Howard Lake Herald, October 20, 1997

Antique pipe organ music fills Bethlehem Lutheran Church


"Praise the Lord with instruments" will have a whole new meaning Sunday, Oct. 26.

At 2 p.m., the congregation of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Middleville Township on Wright County Rd. 35, just east of Wright County Rd. 6, will celebrate the rededication of their rare pipe organ with family and friends.

The organ, a 1902 Vogelpohl Spath pipe organ, is a tracker organ. That is one which is mechanical, not electric. The keys are mechanically connected to the pipes, somewhat like that of a piano.

The Rev. Gary Berlinski said the organ has undergone months of painstaking repair.

Church members have contributed their time and talents to make the restoration possible, he noted.

Berlinski said, "As the congregation plans for the future, the organ remains a symbol of the precious history that is also a part of what is to come.

Built by New Ulm organ builder Vogelpohl, the organ was installed for between $625-$650 in 1902.

The organ has 313 pipes, 19 of which form a working facade.

The facade pipes have been restored with their original stenciling supported by the contributions of individuals and small groups.

The congregation had an adopt a pipe program to help pay for the restoration. Within a few weeks, many people stepped forward to contribute, said Berlinski.

Michael Christian of Paynesville did most of the restoration, said Berlinski. He spent many hours repairing the workings of the organ.

When it was inspected closely, it was found that duct tape and paper clips had been used to keep the instrument functioning.

It was certain that the organ needed repair, said Berlinski, when one of the pipes fell on the organist's head.

Christian also repaired the hand pump, which was used to power the organ until the late 1930s or 40s.

Now, in an emergency, the hand pump could be used, and will be demonstrated at the celebration next Sunday, he said.

The rededication will bring together eight former organists of the congregation. They will come from as far away as Fort Dodge, Iowa and Beavercreek, Ohio.

A fellowship hour will follow the service to share memories of the past.

The community is invited to come and celebrate the restoration of this antique organ with the congregation.

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