Christmas cheer and optimism


Hoping to spread a bit of cheer and good will among their community, a plethora of Greenfield area residents have been preparing for The Pipes of Christmas that will take place Sunday at three locations — the First Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church and McClain High School — that all boast more than 100-year-old pipe organs.

When tickets are purchased the buyer can choose which church they want to visit first for a half-hour presentation. Participants will then switch churches before the event culminates at the high school.

“I think the main drive is to bring some Christmas cheer and optimism to the community that’s appropriate for the season,” said John Mitchell, who is helping organize the event along with several others. “It’s something we think is a good idea for this time in the country.”

The community held a similar event called A Night of Peace, the last one in 2018 that was sort of the impetus for this year’s outing, and Mitchell said this year’s event is kind of revival of that performance four years ago.

“Susan Long is the driving force behind the whole effort,” Mitchell said of the longtime Greenfield educator. “Then there are lots of other committee members.”

He said the committee is contemplating recording each performance and putting them on a DVD or flash drive that could be sold to the public.

The show starts at 3 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the offices of the three organ venues as well as at Community Savings Bank or online via The Pipes of Christmas Facebook page. They are $10 for adults and $5 for those under 12.

“Hopefully everybody will enjoy the performance and be uplifted by the experience. And I think they will be,” Mitchell said.

At the high school, the Greenfield Community Choir and the McClain Show Choir will add their voices to the celebration. A brass quintet will be featured as well.

The oldest of the three instruments, the Lyon and Healy organ of the First Presbyterian Church, was installed during the building’s construction in 1904 by Chicago’s Lyon and Healy Company, initially known as manufacturers of orchestral harps, at a cost of $4,730. First Presbyterian organist/pastor Mike Anderson will perform “Joy to the World” accompanied by David Weaks singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Angels We Have Heard On High.” There will also be a solo by organist John Huffman. In addition, the Moon Chimes, under the direction of Mindy Hunter, will ring out a “Silent Night” performance interpreted in American Sign Language by Tom Schluep and Molly Townsend. At the closing, all present will be welcome to join in the singing of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The First Methodist Church’s Estey Organ, manufactured by the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont, was installed in 1912, boosted by a $1,000 donation from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Several organists will perform, including Griffin Foltz doing a jazz version of “What Child Is This?” then well-known organist David Pettit doing the American folk hymn “Wondrous Love” as well as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” followed by an improvisation “Three Songs of Christmas.” Cellist Shu-Li Cheah will present a J.S. Bach piece, The Prelude to Suite Number One for Cello, followed by a Postlude, an excerpt from C-M Widor’s Organ Symphony No. 5. This performance will include a number by the engaging Cockerill Bells directed by Jo Ellen Gossett.

E.L. McClain High School is one of only seven high schools in the country boasting an in-house organ, a Skinner instrument installed during the school’s construction in 1915, according to Mitchell. Once both audiences have assembled in the auditorium, the program will begin with the high school’s show choir, under the direction of Loretta Flora, joining the community choir, under the direction of James Knisley, and a brass ensemble under the direction of Rick Duffus. With David Pettit playing the organ, the ensemble will perform classic Christmas songs including “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “The Holly and the Ivy”, concluding with a rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” for all to join in. The show choir will offer “Carol of the Bells” and, as a finale, the McClain alma mater.

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