Music is an integral part of the church going experience for most attendees.
The sound of gospel songs cannot be separated from worship services throughout the country, and for one Bellville institution their music maker has been doing its job for over a century.
All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church is home to a historic Felgemaker organ, whose age predates the historical Bellville church itself.
“The building (All Souls) was finished in 1897,” All Souls resident historian Bruce Kilgore said. “The organ was built in 1873. It was purchased in 1910 from a church in Pennsylvania.”
The resident church organ player is Ayesha Manley of Galion.
“I have been playing organ for eight years there,” Manley said. “There’s not a lot of track organs left. I practice a lot of the pieces at home on piano but come in every week to try them out on the organ. A lot of the pieces are written for piano, so I have to improvise to make them work for organ.”
Manley said she enjoys the diversity of playing the organ.
“You can play anythig there from classical to contemporary,” she said.
The historic organ was shipped via steamboat from its original location in Erie, Pa. to Port Clinton. From there legend has it that it was transported by horse and buggy.
For those who have seen the organ’s size, it seems almost hard to believe. The massive pipe organ occupies nearly half of the church’s alter and its shear presence dominates the interior of the 19th century building.
“Its sound fills the room well,” Kilgore said. “It can be heard from every corner of the church but it can also be played very softly.”
All Souls periodically invites violists to accompany Fry and according to Kilgore, the soft sound of the viola audibly blends with the huge organ.
Despite the organ’s carefully crafted interior and exterior, it underwent a large restoration project in 2001. Church members raised $30,000 to complete the project, and in 2002 the James P. Leek Pipe Organ Co. had finished the year-and-a-half long project.
“Joyce Fenton (of All Souls) took exact stencils of the pipes exterior,” Kilgore stated. “She repainted everything. It looks identical to its original condition.”
The project also restored the hand-pump mechanism present in the organ, which allows the instrument to be played without electricity should the need arise.
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