Southsiders can go on a world tour of the greatest pipe organs at a free dedication concert Saturday at 4 p.m. at Greenwood United Methodist Church.
Designed and built by Greenwood UMC music director Drew Worthen, a world-class digital pipe organ with the sounds – from Renaissance organs to theater organs – will fill the sanctuary. The church is at 525 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood.
Taking three years to design and build, the digital organ is based on the “Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ” platform. It is the only known organ of its kind in Indiana and perhaps in the Midwest. It has created a buzz internationally due to its large-scale design.
“There are no physical pipes,” Worthen pointed out. “It is a digital pipe-by-pipe snapshot of the great pipe organs.”
The Saturday program, “An Organ Grand Tour – music from the world’s great organs,” covers nearly 400 years of pipe organs and music.
Organists performing at the dedication concert are: internationally renowned Dr. Marko Petricic, adjunct professor of organ, sacred music and music theory at University of Indianapolis; Dr. John Allegar, organist and assistant director of music and fine arts at Second Presbyterian Church; Greg Gyllsdorff, who received his Doctorate from Indiana University, organist and choir director at Trinity Episcopal Church, Aurora, Ill.; and Justin Nimmo, a theater organist and expert in theater organ restoration, who has performed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
“Most serious organists are leery of playing a digital organ,” Worthen said. “We have four phenomenal top-notch organists that the Midwest has to offer. I’m extraordinarily flattered that they found this instrument viable enough to play. I took my time on this project because I wanted it to be correct. This is definitely an instrument to be taken seriously.”
Each organist hand-picked their selections to play Saturday from the great pipe organs:
1735 Gottfried Silbermann organ of Petrikirche, Freiberg, Saxony, Germany.
1869 Edmund Schulze organ of The Church of St. Bartholomew, Armley, Leeds, England.
1882 Aristide Cavaille-Coll organ of St. Etienne Abby, Caen, Normandy, France.
1995 Casavant Freres organ of First Presbyterian Church, Belleview, Wash.
Paramount 341 composite theater organ.
Worthen pointed out several “wow” factors that will add to the enjoyment of the dedication concert:
*The authenticity and integrity of the sounds.
*Depth and range of sounds from high and low plus softer and higher, especially low-end that electronic organs cannot reach. The pipe organ has the largest range of any musical instrument.
*”Voicing” of the organ and placement of speakers to match the spacious GUMC sanctuary.
*The ability of the organist to change from the pipes of one organ to another.
“The most difficult aspect was in making each individual organ sound like it belongs in this sanctuary,’ said Worthen, who has a master’s degree in music from Butler University. “’voicing’ every single sound of every pipe of every organ took an incredible amount of time. Every single pipe had to be repurposed and repitched.”
Worthen spent about two years developing the concept and then sought funding from the GUMC congregation that needed to replace an aged electronic organ. Most of the $25,000 needed for the project was raised within four weeks.
He purchased the console from the former Olive Branch Christian Church on Raymond Street. The organ features four keyboards, 32-note concave, radiating pedalboard and touchscreen stop controls.
The organ has a 56-channel audio system, two custom-designed and custom-built subwoofers capable of producing the lowest frequencies needed in pipe organ music.
“This is a dream come true, to say the least,” Worthen said. “It took three years to do, but looking back, it became a pretty easy dream to realize.”
Additional sounds of pipe organs include: 1877 Father Henry Willis organ of Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England; 1907 Brindley and Foster organ of St. Anne’s Church, Birmingham, England; 1928 Reuter organ of Temple Beth Israel, Portland, Ore.; 2000 Orgelbau Eisenbarth organ of Friesach, Pfarrkirche, Bartholomaus, Austria; 2008 Mascioni organ of Giubiasco, Parish Church, Switzerland; and 2016 Mascioni organ of Azzio, Parish Church, Italy.
Worthen is hopeful that the concert Saturday will be the first of many public concerts featuring the digital pipe organ. He is in his sixth year as music director at GUMC.
Born in Arkansas, Worthen has a bachelor’s degree from Henderson State College and master’s from Butler University. He is employed by Sound Solutions, a company that specializes in staging audio-visual presentations for businesses and entertainment.
Pictures and snippet recordings can be found at: www.greenwoodumcmusic.org.