Organ music returns to First Church

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Organist Peter Kennett plays the Johannus D470 organ which was recently installed at Invercargill's First Presbyterian Church.

AFTER a journey of more than 18,600km, a bespoke Johannus Ecclesia D470 organ has been installed at Invercargill’s First Presbyterian Church.

Purpose-built in the Netherlands at the Johannus factory in Ebe, it had cost about $80,000, including installation and associated costs, Reverend Nyalle Paris said.

The three-tier, digital organ was chosen to replace a small electronic keyboard and grand piano which had been used in the interim since the church’s Rogers organ was damaged in a fire three years ago.

The fire, believed to have been caused by an electrical fault, in the church’s ceiling void below the copper roof dome caused smoke and water damage to about 20% of the church’s interior, including the sanctuary where the organ was positioned.

The nearby Stobo Hall had been used for church activities for more than two years until repairs were made and the congregation was able to return to the main church again.

Peter Kennett, one of the team of organists at the church, said as well as having 65 stops, the new Johannus also had four distinctly different tonal styles – French, German, modern American and early music.

Rev Paris described listening to organ music as “timeless… the sounds they produce have a spiritual quality and tone about them which can be soothing.

“Listening can help get the peace back… and can restore the soul.”

The Johannus was chosen because of its quality, sound, tone and acoustics, they said.

Installed by Ralph Cullen, of Keyboard Music Systems, Auckland, the organ had many speakers and sub woofers set up along both sides of the cross, almost the height of the back wall, to replicate the sounds of the organ.

Rev Paris said the sound of the organ was integral and complemented the worship team and choir.

Well-known organists Bill Wyatt, who was also the church’s music co-ordinator, and Stanley Fox were also part of the worship team, as was pianist Joy Riley and violinist Sophia Donnisse-Paris.

Deciding on whether to purchase a Johannus had led Rev Paris and Mr Wyatt to Dunedin to listen to the First Presbyterian Church of Otago’s Johannus organ, which had been installed in late 2016.

“We wanted to do our homework, so went up to do a sound test with them.”

Replacing the old smoke-damaged Rogers organ with the Johannus organ was an asset not only to the church and congregation, but also to the wider community, Rev Paris and Mr Kennett agreed.

“There are good acoustics in the church,” which has regularly been used by choirs, for choral festivals, Out of School Music end-of-year concerts, A Cappella singers and will also be used for the Combined Churches of Invercargill evening on Sunday, which Rev Paris expected 500 people to attend.

It also was hoped the Johannus would attract touring organists and encourage them to include Invercargill in their concert tours, as well as for local organists to play.

“It will be good for the city… and will provide a concert venue for organ music to be played and heard, as well as for choirs, and other groups.”

Rev Paris said he hoped there would be organ concerts held at least every three months.

Various fundraising activities, private donations and money from the insurance claim contributed to the purchase.

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