At first I when I was thinking about this project, I wanted to play sixty organs but didn’t care where - it was the number that mattered. After spending three months thinking about the project before I actually began, I decided it did matter where and decided the best church to begin with was St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kalamazoo.
This is the church where I was baptized, made first communion, was confirmed, was married and where both my parents were buried from. This was the church of my spiritual roots and seemed like the perfect place to begin. So I decided to officially begin the project July 1 by calling St. Joseph to ask if I could play. There were just a couple of glitches - the music director was on vacation and they don’t have a pipe organ!
But this was the perfect church to start my journey - so I played anyway. I visited on July 9. I hadn’t been there since my mother died in 1999 and the church has been renovated. It is beautiful and looks different in some ways but had the same feel I remembered from my youth. I played on the Rodgers electronic organ and although it wasn’t a pipe organ, it was much nicer than the Baldwin we had, so it was still a good experience. But I’m not counting this as one - it falls into the pre-project category.
Pipe Organ #1 was at the Lakeview Baptist Church in Battle Creek. I picked it because it is the closest church to my home and for many years I had Christmas Piano Recitals there for my students because one of my student families was a member there. It took some explaining to Phil, the music director, of who I was and what I was doing and once he understood, he agreed and was very encouraging. I liked playing the organ, but being a novice, it is hard for me to make a judgment on an organ, having had limited experience. I played there on July 16.
Pipe Organ #2 was a 2003 Noack at the Lakeside Presbyterian Church on Dixie Highway in Lakeside Park, Kentucky. We were visiting family and it seemed like a great opportunity to play outside of Southwestern Michigan. The week before we were traveling, I called the All Saints Catholic Church in Walton, KY and again had the situation that they didn’t have a pipe organ. The Music Director there was very helpful in making suggestions to me about other churches I could contact, and let me use her name as a reference. I contacted a few churches and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I spoke with both the music director and the organist at the Lakeside Presbyterian Church and arranged to play there on August 26. Having cousin Jean Ann along was great as she knew where we were going, we shared our dreams on the way there and she was able to take some pictures. The church and organ were beautiful. The church was light blue and white inside with lots of natural light and the beautiful organ was front and center. It was wonderful to play - I wish I could have stayed longer.
Pipe Organ #3 was a 1995 Schaedle at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, also on Dixie Highway in Fort Mitchell, KY. We scheduled two for the same morning. I didn’t want to give more than one morning to my project, since the reason for the trip was to visit family. The organ was in the choir loft, the view of the church from the loft was lovely, the loft itself was small and the pipes were contained, so the organ wasn’t visually stunning like the Noack, but I did enjoy playing and hearing it.
There were many churches on Dixie Highway I would have liked to visit. We just have to plan another trip to Kentucky next summer!