August 12, 2023

A Delightful Organ Concert

Organ in its present home,
the former Methodist Episcopal Church
On August 6, I attended an organ concert in Lodi, New York, some 36 miles from where I now live. A friend had made me aware of the concert; my usual sources of event information were silent on the matter. I am a fan of organs generally, but what attracted me to the recent concert was that the instrument being played was an 1852 instrument made by E. & G. G. Hook. (The instrument is Hook Opus 140. The Hook firm built more than 2500 organs over its lifetime.) The concert was sponsored by the Lodi Historical Society. The Historical Society owns the former church in which the organ is installed. Opus 140 was erected originally in Canandaigua, New York. The organ remains substantially as built, though the decoration on the visible pipes is a later addition.

The musicians are all members of the Sears family. Both Father David F. Sears and daughter Rebecca A. Sears hold doctoral degrees. Mother Permelia S. Sears has a master’s degree in organ performance. The entire program involved the organ. David played organ and piano; Permelia played organ and viola; and Rebecca played violin and piano. The concert was the only organ concert I can remember that included no music from any member of the Bach family. The music was from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. The Sears family is apparently dedicated to playing old tracker-action organs, and they do a fine job of it.

The organ is a two-manual affair of 14 ranks. I am told it is tuned to a pitch of A=444 Hz using unequal temperament. Since it lacks the ability to choose a desired collection of ranks at the push of a button, the organ was often being played by one person while two other people were pulling and pushing stops. The 
Searses were resourceful in playing music intended for a larger instrument. There were occasionally two people at the console and, in a transcription of the Grand March from Aida, Rebecca played on the grand piano to compensate for the fact that the organ’s 16-foot pedal stop has only 13 pipes. The Aida March was surprisingly effective.

If you ever have an opportunity to hear these musicians in concert, be sure to avail yourself of it.

Organ and instrumentalists before concert
L to R: David, Permelia, Rebecca

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