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Pipe Dreamers

One organ show a year -- that's all they ask.


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church has seen better days. It began losing members after the construction of I-71, which butchered many of Cleveland's downtown neighborhoods. An early 1960s peak of 1,500 parishioners dwindled to just 120 in the '70s and is now back up to a robust 200. But back in 1956, the church's growing congregation decided to spruce up their digs in a major way: with a massive new Beckerath pipe organ, the first modern tracker organ in the U.S.

According to Bob Myers, chief organist and musical director of the church, the entirely mechanical mechanism of the Beckerath organ was an improvement over the electronics that had taken over other makes of the instrument. "On most organs at the time, and with a lot still around, the organist is playing ahead of the sound," he explains. "There was lag time between pushing the key and all the electric relays controlling the action. With the Beckerath, the sound is absolutely immediate."

Myers's partner in the world of stops and bellows is Florence Mustric, who has helped Myers institute Music Near the Market, a series of free weekly performances intended to promote the instrument and organ music in general. "In '89, Bob called me to substitute for him, and I said, 'Oh my God, the Holy Beckerath!'" she recalls. "This is an absolutely gorgeous instrument. Most places have an appliance: a toaster or vacuum cleaner that is supposed to be an organ. Or they have a pipe organ that's not very beautiful to listen to."

Still, with only a small number of people interested in classical music -- and an even smaller group interested in organ music -- Mustric doesn't foresee any overflowing pews. "My goal is to have everybody with a shred of interest wander through and hear a program and hear this instrument once in their life and say, 'Gee, I'd like to go back once a year.'"

After all, the Beckerath sounds better than a toaster.

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