Playing and Preserving
Using new and creative approaches, Playing and Preserving aims to generate public support for the preservation and active use of Philadelphia’s pipe organ heritage by building relationships between congregations, artists, music lovers, organ builders, and the broader public.
Community Concert Details
Partners for Sacred Places has collaborated with Astral and Play On Philly (POP) to organize a series of family-friendly, community concerts to be held at St. Mary’s Hamilton Village, The Episcopal Church at Penn.
All concerts are free and open to the public.
There is no on-site parking at St. Mary’s. There is a paid parking lot at the corner of 40th and Walnut and street parking.
Concerts will take place on the following dates and times.
Friday, October 25, 2019 – The Organ At Home
Experience Stations: 5:30 – 5:50pm
Concert: 6:00 – 7:00pm
Featuring: Project Fusion, saxophone quartet; Play On Philly Wind Ensemble; and Michael Lawrence, Director of Music/Organist/Choirmaster at St. Mary’s, Hamilton Village
Friday, November 22, 2019 – The Organ With Friends
Experience Stations: 5:30 – 5:50pm
Concert: 6:00 – 7:00pm
Featuring: Thomas Mesa, cello; Greg Zelek, organ; Play On Philly Cello Ensemble
Saturday, December 21, 2019 – The Organ As Celebration
Experience Stations: 1:30 – 1:50pm
Concert: 2:00 – 3:00pm
Featuring: Chrystal E. Williams, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Mesa, cello; Greg Zelek, organ; Play On Philly Symphony Orchestra
Prior to each concert, audience members are invited to participate in two Experience Stations that focus on learning more about the organ. Child-friendly and designed to engage people who are new to the pipe organ, these Experience Stations welcome us all to learn more about this exceptional instrument. The Experience Stations will be active for 20 minutes before each concert, and will close before the start of the performance.
St. Mary’s Hamilton Village
3916 Locust Walk
This historic church was first built in 1824, and the present Gothic Revival structure of fieldstone was first used in 1873. Changes were made after a disastrous fire in 1936, including the present organ, an Opus 963 organ by Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co., installed in the fall of 1937.
Playing and Preserving Overview
Philadelphia’s pipe organs, and the sacred places that contain them, are some of the city’s greatest treasures. Yet, changing religious landscapes, musical tastes, and technology over the last 20 to 30 years are putting both sacred places and their historic pipe organs at risk. One expert estimated that nearly 50% of the instruments featured in the Organ Historical Society’s national convention in Philadelphia nearly twenty years ago maybe be partially destroyed, dormant, or unplayable.
Playing and Preserving will identify key historic pipe organs at risk in sacred places throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods; activate these important instruments through technical assistance and support to the congregations that steward them; and work with project partners and artists to develop presentations and concerts that engage the local community in preservation through music. Project components include:
- SURVEY HISTORIC PIPE ORGANS AT RISK OUTSIDE PHILADELPHIA’S CITY CENTER
- TRAINING AND SUPPORT FOR A COHORT OF TEN CONGREGATIONS
- PILOT PERFORMANCES IN A UNIQUE SPACE WITH ASTRAL
Partners is collaborating with pipe organ students from the Curtis Institute of Music to conduct an innovative survey of up to 50 historic pipe organs at risk in sacred places outside of Philadelphia’s urban core. Data on instrument construction, condition and age will be collected along with information about congregational health, collaborative readiness, openness to the arts, and other key factors. Their findings, including audio recordings of the pipe organs and photos of the sites, will be made available to the public through an online database.
An Advisory Committee will invite up to ten congregations from the survey to participate in a training and capacity-building program. The training will be adapted from Partners’ highly-regarded capacity-building programs to incorporate the historic organ as a key physical asset of the congregation. Each congregation will receive a full conditions assessment of its instrument, a guide to repair and restoration, and direct technical assistance to catalyze efforts to fundraise and preserve their instruments. Grants will be made available to support organ preservation work. Each grant will be matched on a one-to-one basis by the recipient church, using funds from other sources and/or in-kind support.
St. Mary’s, Hamilton Village, has been selected as a pilot project site for a series of community concerts. Astral will organize a series of performances and workshops for young musicians from Play On Philly, which will highlight the historic pipe organ in ways that juxtapose and combine genres and styles of music such as gospel, jazz, classical and others. In the weeks before these concert experiences, Astral Artists will mentor the POP students during four short residency visits, building musical skills and relationships between student musicians and world-class artists.
Playing and Preserving in the News
WHYY, Peter Crimmins, October 28, 2019, Hunting Philly neighborhoods for forgotten church pipe organs
Classical Post, October 25, 2019, Partners for Sacred Places Launches New Initiative to Preserve Historic Organs in Philadelphia
WRTI, October 25, 2019, On-air coverage.
Musical America, October 23, 2019, Partners for Sacred Places Announces Groundbreaking Initiative to Preserve Historic Organs in Philadelphia, Foster Community
Broad Street Review, Margaret Darby, October 22, 2019, The Playing and Preserving project aims to save Philly’s endangered historic organs
Advisory Committee Members
JONATHAN M. BOWEN, ORGANIST, ST. LUKE EPIPHANY
MICHELLE CANN, PIANIST AND EDUCATOR, KEYS TO CONNECT
DUSTIN HURT, DIRECTOR, BOWERBIRD
DR. MARTHA JOHNSON, ORGANIST, CHOIRMASTER, EDUCATOR
ALAN MORRISON, PROFESSOR, CURTIS INSTITUTE OF MUSIC
PATRICK J. MURPHY, ORGAN BUILDER, PATRICK J. MURPHY & ASSOCIATES
JAMES STRAW, AIA, PRESERVATION ARCHITECT
DAN VISCONTI, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, ASTRAL ARTISTS
KAREN WHITNEY, ORGANIST AND CHOIR DIRECTOR, SALEM BAPTIST CHURCH
Major support for Playing and Preserving has been generously provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from Wyncote Foundation and The 25th Century Foundation.