The history of organ music at our church dates back 97 years to the purchase of the first organ in 1910. The church’s history records the purchase of a used Estey pipe organ “for a reasonable price.” The Estey organ company of Brattleboro, VT was primarily known for manufacturing the foot-pump reed organs that graced many private homes in the 19th century. They also made small pipe organs, such as the one installed in our chapel. Mrs. John Brook, the pianist for the Sabbath school, was recruited to serve as the first organist.
Our first sectional pipe organ was purchased in 1917 at the cost of $2,500.00. It was manufactured by the C.S. Haskell Company of Philadelphia and installed in the chapel. When the new sanctuary was completed in 1924, the Haskell organ was reinstalled there. Unfortunately, it reportedly failed to “furnish sufficient volume of tone” for the larger worship space. In 1931 the Haskell organ was replaced with the first of two organs built by the Moehler organ company of Hagerstown, MD . After the Haskell organ was replaced, it was purchased by the Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore and installed for use in its sanctuary.
In 1958, the expansion of the sanctuary required the installation of another new organ, again built by the Moehler Company. Along with the rest of the sanctuary expansion, this entirely-new instrument was a gift of J. Howard Pew in memory of his wife. Over the succeeding years, the long nave of the enlarged sanctuary presented an acoustical challenge that required changes and augmentations to the Moehler organ. In the 1970s, an antiphonal organ was added to the back of the sanctuary. Most recently, your gifts to the Century Campaign funded a major restoration and revoicing of the organ which, among other benefits, has given it a fuller sound more helpful to congregational singing.
The early years of the church saw a succession of many competent organists each with short tenure. The first organist to stay a number of years was a man by the name of Professor Vivien Ingle, head of the Pennsylvania Conservatory of Music. Hired in 1917, Professor Ingle’s tenure saw the introduction of a professional vocalist, called a precentor, and the creation of a Sunday school orchestra.
Given staid, starched-collar appearance of our church leaders in the photographs from that era, Professor Ingle must have provided quite a contrast. Elder H. Rey Wolf, author of the church’s early history, described Professor Ingle this way:
“Maestro Ingle was a musician from the old school. In his early years he studied in Leipzig and seemed to have absorbed the spirit of the old world. He always wore a frock coat, flowing black tie and black felt hat and carried a black velvet bag as was the custom of lawyers and other professional folk of his day. With his luxuriant white hair and mustache, he was the popular conception of the “music professor,” and reminded one of the old masters of music.”
“One day while walking in Philadelphia Professor Ingle was approached by a society matron who had mistaken him for Ignace Paderewski, a famous Polish pianist and composer who was performing at the Academy of Music. ‘Oh, Maestro Paderewski,’ she said, ‘you have no idea how much I enjoyed your playing last evening.’ Professor Ingle responded, ‘Thank you, madam,’ bowed politely and then resumed his stroll.”