St. Patrick Church, 1420 Oak Hill, Youngstown, will host a special concert on Sun., Nov. 23 at 2 p.m., to mark the dedication of an 86-year-old organ donated to the parish last year by the congregation of John Knox Presbyterian Church, that closed in 2013. Those attending will experience the unique sound of the Votteler-Holtkamp-Sparling organ, that was rebuilt in the early 1990s.
The concert will feature a performance by musicians including the parish’s former music director, Barbara Masters, who is the current music director at Visitation Catholic Church, Elmhurst, Ill., and a faculty member of the music department at Elmhurst College.
Other featured performers will be Kris Harper, music director at St. Patrick Church, and Kelan Haynes, organist at New Bethel Baptist Church, 1507 Hillman St.
The organ’s presence in Youngstown dates back to July, 1927 when South United Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Market St. and Delason, purchased it from The Votteler-Holtkamp-Sparling Organ Company in Cleveland.
Built of oak and metal and featuring 28 ranks of pipes, the organ was first played on Christmas Eve 1927.
Almost 30 years later, when South United Presbyterian merged with nearby Evergreen Presbyterian to form John Knox Presbyterian Church, the stately organ remained the centerpiece of the building’s interior.
Like many urban institutions, however, John Knox Presbyterian witnessed a period of decline starting in the 1960s, and by last November, it was apparent that the church would close.
At that point, Kris Harper, music director at St. Patrick Church, approached the task force charged with shutting down the edifice and inquired about the organ’s availability. Harper, who had served as an organist at John Knox in the early 1980s and 1990s, was aware of the organ’s outstanding qualities; and he was overwhelmed when he learned that the congregation had agreed to donate the instrument to its South Side neighbor.
After John Knox’s final service, the organ’s three heaviest components, which hold together its numerous pipes, were moved by Connell Inc., a local steel-erection company, to St. Patrick, where they were installed six months later
Jim Wakeford, project manager at Connell Incorporated, recalled that the components ranged in weight from 700 to 900 pounds, and their placement in a balcony 20 feet above the main altar required the building of two scaffold towers and a trolley system. “There were lots of volunteers on hand to help,” Wakeford recalled, adding that he was impressed by parishioners’ participation.
Father Edward P. Noga, pastor of St. Patrick Church, described the organ’s arrival as the product of “a rather unbelievable series of events.” He noted that the organ is far superior to the parish’s former model, but added that “many adjustments and modifications had to be made to accommodate this beautiful instrument into our space.” Father Noga expressed appreciation to all of those involved in the project.
The Nov. 23 concert will be free and open to the public. For further information, contact the church office at 330-743-1109.