The time has finally come. After 100 years – and a few months – the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church in LaGrange is ready to share its fully restored pipe organ with the public at a celebratory concert beginning at 3.00 p.m. on Sunday, June 23.
The presentation will feature a selection of hymns and secular music by church organist Kevin Ramer. Ramer has served the church for over 30 years. Special guest soloist will be Tom Potter of the Chicago Lyric Opera Company. Potter’s parents, Eugene C. and the late Jane Potter, have been members of the church for almost 50 years. “We are very pleased that the first occasion that we have to share our restored organ can be a concert which features artists who have had such long, close ties to our congregation,” commented Rev. Kenneth Waver, the church’s pastor.
The First Presbyterian Church’s Hinners Tracker Organ was originally built and installed in the church in 1913. Late last year, church leaders decided that the classic instrument needed a full restoration. After a nation-wide search of several months, the task was given to the Levsen Organ Company of Buffalo, Iowa. The 14-rank, 785-pipe instrument was completely dismantled in January and several major parts were transported to the organ maker’s factory to be rebuilt. The air reservoir had to be re-leathered as did many other parts of the organ. “Using original materials was important in the restoration,” commented church elder Warren McKinley. “We wanted the organ to be as close as possible to what it was when it was put in the church in 1913.” Reinstallation took over a month and was completed in late April.
The restoration of the organ also necessitated some minor structural changes to the First Presbyterian Sanctuary. The chancel was remodeled, enlarged and floored with oak to improve the sound quality of the organ. The rest of the sanctuary was freshened with new paint and carpet and the 102-year-old hardwood floors were refinished.
“This restoration was a great act of faith by our members,” Weaver stated. “We understand that we are the current stewards of a church tradition which stretches back almost 170 years. We hope that this concert is the first of many opportunities to share the organ and other artistic events with the community.”
The concert is free of charge and will be held in the First Presbyterian Church Sanctuary. The church is located on the northwest corner of the courthouse square in LaGrange.