Sounds of Praise


Music is a universal language through which we learn about God.  Hymns and anthems are an integral part of our worship service because they connect us to the history and experience of those who in faith have gone before us.  Choirs are an essential part of the worship service. Discover the tradition of music at Park Central by joining us for worship this Sunday!

Choir

The Kirk Choir has had a long tradition of excellence at Park Central Church. Former directors include Frank Hakenson, G. Burton Harbison and Julie Pretzat. The choir has approximately 24 singers, including a paid quartet of section leaders. The choir sings anthems in a wide variety of styles but emphasizing the great sacred music of the classical tradition. Twice a year the choir performs a major choral work with orchestra or other instrumental accompaniment. Recent works include the Christmas Oratorio of Johann Sebastian Bach, Conrad Susa's Carols and Lullabies of the Southwest, Handel's Chandos Anthems and the Jazz Gloria by Rob Landes. The choir welcomes singers of all abilities to join us, although reading music is a big benefit!  The choir rehearses Thursday evenings at 7:30pm and on Sunday mornings before worship.

Handbells

The handbell choir rehearses regularly. If you are interested in joining this group, please contact Bob Allen, Director of Handbells.

Organ

A SHORT HISTORY OF ORGANS AT PARK CENTRAL

by Will Headlee, October 2007 (rev. 9/8/09), building on an earlier history by Ben Merchant.

Park Central Presbyterian can number four organs during its life as a congregation since 1846.

The first organ was in the congregation’s first building, Park Presbyterian Church, located on the west side of today’s State Street. It was W. A. Johnson Opus 117, a two-manual and pedal organ of 26 stops installed in 1861.That organ may have moved into the new Park Central Church building (our present building), which was dedicatedon Thursday Evening, June 24th, 1875. This instrument was eventually sold to Immaculate Conception RC in Fayetteville  (in the center of the village) where it existed in a rear balcony until 1965 when the building was razed. I remember playing it in my early days in Syracuse. Some of its pipes exist in the present organ in Fayetteville.

The second organ was Hook & Hastings Co. Opus 1586, a three-manual instrument of 39 registers built in 1893. In her thesis on Archimedes Russell, the architect of the building, Eva Marie Hardin writes that the auditorium was redecorated by 1893 and (likely quoting a contemporary source) the result was “entirely unlike anything seen in this city.” Opus 1586 must have been part of that project. It would be exciting to hear that organ today! It was placed in the center arch and alcove presently occupied by the reredos and chancel organ. 

Several fine organs came to Syracuse in those days. St. Paul’s Cathedral got a Hook & Hastings in 1880. Crouse College got its Roosevelt Organ in 1889. St. Mary’s Church got a Roosevelt in 1892 (and was consecrated Immaculate Conception Cathedral in 1904). Park Central’s Hook was in 1893. All were three-manual organs with significant tonal resources. Musical styles change and city churches often respond by buying new instruments. That happened at Park Central in 1914-1915 when J. W. Steere & Son Co. installed the third organ. It stretched further to the sides of the front platform that offered space for a small choir and pulpit.

When the Rev. Arthur Mielke was hired as Pastor the chancel was redesigned into an Episcopal style divided choir arrangement in 1946. The present reredos, communion table, pulpit and lectern were part of that project, occupying the space formerly devoted to the organ. The organ pipework was moved to the second floor and attic, speaking through four large grills, two at second floor level on either side of the main arch and two more at attic level on either side of the upper vault. That work was done by Syracusan William Boyle. The pipes were buried and very far removed from the singers in the chancel! 

In the 1960’s Park Central was in a growth mode. The West Porch Entrance was added in 1962 and the windows devoted to the “Narthex 11” must date from that time. In 1967 a contract for the fourth organ was signed with M. P. Möller for Opus 10313. The rear balcony was extended to accommodate the organ and choir, a wood floor improved acoustics for music and congregational singing and the reredos moved forward to its present position allowing the chancel organ to be placed behind it. The handsome glass screen for the narthex and side stairs to the balcony date from then. Pulpit and Lectern were in place already. The extensive redecoration included the present chandeliers and dimmer system.

The church suffered a fire on August 23, 1988. Heroic firemen managed to confine the damage to two bays on the street side near the balcony and the organ escaped with almost no damage. Since then a 32’ electronic extension in the Pedal was added in 1995, and a solid state switching system from Peterson Electro-Musical Products was installed for the console and action in 1996. The Zymbelstern was first used on May 18, 2003. Those additions were made by Kerner & Merchant Pipe Organ Builders, who continue to service the organ now.

 

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