St. Luke’s blessed with new priest and new pipe organ

By on September 2, 2019
Brenda Tremblay sits at the console of St. Luke’s new pipe organ. The photo shows some of the new pipes and the “case” made of white oak. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Brenda Tremblay sits at the console of St. Luke’s new pipe organ. The photo shows some of the new pipes and the “case” made of white oak. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Brockport has had an exciting summer. They announced a new priest being ordained in the fall. And, the church received a rare pipe organ from an anonymous donor.

On June 1, The Reverend Elizabeth Harden, was ordained as a “deacon” at the Brockport St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. She will be ordained as Priest of St. Luke’s in the fall. She is a recent graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she studied theology. Reverend Harden is married and has three children.

Asked why she came to Brockport, “It looked like an ideal place for a family to grow and thrive,” she said. “St. Luke’s is a vibrant church that knows deeply how to live out the Gospel in our community.”

Since she arrived, the church has seen many changes. “First of all, the new pipe organ,” she said. “It began before I came, but I am blessed to be here through it.”

The church is getting ready for “Welcome Back Sunday” on September 8 when the new pipe organ will debut. In other new developments, the church service will soon start at 10 a.m.

Also, “We are converting a back section of the sanctuary as “soft space” for the youngest people in our services so we can welcome parents and children,” Reverend Harden said. “It’s hard to care for children in those wooden pews.”

This fall a Tuesday night small group series begins focusing on spirituality. Also, there will be a Thursday morning Bible and book study. “The changes evolved in the summer,” Reverend Harden said. “I had time to get to know the congregation and start planning.”

Asked for her thoughts about this new ministry, she said, “I have been incredibly blessed by the warm welcome I received here. The church is full of genuine and generous people. I am excited to see us grow and share that love with more people in our community.”

The new organ and its history – Brenda Tremblay

Organist and choir director Brenda Tremblay talked about the new pipe organ installed in early August of this year at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Brockport. 

Brenda traces the unique pipe organ to the Parsons Pipe Organ Builders in Canandaigua (**see web site). In the 1980’s three generations of the family (grandfather, father, and son) first built an organ together. The second organ they built, called “Opus II,” was originally placed in a church in Houston, Texas. “It was there about 30 years, until the church didn’t want it anymore,” Brenda said, adding the Parsons family in Rochester drove down to Houston and rescued it. Opus II was installed at St. Luke’s in the first week of August and is ready for its September 8 debut.

“It is an anonymous gift to the church,” Brenda said. “The benefactor contacted me in the spring and asked if I wanted a pipe organ at St. Luke’s. He is a singer and classical music aficionado and was looking for an organ for St. Luke’s,” she continued. “He had been here for a Madrigal sing-along workshop in the summer. He remembered we had this old 1960’s Allen Electric, which mimics a pipe organ sound; it’s not really an organ. It was a workhorse at the end of its life. He saw Opus II for sale on the internet and decided to donate it as a random act of kindness.” 

The organ is made of rare materials. The “case,” Brenda says, is made of white oak. “They probably would not use that wood now because it is so precious and expensive; it was not so in the 1980s. If we hired a company to do this, it would be a quarter of a million dollars to design and install it.” She estimated the pipes were made of copper and tin, creating a “scaled effect” on the surface.

Brenda was a classical music writer for CITY Newspaper for 5 years and did a cover story about pipe organs in New York State. “I interviewed a lot of organists,” she said. “I never heard a story like this one. Usually getting a pipe organ takes years of planning and fundraising hundreds of thousands of dollars. For a little church like St. Luke’s, that money was definitely out of reach for us. It’s been a gift. Nobody ever says, ‘Do you want a pipe organ?’ There aren’t even words for it.”

**Parsons Pipe Organ Builders Canandaigua web site: http://www.parsonsorgans.com.

Brenda Tremblay sits at the console of St. Luke’s new pipe organ. The photo shows some of the new pipes and the “case” made of white oak. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Brenda Tremblay sits at the console of St. Luke’s new pipe organ. The photo shows some of the new pipes and the “case” made of white oak. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Standing in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in front of the new pipe organ are: (left) The Reverend Elizabeth Harden and Brenda Tremblay, organist and choir director. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Standing in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in front of the new pipe organ are: (left) The Reverend Elizabeth Harden and Brenda Tremblay, organist and choir director. Photo by Dianne Hickerson