St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington unveils one-of-a-kind pipe organ
After more than two years of work, wood, pewter and lead come together at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, in the form of a brand new pipe organ.
After more than two years of meticulous work, wood, pewter and lead come together at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia to create divine music, in the form of a brand new pipe organ.
Ben Keseley, the church’s music minister, said several years ago that the church had a pipe organ in place, but there was a problem.
“We had an old instrument here that was falling apart,” he said.
So after years of visiting churches that housed their own instruments, many created by working makers, the church chose Martin Pasi to design and build its own two-story pipe organ, titled “Pasi Opus 28”.
Pasi said making design decisions for projects such as this is not an easy task because the acoustics are different from church to church.
“It’s a decision that will be there for the rest of time, you know, in a way,” Pasi said.
Once Pasi was selected to take charge of the $1.2 million organ, his team got to work spending two years and tens of thousands of hours bringing the organ to life. 12 tons. It’s a tedious task, with all the pieces created by hand, including 2,200 pipes, which range in height from half an inch to 16 feet high.
Pasi said that when building these organs, he never knows exactly how it will sound until it’s in place.
“Once we start ringing the pipes in the room, all of a sudden it becomes a musical instrument with a soul,” Pasi said.
In typical pipe organs, the pipe extends along an entire wall, either at the front or the back of the church. But at St. George’s, the white oak columns and lead and tin pipes are located in the center of the instrument, just before an ornate stained glass window that has been in place at the church for 70 years.
Pasi said that in the woodwork there are also surprises, if you look closely. One column features a sculpture of St. George slaying a dragon, made by Pasi’s daughter.
Pasi also said that this instrument has something many have not built today, a foot pump system that allows the organ to operate without power.
According to the church, the instrument is inspired by the great German organs of the 18th century and is precisely designed to complement the size and acoustics of the church’s nave, or central area.
For Pasi, he said he hopes the beauty of the organ, both in design and sound, will be appreciated by those who come to listen to it. He said finishing a project and hearing the instrument he built can be overwhelming.
“I don’t always believe it was me who did it,” Pasi said.
Kola Owolabi, an organ professor at the University of Notre Dame, was the first to stage a performance with the instrument Friday night.
“This instrument shows the influence of 17th and 18th century organ building traditions at a time when pipe organs were probably the most complex invention that existed at the time,” Owolabi said.
The show included “Aspects of Light” by Brenda Portman, which Owolabi says was inspired by stained glass windows telling stories of St. George.
Keseley said the church is thrilled to share the gift of this instrument with the DC area community.
“We hope this instrument will inspire people, that its beauty will inspire people for many, many generations,” Keseley said.
The second performance of the instrument will be the concert “Dinosaur” for childrenwhich will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m.