Greenfield’s three historic pipe organs will sound in a combined performance when an inaugural Christmastime event is held Sunday, Dec. 11.
Pipes of Christmas: A Historic Organ Walk, will feature the pipe organs from the First Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church and McClain High School. Ticketholders will be divided in half. Each half will begin the tour in one of the churches at 3 p.m., then switch churches. In addition to the organ performances, the Moon Chimes of the Presbyterian Church and the Cockerill Bells of the Methodist Church will appear at their respective venues. After the church recitals, the audiences will meet at the high school auditorium for a finale that will include a performance by the a new community choir and a Christmas sing-along for all, accompanied by the school organ.
In 1903, a Lyon and Healy organ was installed in the Presbyterian church during its construction, followed in 1912 by an Estey organ in the Methodist church and, in 1915, a Skinner organ in the high school auditorium.
“It has been estimated that it would take close to a $1 million to duplicate the Lyon and Healy organ,” said John Mitchell, who has organized the event. “The McClain organ is one of only five concert organs remaining in a high school in the United States.”
All performances will be by MHS alumni and one current student.
The performances at the First Presbyterian Church will commence in prelude with church pastor Mike Anderson playing “Mary Did You Know” and “O Holy Night.” Next, resident organist J. Daniel McCray (MHS 1974) will play “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates.” He will be followed by Isaac Leaverton (MHS 2007) offering J.S. Bach’s “In Dulce Jubilo,” “Silent Night” and a Brahm’s arrangement of “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungene.”
The Moon Chimes, under the direction of Mindy Hunter (MHS 1968), will perform next. John C. Huffman (MHS 1974) will conclude this portion of the organ tour with “In The Bleak Midwinter,” “Lo, He Comes in Clouds Descending” and “Allein zu dir, Jesu Christ.” A postlude of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” will encourage the audience to join in.
McCray began studying piano at age 5 under the tutelage of Ann Sulcebarger, then began studying organ as a high school sophomore. He continued his studies at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, then Edgecliff College/Xavier University and is currently studying under Dr. Richard Fitzgerald, director of music and organist at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Columbus.
Leaverton (MHS 2007), a student of Helen Czerpak, Charlotte Phillips and Jan Linker, graduated from Capital University in 2011 and holds a 2016 master’s degree in vocal pedagogy from the Guilford School of Acting in England. Specializing in choral music, he has worked extensively as a director, accompanist, accent coach and has sang with choirs including the London Symphony Chorus.
Huffman began his study of piano with Ethel Wallis of Washington C.H. and then Wallace Fisher of Greenfield. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from The Ohio State University School of Music and has held organist positions at St. Coleman Church in Washington C.H. and St. Agnes Church of the Columbus Diocese. Currently, he plays at two other Diocese churches, St. John the Baptist and Sacred Heart, besides acting as substitute organist for other venues within the Diocese. He also enjoys giving organ demonstrations at St. John’s during the annual Columbus Italian Festival.
At the Methodist church, the program will open by a performance by Susan Long (MHS 1970) of “Adestes Fideles,” joined by the Cockerill Bells, under the direction of Jo Ellen Gossett, with the audience singing along. Carol Watts Welk (MHS 1968) will follow with “Noel Basque,” which she will dedicate to her former teacher, Anne Sulcebarger, longtime organist/music director at the church. Next, the Cockerill Bells will perform a rendition of “The Carol of the Bells.” Finally, organist David Pettit (MHS 1971) will play the “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” as well as a postlude.
Long studied piano under Violet Linton of Leesburg and Wallace Fisher of Greenfield. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Morehead State University, she concluded her professional career teaching English at McClain. She has played at area churches for over 50 years and is currently piano/organist and choir director at the Methodist church.
Watts Welk studied with Sulcebarger and Fisher for many years. A holder of a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in music/special education from Ohio State, Welk pursued an elementary music career in the London and Columbus City schools. She received the first Elementary Music Educator Award from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Having played organ and piano at various churches for over 40 years, she is currently at the First Presbyterian Church in London, as well as a member of Grove City Chamber Singers.
Pettit’s career of over 35 years began with his studies under MHS music director Robert Anderson in 1967 and Fisher. He graduated from the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music in organ performance and music education and has performed worldwide from Beijing to Paris. A composer and arranger, he has more than 85 works to his credit, from piano solos to symphonies. From 2005 to 2016, Pettit was resident organist and composer at the First Presbyterian Church in Bartlesville, Okla.
At MHS, Watts Welk will open with “In Dulce Jubilo,” a performance in honor of Anderson, followed by Huffman’s prelude rendition of J.S. Bach’s “In dich hab ich gehoffer, Herr.” After welcoming remarks, McClain freshman Griffin Foltz will offer “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “We Three Kings” and “What Child Is This?” At this point, the inaugural Greenfield Community Choir, under the direction of Heather Goddard and accompanied by David Pettit, will sing “The First Noel/Pachebel” and “Tell It.”
In conclusion, Pettit will accompany and encourage all present to take part in a sing-a-long of a medley of favorite, traditional Christmas songs. Then the McClain Alma Mater will offer a special arrangement by Pettit.
Tickets can be purchased at the both churches and Greenfield Community Bank. Tickets are $5 and can be reserved by calling Kelly at the bank at 937-981-3123. Children under 6 are free. Transportation will be available between the venues, if needed. Attendees should arrive at their first stop 10 to 15 minutes early.
“This first-time event offers the unique opportunity to hear all three of Greenfield’s historic instruments, The Chimes and Bells and the Greenfield Community Chorus, as well as joining in the convivial joys and exultations of the Christmas season and its special music,” Mitchell said.
Information for this story was provided by John Mitchell.