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St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Crownsville, MD

Background

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church is spread over three buildings in a forested area, the original of which dates back to the mid-1800's. Some of its membership goes back six or seven generations.

  • Much traveled instrument: The pipe organ was originally built in 1930 for the ballroom of the Shoreham Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. by M.P. Moller, pipe organ builders of Hagerstown, Maryland. It was used for weddings, dances and other events there. Sold in 1950 to Westminster Presbyterian Church of Alexandria; sold in 1965 to Bush Hill Presbyterian Church of Alexandria. Each time, the pipe organ had been enlarged and improved. In 1995, Bush Hill Presbyterian Church bought a new organ and put this one up for sale. Nancy Betz, Westminster Presbyterian's organist, saw the ad and went to Bush Hill to try the organ. She loved the instrument. Bush Hill Presbyterian Church agreed to give the organ to St. Stephen's for free if they could do the removal.

  • Congregants' work made it possible: Many talented members of the congregation pitched in to remove the pipe organ from Bush Hill and bring it to the workshop of Lewis & Hitchcock, organ builders headquartered in Virginia, who have restored many of Maryland's old pipe organs. Gary McIlwain, a cabinetmaker in the congregation, built a new case of cherry wood for the organ, featuring facade pipes, in colonial style, to match the room. The Pastor gave up his new study in order to make room for the organ chamber. A secret door permits access to the organ chamber.

  • Organ upgraded, updated, and installed: In addition to moving and installing the organ in its new location, the organ was enhanced by: removal of the electro-pneumatic key action and switching system; installation of solid state relay switching panel; releathering; and cleaning all pipes.

  • Tremendous difference to Church's music program: Nancy Betz reports, "Since the installation of our pipe organ, our services have been dramatically enhanced. Our choir has increased and our music program has tripled! The congregation used to join in the hymns with weak singing, but now they love to sing with the organ and they raise their voices so that you can feel the sense of community and joy. The pipe organ is sweet to our ears."

  • Lewis & Hitchcock, Inc.: The organ builder is headquartered in Virginia and has been building and restoring pipe organs since 1915. They have worked on instruments in Baltimore and throughout the Eastern region of the country.

Nancy Betz, organist at St. Stephen's, can be reached at 410 - 721 - 2881.

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