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Miracle would save organ

for The Brooklyn Paper
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If you’ve walked by the historic Old First Reformed Church on Seventh Avenue on any given Sunday, you’ve heard its majestic, powerful organ and thought it sounded like heaven.

But there’s trouble in this particular paradise: many of the 116-year-old organ’s pipes are missing. And to resurrect the organ to its original glory would take a minor miracle (or $200,000, give or take).

Now the church is taking to the streets in search of donations.

“Usually, organ repairs come from a couple of major gifts, plus a few smaller gifts,” said the Rev. Daniel Meeter, the pastor of the church, which is at the corner of Carroll Street. “In a place like Park Slope, we think that the future of the organ can’t be just for the church. It will have to be for the whole community.”

Until the big bucks come in, organ artisan John Klauder has been doing patchwork to keep the pipes alive with the sound of music. He can’t wait to do a real, top-to-bottom restoration, even though it would require long hours in an uncomfortable working condition (lying on one’s back for hours at a time).

“When you think about the hundreds of pipes and the thousands of people-hours that went into building that instrument … it would be a shame to see that all waste away,” he said. “It really is a beautiful organ.”

Unfortunately, some of the mechanics did not hold up over the years, and when the church’s nest egg dwindled, repairs became sporadic.

“It was like a Bentley being rebuilt by Ford,” Meeter said.

The main problem lies with the pneumatic leather (yes, leather), which is attached to the pipes. With age, those pouches deteriorate and replacing them is tough.

The pipes, which are the heartbeat of the instrument, were once innocent victims of some shady dealings, just as the church was at its lowest point.

“In the 1970s [before Meeter arrived], the church brought in this guy who kind of destroyed the organ,” Meeter said. “He removed a lot of the pipes and sold them. He was a bit of a charlatan.”

But Meeter remains optimistic (he’s Daniel Meeter, after all).

“The money is there; it is just a matter of finding it,” he said.

Updated 4:33 pm, July 9, 2018
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