SAPC Organ Restoration: The Next 100 Years
About the organ and the project:
Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church [SAPC] has had a vital ministry in the Inner Sunset of San Francisco since 1892.
When we built the new sanctuary in 1928, our ancestors wanted an organ that would allow for “the awakening of the spirit of devotion and worship.” *
A contract was signed with the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro Vermont, to build such an instrument. It was dedicated on April 27, 1930, “for the richer ministry of music to cheer the hearts, and to kindle holy purpose …”* and, it has been doing this ever since.
When the congregation called the Rev. Jeff Gaines — in 1991 to join us in ministry — he started an Organ Fund, because at that time, many of the notes and stops were no longer working. Since then, the organ has continued to deteriorate simply due to age.
In 2003, when Montford Cardwell, our beloved organist died, the Leadership Council, then the Session, established the Montford Cardwell Memorial Organ Fund. Since that time, whenever unspecified gifts were given to SAPC to be used at the Pastor’s discretion, Rev. Gaines had the gift deposited in this Organ Fund.
Earlier this year, when the Leadership Council signed the contract to commence this critical repair work, there was $60k in this fund. At that meeting, an Organ Restoration Fund committee was established, to be chaired by Carol Campbell with DeAnne Campbell, Mary Morganti, and Helen Yune Trowbridge serving as members and Luba Kravchenko and Rev. Gaines as staff.
Total cost of an entire rebuild is around $180K (a new organ of similar size, caliber and voicing would run anywhere from $350-$500,000).
Right now, we are focusing on Phase I which will be approximately $80K. This phrase will allow us to totally rebuild and upgrade our console from electromagnetic to a solid state and computerized system which will remedy many of our dead notes.
You and the Organ Fund:
You have the opportunity to invest in the future of music at Seventh Avenue through our SAPC Organ Restoration Fund: The Next 100 Years. Our goal is 100% participation of our community: let us reach this! And, to help inspire us to meet this goal, Inner Sunset Community Advocates (ISCA) is offering a matching grant of $10K.
There are 5 levels of support:
Gifts Exceeding $1,600 Diapason
You can donate to the fund by mailing a check to us or electronically donating at https://seventhavenuechurch.org/donate/. Simply note: Organ Restoration Fund on your donation.
Gifts at the Cornopean Level or higher will be acknowledged with a name plate.
A note from Carol Campbell:
From the time I was a child growing up in Southern California, nothing has signaled the presence of God more strikingly to me than hearing the sound of organ music. When I got old enough to join the children’s choir, I got to see close up in the choir loft how the organist created deeply moving sounds by running her hands across multiple keyboards while simultaneously pressing her feet on yet another huge keyboard on the floor. The reverberating sounds touched me so deeply, and transported me to a different state of mind in which I was being affected and inspired. I did not have words for what was happening to me; I only knew that every Sunday I was a different little girl when I walked out of that church from the one who walked in.
There is unique beauty, majesty, and power in organ music. Sadly, most churches today have given up trying to sustain their pipe organs. Organs wear out over time, and sometimes they suffer water damage from leaking roofs and nibbling by church mice, as we have discovered over the years here at Seventh Avenue.
The wonderful good news is that we have a plan to ensure that our organ will live for its next 100 years! The whole time Jeff has been our pastor, he has been setting aside unrestricted donated funds to seed the efforts to keep our organ functioning. The Leadership Council has now authorized the first part of a two-part campaign to build on our existing funds and to call upon your generosity today to repair the most basic and urgent problems of our organ.
You will soon receive a special mailing about our campaign. Our goal is to have 100% participation for the next 100 years of organ music at Seventh Avenue. I urge you to read our materials and respond with generosity and gratitude for those who came before us and provided our organ. It’s our turn now to show up and keep the power of organ music thriving at Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church.
