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By Gonzague Leroux January 20, 2012
Since May 2005, Manhattan’s St. Malachy’s Church, also called the Actors’ Chapel, has been in pursuit of a new organ. The Paul Creston Memorial Pipe Organ Project will reach its goal in just a few weeks. It is a great gift for the community and the visitors of this church, located near “the Crossroads of the World,” Times Square, New York City.
St. Malachy’s Church, founded in 1902, became famous amongst the the entertainment community in the 1920’s, when the Theatre District moved in. It was a very vibrant parish until the 70′s, at which time midtown’s crime rate and corruption grew, making the area less secure and less popular. At this same time, the organ was removed from the Actors’ Chapel. With the efforts of former pastors, the outreach of the community, and the “cleaning” of the neighborhood, the area regained its prestige in the 90′s.
The newly restored organ, recently assembled in the back of the church, is dedicated to Paul Creston, a prolific composer in all music genres except opera, and the former organist at St Malachy’s (1934-1967). It is an Aeolian Skinner Pipe Organ, Opus 938, designed by Donald G. Harrison in 1935, with 43 ranks of pipes — nearly 2,900 individual pipes. The tallest pipe measures 16 feet and the smallest one is the length of a pencil. In May 2007, the organ was rescued from the demolition of a Presbyterian Church in East Orange, NJ. The body of the organ was fully intact and could be considered in like-new condition, except for the keys and stops of the console, as well as some pipes slightly damaged by water leakage. Therefore, its restoration was entrusted to the care of the almost one-hundred-year-old company, The Peragallo Pipe Organ Company, of New Jersey.
In March 2009, the fundraising campaign was launched along with the creation of the Paul Creston Award, now annually presented to a distinguished artist who embodies the Creston Creed, demonstrates excellence in the arts, and is a significant figure in church music and the performing arts. The 2012 winner of the Paul Creston Award is David Higgs, a concert organist who performs around the world and serves as chair of the organ department at the Eastman School of Music. He will lead a very special choral event with 600 singers from all around the country, on February 20th, at Radio City Music Hall (information and tickets).
Sonata Op.19 Tempo III, Composer Paul Creston
The installation of the organ will be completed in a few weeks. The Easter Vigil, April 7th, will be the first high event for the inauguration of the organ. The organ will then be played on a regular basis for liturgies. It will also serve as accompaniment for educational and civic programs, such as silent theatre and dance performances.
Johann Sebastian Bach said: “Where there is devotional music, God is always at hand with His gracious presence.” As the organ is designated as the principal musical instrument for solemn liturgical ceremonies of the Latin Church, we believe that with such a grand organ at St. Malachy’s, the Actors’ Chapel will be filled with God’s Presence. Go and have a look and listen, if you have a chance to visit Times Square. St. Malachy’s church is located on 49th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue.
David Higgs’ CD’s
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