Two weeks ago, St. John’s Episcopal Church, 239 E. Market St., Marietta, celebrated its 150th anniversary with a sermon about its history and its mission.
Sunday, it gets its voice back when the church hosts a rededicatory organ recital at 3 p.m. featuring renowned organist and Lancaster native Peter Stoltzfus Berton. He is the organist and choirmaster of Zabriskie Memorial Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, Rhode Island, and founding executive director of The Choir School of Newport County. He holds music degrees from the University of Michigan and Yale University.
Among the pieces he will perform is the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” which was played during the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, as well as J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor and Prelude on Greensleeves by Richard Purvis.
Berton also will play Paul Manz’s “O Love, How Deep,” which was one of his favorite hymns while attending Otterbein United Methodist Church in Lancaster when he was growing up. Berton’s version of the piece is dedicated to Carrie Glick, Otterbein’s organist at the time.
Berton studied under Carl Schroeder of Lancaster and worked with retired Millersville music professor Karl Moyer, who, along with Robert Carbaugh, serves as an organist at St. John’s.
The pipe organ on which Berton will perform dates to 1959. A two-manual organ with six sets of pipes, it recently underwent a major transformation.
Those improvements will be visual as well as aural.
And therein lies an interesting story. Those attending will immediately notice the gilded pipes with new stenciling. The transformation is courtesy of William Messick, a Lancaster Country Day student and organ student of Margaret Marsch. Messick repainted and stenciled the pipes as part of his Eagle Scout project.
His work was overseen by Carbaugh, whose own son, James, added two ranks of pipes and additional woodwork to the organ as part of his Eagle Scout project in 2005.
Coupled with new electronics, the organ can produce sounds church members have not heard before.
“While the organ is small in terms of the number of pipes, it is mighty in terms of its capacity to combine those six sets of pipes in all sorts of different ways,” Berton said. “The recent upgrade makes it possible to combine those pipes in even newer combinations.”
Berton stressed that the sound is all produced by pipes and wind. There are no electronic-simulated sounds. The electronics simply make it easier to play the instrument.
“That’s one special thing about this organ,” he explained. “It’s all the honest organ.”
Viewing the performance
To enhance the experience, cameras will be placed so members of the audience can see Berton’s hands on the keyboards, his footwork on the pedals and even inside the organ. The video will be projected on a screen.
“It adds a whole new dimension to the making of the music,” Berton said.
The recital marks the return of the organ to the church. It had been out of commission since January as its restoration took place.
“Peter said something very interesting about this being the voice of the church,” said St. John’s rector, the Rev. Gina Bautista. “There’s something about the organ and the Episcopal Church. It’s our tradition.”
She focused on tradition during St. John’s recent 150th anniversary service by following the liturgy that would have been used in the 1789 prayer book.
“It’s a very different liturgy than we use today,” she said, adding that some things are completely different.
“Of course, there never would have been a woman priest (in 1868), and we actually had a woman deacon,” she said.
Among those she mentioned during the service was the Rev. Alonzo Potter Diller, who was ordained at St. John’s on July 7, 1878, and served as the pastor until April 1883, when he founded a new church for miners in Johnstown. He declined an invitation to serve a church in Pittsburgh and on May 31, 1889, died along with members of his family in the Johnstown Flood.Diller is memorialized with a plaque and photograph in the sanctuary.
The St. John’s Episcopal congregation was established in Columbia in 1810 but moved to Marietta in 1868. It is Bautista’s understanding that some members of the congregation were Southern sympathizers during the Civil War and that led to the church’s move.