Trinity Episcopal’s musical legacy continues with the restoration of its 58-year-old organ

A project to clean and restore the 58-year-old pipe organ at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bay City began in August, but won’t be finished until early next year.
The restoration allows the church at 815 N. Grant St. to continue its legacy of high-quality liturgical music.

The church was able to restore the organ because of funding provided by the Nancy Moulthrop Trust. Moulthrop was a parishioner who loved liturgical music and wanted to make sure the organ was cared for. She left $250,000 to the church to make sure the organ was restored and maintained for the next generation.

In August, crews removed much of the 58-year-old organ from Trinity Episcopal Church in order to restore and repair the instrument.The Rev. Sue Rich, Pastor of Trinity, says former Music Minister and Organist Bob Sabourin also had a hand in preserving the organ.

“He had some conversations with Nancy before she died about what would need to be done to preserve the organ for years to come. She put it into her trust funds for the restoration.”

The MP Möller Company pipe organ was purchased in 1963 when the previous pipe organ, a 1914 Casavant Organ, fell into such disrepair it would have been too expensive to restore. At the time, the church organist told church leadership that “trying to repair that organ was throwing away good money.”

The organ, which originally cost about $60,000, is valued at about $1.2 million today. It is the fourth in the church’s nearly 175-year history.

It has served the congregation well, but not without some wear and tear. Along with years of dust and debris, the organ’s leatherwork was breaking down, pipes were worn out, and the relay switches on the console had seen better days. All the wear and tear made it difficult to tune and play the organ.

While the organ was gone, workers thoroughly cleaned the space where it sat.All that changed on Aug. 30 when the restoration project began. Crews from Berghaus Pipe Organ Builders in Bellwood, Ill., came to Bay City to remove many of the pipes and the console. They took the pipes and console to their shop in Illinois for cleaning and restoration work.

The organ was purchased in 1963 for about $60,000. Today, its estimated worth is $1.2 million.While most of the pipes and the console, with its three ranks of keyboards were removed, there were several larger pipes that couldn’t be moved. Rich says she doesn’t know how many pipes make up the organ, but estimated there are at least a thousand.

While Berghaus Pipe worked with the parts they had removed, other crews cleaned what was left in the church, including the space where the organ sat. By November, it was ready for the cleaned, repaired, and restored pipes and console to return.

“That is just absolutely stunning,” Rich says of the restoration work. “The guy that did the wood is just amazing. It looks wonderful.”

The current organist is Patrick Winningham, and over the next few months he will transition from using the piano for the liturgy back to using the organ as the primary instrument to accompany the choir. Rich says the organ has been a centerpiece in the church’s liturgy since it was installed, and once it is restored to its full glory, it will again be the focal point of the music ministry.

Although it’s back in its home, Rich says there is still work to be done. After having a chance to “re-acclimate,” the organ will be voiced in January. That’s when Berghaus workers will come back to the church and do the finer-tuning on the pipes to make sure it has the best sound.

Rich says once the voicing and finishing touches are done, a welcoming home celebration will be held, sometime in March.

“We will have a special service to welcome the organ back and celebrate its refurbishment in March. It’s all very exciting,” she says.