Kilgore Church celebrates 70 years of historic church organ | Religion

KILGORE — The congregation of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Kilgore recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of the installation of a historic pipe organ in the church.

The Aeolian-Skinner organ, Opus 1175, was installed at St. Luke’s in 1952 and was built and finished by organist and specialist Roy Perry.

“We are delighted that you have decided to join us tonight as we sing a little and hear the beautiful organ and piano,” Reverend Ben Bagley told the congregation during a Sunday service.

St. Luke’s also celebrates a number of other anniversaries. The church sanctuary turns 90 in November, and next year St. Luke’s will celebrate 150 years as a United Methodist Church in Kilgore, Bagley said.

St. Luke’s Music Director James Vermillion led congregants in singing during Sunday service.

“We are here tonight to celebrate the beautiful and unique instrument behind me and those organists throughout our history who have glorified God in music with this instrument,” Vermillion said.

In 2017 and 2018 a major restoration project for the organ at St. Luke’s began, but there is still work to be done. Despite the organ’s age, Vermillion says, it retains a beautiful tone and only improved with the first phase of renovations.

“We have completed phase 1. We will work on phase 2 when we receive the funds,” he said. “St. Luke has done a wonderful job of restoring this organ and retaining that beautiful sound. At 70, you can imagine what it’s like to be inside the organ where there are so many valves Seventy-year-old leather doesn’t do very well, but this organ still produces a beautiful sound.

Gala Strunk, organist at First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, was guest organist for Sunday’s celebration, and Lydia Lim, organist and pianist at St. Luke’s, was pianist.

The service included church hymns as well as organ and piano instrumental performances.

The Aeolian-Skinner organ is one of two at Kilgore, both built by Perry. During his employment with the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co., Perry – who was choirmaster and organist at First Presbyterian for 40 years – designed huge musical machines that still attract organ-lovers to Kilgore.

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