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Church looks for organ donors

St. Barnabas parish nears the end of a fund drive for music.

Lyle Confrey Kahle’s gift to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church is the kind that renders people speechless.

After all, a church offering doesn’t usually involve six figures and culminate in the purchase of a custom-made pipe organ.

Kahle gave the church $300,000 on behalf of herself and her two teenagers, Nissa and Nowell. With it, the church was able to send its 25-year-old organ to a California church in need, and launch a committee to research organs and choose a maker.

“To be the founding donor for a project that will last 100 years and that will clearly outlast me is thrilling,” Kahle said. “To me it’s a lot like the bells at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church...the community will see it as a resource.”

Kahle’s pledge launched the Organ Study Committee in fall 2004. Members, including Kahle, chair Joanne Ellis and St. Barnabas director of music Paul Roy, visited organs and manufacturers in Seattle, Portland and the Washington, D.C., area.

The committee ultimately recommended that the Bond Organ Company in Portland, Ore., be used. The year-long construction process ends in August, when the new organ will be delivered.

The old organ “showed a lot of wear and tear and wasn’t a distinguished instrument,” Roy said.

“We would see things break off,” said Kahle, who sings in the choir and with the women’s Schola. “We would hear a whistle where there was a leak in a pipe.”

In 2002, Roy asked Kahle if she would be interested in funding a pipe organ. She said yes, she would be interested.

In June 2004, right after the priest left, morale was low and pledges were down, Kahle said, and she decided to make an organ donation.

She told her children she was going to do so, but didn’t specify the dollar amount.

“We had a lot of gifts of music in our lives,” Kahle said. “I knew this would last several generations.”

At the time the estimate was $300,000, hence the size of Kahle’s gift.

“We fell short. We had a three-year-old estimate,” Kahle said. “We asked the rest of the parish to participate.”

The church needed $480,000 to cover the cost increase, site preparation needed to accommodate the organ and sales tax. Through its governing board, parishioners agreed to raise the extra $180,000 through fund-raising.

“It was a leap of faith for the parishioners,” Roy said. “What is especially rewarding is that giving to the organ has not detracted from parish fund-raising for the annual operating budget.”

The church is now $12,000 shy of the mark and is asking the community to help them with contributions.

“The new organ will allow us to present more community concerts, like the recent Yale Russian Chorus concert,” Roy said. “As a result, we believe that the Bond organ will impact the entire community and not just the members of St. Barnabas.”

A percentage of the money from concerts will go for outreach, he said.

The finished organ will be erected in the Bond shop for a celebratory open house for folks in the area, other organ builders and parishioners. Afterward, it will be dismantled, carefully packed up and trucked to St. Barnabas.

The organ is Bond’s Opus 33 model, which features gothic-inspired cherry cases, approximately 1,320 polished tin facade and wooden pipes and modern organ conveniences. Most of the metal pipework comes from Europe. The wood pipes were made in Oregon.

“It takes two weeks to erect it and two weeks to voice it. It’s a way of adjusting each pipe so it sounds best in our room,” Roy said.” It will be tailored to our room so it is not too overpowering, but at the same time have some guts. It can whisper or it can be really full. It has a lot of sound color (and can be) too brilliant or too dull.”

If the church committee had gone with another builder, it could have waited three years for a finished instrument.

As it turned out, the Bond company had a contract cancellation and moved St. Barnabas into the slot.

“I am writing checks as they need it. We originally thought we’d be another three years,” Kahle said. “I have had to speed up the giving significantly. It’s kind of scary.

“I’m a single parent. My blessing is that I’m not the struggling single mom.”

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Pipe dreams

To help St. Barnabas raise the final $12,000 it needs to purchase a custom pipe organ, send a check to “Gabriel Project,” 1187 Wyatt Way NW, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. See www.stbarnabasbainbridge.org for photos of the project.

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