leek, president of the company, explained that the organ had “old and unreliable” technology. And over the years, he said, that technology failed as many of the connections that made the pipes play outlived their usefulness.
And the pipes themselves are years old and many need cleaned and restored. The pipes range from a few inches tall to 14 feet and some would not even make sounds.
Last summer, the Leek company took the organ console back to its shop where it replaced all the old mechanical connections with solid-state wiring used by modern pipe organs.
Without an organ all those months, the church relied on a piano and groups willing to play for the church, such as a brass quartet assembled by Ken Mehalko, former director of the band.
While phase one has successfully restored the organ to functionality, more work remains. As planned, subsequent phases will refine and improve the instrument.
Heinrich said the company will work around major holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but it will test and work on parts that still need work. Leek estimated that the company would work on only one-third of the organ at a time so it will remain playable for the church.
The church is currently selling gift cards and music CDs, with a percentage of the sale going into an organ fund.