By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The 1940s-era organ at St. Anthony Parish didn’t work properly. Sometimes notes would not come out and other times notes would come out without anyone pressing a key. Electrical issues and overheating also created problems.
“We needed a new organ,” said Pastor Father Apo Mpanda. “We needed to boost our music in our parish.” He noted that Saint John Paul II said the organ was the official instrument of music in the Catholic Church.
Kim Noftsker, the parish’s music director, said the organ that was in place at St. Anthony’s was not the original one. The original case from an earlier organ was left in place and its electro-pneumatic organ replacement was installed in the same space. The replacement was much smaller than the previous organ, which is obvious from the space surrounding it. “It was only five ranks, which is very small,” Noftsker said.
Two years ago, Noftsker and Fr. Mpanda began looking into a replacement. “We thought maybe it (the 1940s organ) could be restored, but it was not worth anything — and it was not the original,” she said.
Approvals from the parish council, its finance council, and the Davenport Diocese (because of the expense involved), paved the way for a fundraising campaign for a mechanical tracker organ.
Fr. Mpanda said the entire parish came together to raise the funds needed. Contributions came even from parishioners who attend the 7:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, where music is not played. Fr. Mpanda reminded parishioners that the organ is not just for weekend Masses, but can be played at baptisms, weddings and funerals. After 18 months, approximately $400,000 was raised to purchase the instrument.
The new organ has a series of levels and tracker rods to produce the sound, aided by a blower. A combination of the various levels and trackers produces more sounds than before. The new organ has 16 racks, three times as many as the old one. It includes chamades, which can reproduce a variety of sounds, such as a trumpet.
Last month Noack Organ of Georgetown, Mass., installed the organ over a three-week period. “It is custom-built to fit our church,” Noftsker said. “They looked at not only the size of our church, but took into consideration its acoustics to determine what was best for us.” Noack Organ’s president, Dider Grassin, was present for the installation at St. Anthony’s.
Fr. Mpanda recently blessed the new organ during Masses and it is now being played on a regular basis. Noftsker looks forward to Easter when she plans to “pull out all the stops” with full use of the organ. During Lent, she noted, the music is not as lively, so the organ is not being used to its full potential.
As excitement was building during the fundraising phase, Noftsker said interest in the music program grew. She has an adult choir, children’s choir and children’s ensemble. In addition to adult cantors, she has several children who cantor from grades one through high school.
Noftsker noted that many organs similar to St. Anthony’s organ date back to the 1600s and 1700s and are still in use in churches in Europe. “This organ will outlast us all. I am excited about the future of music here at St. Anthony’s,” she said.
Fr. Mpanda thanked parishioners for coming forward to support this project. “We are so blessed to have this organ and to have good music.” He recited the old adage from St. Augustine of Hippo, “He who sings, prays twice.” That is happening at St. Anthony’s.