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Reimagine your Community Reimagine your Sacred Place

Program 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:


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.

Training and Capacity Building

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.

Pilot Performances

One sacred place participating in the program will be selected as a pilot project site for site-specific programming that engages the local community in preservation through music. Astral Artists will organize a series of performances and events, including workshops for children from a local school, 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.

Holy Apostles and the Mediator

Advisory Committee Members

JONATHAN M. BOWEN, organist, st. luke epiphany

Michelle cann, pianist and educator, keys to connect


roy harker, executive director, first baptist church of philadelphia

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.