An installation of a Kilgen is always a pretty big deal, but Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Danville now, in a way, has two Kilgens in the house.
Lynda Manon has been comfortably installed in her position as pastorial associate for two years. She started well after music director David Dube, who came to his position six years ago with a mandate to find an acoustical pipe organ to replace the church’s unimpressive and disintegrating electronic organ.
After a lengthy search, Dube found a rare prize. A Kilgen organ built in 1937 and used in a church in Alexandra, Va., was in mothballs in Louisville and could be purchased for what the church could afford to pay.
The organ was installed in time to wow the congregation on Easter Sunday, and Lynda Manon was there to see it.
Manon’s grandmother’s grandfather was George Kilgen, born in Merchingen, Germany, in 1821. He apprenticed with a famous organ builder there before immigrating to the U.S., founding his own company and becoming one of the principal suppliers of church organs to the midwestern United States.
“The Kilgen name and the organs have always been a part of the family history, the family pride,” Manon said.
The family now has this story to add to those stories.
Dube is excited about the addition of the pipe organ and is happy to provide a demonstration that shows the instrument’s range as a single tone soft as a whisper to a thunderous crescendo like Gabriel’s trumpet sounding an exaltation.
“If you wanted, you could play, today, the same pipe organ Bach used to compose,” he said, sitting in what might be mistaken for the cockpit of a spaceship resplendent with levers and switches and dials along with keys.
“This was essentially the first synthesizer,” he said.
Dube started playing piano in the second grade, and his elementary school had singing classes for half of each day. Now retired, he is dedicated to doing once again what he loved as a child — being daily immersed in music.
The search for the organ was a process, he said, of “fits and starts,” but the end result is beyond expectation.
The installation was performed by Miller Organ Co. in Louisville and involved more than just offloading a piece of furniture. A “crying room” was built below a choir loft to one side of the church decades ago. The ungainly feature was removed to add the organ, which not only restored the original architectural intention but also gives the organ room to flex its acoustical muscles.
A donor and capital-raising campaigns allowed the church to spend nearly $100,000 altogether, Dube said, adding that one other pipe organ in town cost more than seven times as much. This is not to say the Kilgen is less of an instrument but rather to appreciate that timing and dedicated effort resulted in a quite a find.
It might also be said, according to Manon, that the organ in this place where she happens to be is precisely like something her late great-grandmother would have orchestrated.
The community is invited, “with gusto,” Dube said, to the church at 2 p.m. May 6 to attend the dedication ceremony.
The organ will be dedicated with a command performance by Jeff Jones, organist for both Centre College and First Presbyterian Church in Danville, who last year performed on a Kilgen at Saint Patrick Cathedral in New York City.