The new Casavant Frères organ at Rye Presbyterian Church
One doesn’t often attend a dedication concert for a new pipe organ, but on September 18 we were invited to attend a very special one in Crawford Chapel at Rye Presbyterian Church. It was a wonderful event – great music, great artist, great organ, and great story.
Replacing one that dated from 1956, the new organ was installed in 2020, manufactured by the same firm that built the earlier one, Casavant Frères of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, which has made organs since 1879.
The program consisted of works by Bach, Debussy, and later composers. The music was beautiful and powerful, and the sound of the organ astounding in the masterful hands of David von Behren. A true virtuoso, he is Assistant University Organist and Choirmaster of Memorial Church at Harvard University and was the first organist to receive the Cleveland Institute of Music’s prestigious Darius Milhaud Award.
Mr. von Behren, a Nebraska native, did more than play the organ. Having transcribed one of the Bach works on the program for both organ and violin, he played the instruments simultaneously.
Rye Presbyterian Church’s new organ was designed to achieve flexibility and variety of tones to support congregational singing and to serve the organ literature as well. The two-manual organ has nine stops and 564 pipes.
What surprised the audience was the small screen on the right above the keyboards for a computer. It helps the organist in a number of ways,
including programming stop combinations into memory levels and a record/playback system – a 21st-century system akin to old player pianos.
- Arthur Stampleman