“As Saint Cecilia welcomes music in this village church, an organ built of many woods, God’s message to proclaim…” So sang the 21 members of the Peace and Justice Choir at the inauguration of Rockburn Presbyterian Church’s tracker organ. People came from near and far to hear the newly installed pipe organ that had made its journey from Southwest United Church in Verdun to Rockburn. The crowd was welcomed by the organist, Sarah Fraser, and Rob Ireland – two individuals who were instrumental in both the organ’s creation and its move from the city to the country.
The opening hymn, Rockburn New, was written by Rev. Stephen A. Crisp. Nora Johnston and Mylaine Massicotte wrote verses to tailor the hymn for the organ inauguration at Rockburn. Sarah Fraser was accompanied by her brother, Marc Fraser, who played the cello. Rev. Crisp directed the ensemble.
12 pieces of music were played, including Benedictus from Joseph Hayden’s Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (the Kleine Orgelmesse, or Little Organ Mass), which featured a solo performance by soprano Katherine Black. The church was full, yet the crowd was silent throughout the performances with intermittent clapping. Many in the audience had their eyes closed as they drank in the celestial voices of the choir.
Wolfgang Kater, who created the organ, looked on from the back of the church, while Dennis Brown, who did all the wood turning on the instrument, sat in the front pew surrounded by other members of the congregation of Southwest United Church. Fraser played O Welt ich muss dich lassen by Johannes Brahms with the help of two assistants: Marguerite Meyer, and Fraser’s brother Mark, who worked the buttons or “stops” on the organ. “A stop represents a set of pipes, each set representing a different sound; or a similar sound but at a different pitch, kind of ‘louder’ and ‘softer’ that Brahms asks for,” explains Fraser.
As the concert progressed through Mozart to Bach, Fraser took the organ through mournful mellow depths into lighter tones, demonstrating the range of the instrument. The audience was transfixed. Suddenly there was silence as the organ stopped abruptly. The timer that had been installed to stop the blower from overheating had turned on. As Fraser explained what had happened, the audience erupted in laughter.
The concert resumed, ending with the last two verses of Rockburn New. The audience filed out of the church to chat and share their reactions to the concert. There was no entrance fee for the event, but a donation box was positioned at the front of the church. In total, $1,250 was raised for La Bouffe Additionnelle.