A rededication concert Sunday, Sept. 12, will showcase the upgraded instrument at Christ Episcopal Church in Dover.
For Jon Rania, there’s nothing like the church-filling sound of a real pipe organ.
Though modern synthesizers and electronics are touted for their ability to reproduce the sound of a real organ, right down to the “chiff” sound a pipe makes as it’s filled with moving air, to Rania’s ear they just don’t compare.
“I think an electronic instrument is just an imitation of a better quality sound,” he said.
As music director at Christ Episcopal Church in Dover, Rania has overseen the restoration of the church’s 64-year-old pipe organ, a labor of love for the classically trained keyboardist.
And on Sunday, Sept. 12, he and the rest of the congregation will get to hear the mighty instrument roar back to life during a special rededication service at 10 a.m., followed by a concert at 1 p.m. with organist Dr. David Herman of the University of Delaware.
Rania said the months of restoration work and the approximately $55,000 needed to bring the organ back to superb condition were well worth it, if only to preserve a piece of the church’s history.
The Rev. Celeste Cox, Christ Church rector, said it was the generosity of the congregation and the community that made the restoration possible.
“People supported it enthusiastically and it’s because we have a growing music program,” she said. “There’s that saying, ‘When you sing, you pray twice.’”
Many of the organ’s 1,000-plus pipes are original and moved into the cramped chamber to the right of the altar in 1946 when M.P. Moller of Hagerstown, Md., installed the instrument.
The organ underwent one major restoration in 1983, but that was before the advent of technologies that make pipe organs easier to play and maintain.
In recent years, the need for serious repairs to the organ became apparent. Rania said there were times during concerts and services where he would pull one of the organ’s stops or press a key and nothing would happen.
But the renovation has completely refitted the organ’s console and simplified its connection to the pipes and bellows into a single cable.
“The main goal was to give us the modern technology,” Rania said. “We have the option now to add things to the organ that bring it into the 21st century.”
Even though the renovation has incorporated modern technology, Rania said it’s still an authentic pipe organ at heart, not an electronic simulation.
“Scripturally, it says praise God with wind and pipes, not a toaster, which is what we call the electronic ones,” he said.
Email Doug Denison at email@example.com.