A note from Helen Yune Trowbridge:
In an early conversation between newly adopted Anne Shirley and Marilla Cuthbert of Green Gables, Anne tells Marilla how she learned the whole catechism at the orphan asylum Sunday-school, saying, “There’s something splendid about some of the words. ‘Infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.’ Isn’t that grand? It has such a roll to it — just like a big organ playing.”
Well, I agree! Although I had a much easier early childhood than Anne of Green Gables, my earliest church-going days were pretty humble. My family attended the Seomoon Presbyterian Church in Jeonju, Korea, and it was pretty plain back then. My only recollection of anything musical there was having to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” solo one Christmas when I was five, while my older sister accompanied me on the piano.
But when my family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, we joined Westminster Presbyterian Church and, then, I knew I was in the House of God — because the music told me so! I had never heard such an amazing, God-like sound as the organ. Later, as an adolescent in Indianapolis, growing more and more impatient with the whole, staid “church-thing” and increasingly cynical about what was being said from the pulpit, I would nonetheless remember the Glory of God when Second Presbyterian Church’s immensely talented organist Robert Shepherd would pull out all the stops of that massive organ overhead in the choir loft and fill that large sanctuary with magnificent music. It would rattle your bones! And even my doubting teenage self would then feel “the awakening of the spirit of devotion and worship” that this Seventh Avenue congregation intended this organ to elicit when it dedicated the organ in 1930.
So, to me, church is not really Church — with a capital C — without an organ. Oh, I would still love this wonderful community and appreciate the miracle of music Luba is able to coax out of the piano or handbells or our voices… but, even as crippled as our poor organ is — from water damage, dried-up leather flaps, and general wear-and-tear over nearly 90 years — it still moves me each time I hear it played.
Part of the organ dedication liturgy from 1930 noted that the purpose of the organ was to enrich the music ministry to “cheer the hearts, and to kindle holy purpose.” I couldn’t agree more.
I am dying to hear what this organ sounds like when it’s fully restored and all of its keys and pipes can be utilized. Aren’t you? Please join me in giving as generously as you can — each and every one of you — so that we can reach our goal of 100% participation to restore our beloved organ for the next 100 years!
A note from Mary Morganti:
The end of July marked the beginning of my 3 rd year at Seventh Avenue and I’ve been thinking a lot about how I found my spot here. Not where I fit in this community, which I’m still learning, but literally the place where I most often choose to sit and always feel at home – near the windows in the 3 rd or 4 th pew on the right, which in my Episcopalian days, we called the Epistle side. My comfort there has something to do with the light that comes through the memorial windows and changes with the seasons, as well as my direct sight lines to the candles on the Table and beyond.
During our silences, my vision often lingers on the deep pools and bright stars in the stained glass of the window next to the choir, but just as often focuses on patterns in the wood grain of the organ console. When it was designed in 1929, members of the Organ Committee specified that the “Console will be dark OAK, waxed. Interior of console to be BROWN mahogany, NOT red.”
I think about the Estey factory worker who selected and worked these boards, and the two whorls in the wood that now give the only clue to where the oak’s branches used to grow, and I am reminded of a favorite haiku: “At night in the wind, my wooden house sighs, remembering leaves.” (“Homecoming” by William Koki Iwamoto, 1947-1994).
I can be easily transported, mesmerized by the sound of strings or trumpets or flutes coming not from the organ console that we see but from deep within the chamber in the space above which somehow fills the entire sanctuary. Sometimes I can feel it in my bones and always in my breathing. I think about the mystical connection between what’s invisible — air moving over the leathers in the hidden ranks of pipes — and the visible: Luba’s hands coaxing a response from the dying keys of this diminished instrument.
Now, with this organ restoration project on the verge of becoming reality, I dream that it’s not a mechanical blower pushing air across the leathers, but the breath of God; and there really are angels in the chamber above sounding joyful trumpets; and that Luba’s hands and feet are not just moving over the black and white keys and pedals, but that she’s dancing among the oaks in the forest that was once the source for our Estey Opus #2886. And I wonder, when listening closely, if we can hear this organ sigh, remembering leaves.