For nearly 80 years, the mighty organ at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan had faithfully served its congregants, belting out music for all occasions from weddings and funerals to daily services.
The organ was silenced on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists carried out suicide attacks on the World Trade Center towers — a few blocks from the historic church. Dust and debris all but ruined the massive instrument.
Trinity removed the organ shortly thereafter and replaced it in 2003 with a digital organ.
Today, Trinity’s organ is once again making music at its new home in Johns Creek United Methodist Church, just outside Atlanta, Georgia.
“We’re pleased the people of Johns Creek United Methodist Church have brought this beautiful instrument back to life and are using it in their services,” said the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, vicar of Trinity Church. “We hope it brings their community many years of joy as they worship together.”
The resurrection the behemoth 7,000-plus pipe organ was certainly not a given. It sustained significant damage that would prove to be both costly and time-consuming to repair and restore.
“The dust was so pervasive throughout the instrument, so pervasive throughout the building … Everything was covered — everything,” Owen Burdick, then Trinity’s music director, told NPR.
Nathan Frank, Johns Creek’s music director, recalled that the process of acquiring Trinity’s organ was akin to an “adoption,” facilitated through an organization called Organ Clearing House in Massachusetts.
Frank recalled there were several churches interested in “adopting” Trinity’s organ and thatJohns Creek UMC was interviewed and ultimately chosen to bethe recipient of the instrument in 2013.
Johns Creekhad been planning to build anew sanctuary that could house a large pipe organ. But finances were tight and the cost of purchasing a new organ— more than $5 million —was prohibitive.
So, Johns Creek decided to restore Trinity’s donated organ to use in their new sanctuary. The congregation of about 450 families raised about $1 million to have Canada-based Casavant Organ Builders clean and restore the instrument.
“The timing ofJohns Creek’s searchand Trinity’s need to clear the space where the organ was being stored was a total coincidence that led to the church becoming the new home for this magnificent piece of history,” Frank said.
The congregation was “truly excited about the prospect of bringing this one-of-a-kind instrument to Johns Creek,” he added.
“We restored approximately 70 percent of the organ [about 5,000 pipes],” Frank said. “There are another 2,000 pipes in a second chamber at the rear of the sanctuary that may be restored at some point in the future.”
The restoration took about a year. Installing the organ in the church took another three months. The organ was dedicated during a ceremony last month.
“The congregation here is very community-oriented and makes this wonderful performing space available to community groups of all kinds on a regular basis,” Frank said.
“Consequently, the church has really emerged as a center of musical excellence in the northern suburbs of Atlanta.”