If you have the latest iPhone or an impressive car, you just have to show it off, right?
Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Altoona has new jewel in its crown, and the parish family is eager to share it with the community.
A magnificent pipe organ with digital features was recently installed in the church. In celebration of the new instrument, the parish is sponsoring a spectacular concert series beginning later this fall and continuing through spring.
“Basically, I am planning for all of these concerts in the inaugural year to showcase the new organ,” noted Our Lady of Mount Carmel Music Director James Dengler. “However, from a historical perspective, churches were often used for all kinds of concerts. My goal is to continue this tradition in future years, including the Altoona Symphony, other choral groups, as well as guest organists. I want to create a stage where quality programs can be offered to the community that will enhance the cultural heritage that has been an important part of Blair County for many years.”
The concert series begins on November 18 at 3:00 p.m. with “Organ Dedication and Blessing.” Doctor Peter Latona from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., will present a recital.
“A Community Celebration of Christmas” will be featured on December 30 at 3:00 p.m. Dengler and Leslie Thayer, music director at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, will present a relaxing concert of seasonal music and audience participation.
Nicholas Schmelter, organist and recitalist from First Presbyterian Church of Caro, Michigan, will be the featured performer at “Pipe Organ Potpourri” on February 24 at 3:00 p.m.
“A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein” is scheduled for March 30 at 7:30 p.m. It will be presented by the Blair Concert Chorale, under the direction of Doctor Ryan Beeken. The concert will include the “Chichester Psalms.” Dengler will be the organist.
Parishioners and others who have visited the Our Lady of Mount Carmel church building are familiar with the majestic interior. Thanks to the addition of the new pipe organ, the parish has another claim to fame.
Josh Dove, president and CEO of Whitesel Church Organs of Harrisonburg, Virginia, coordinated the installation of the instrument.
“It will fill every single nook and cranny of this church with some of the most beautiful sounds,” he remarked. “It’s going to feel like just a big hug of music.”
Dengler’s excitement was contagious as the new organ was being installed.
“Rarely do churches get to see such a significant installation like this,” he stressed.
The project became necessary after a series of issues surfaced with the former pipe organ, which was installed in 1984.
According to the Very Reverend Frank Scornaienchi, TOR, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, the cotton wrapped around the wiring had disintegrated and was posing a fire hazard.
Additionally, the leather in the pipes had become brittle, the volume control collapsed, the stops were unable to be changed, and the console could not be repaired.
Last year, the parish launched a campaign and began working with Whitesel for the organ console and the Peragallo Pipe Organ Company of Paterson, New Jersey.
The project moved into high gear this past April.
Peragallo removed all of the organ pipes from the Our Lady of Mount Carmel choir loft and brought them to its New Jersey shop for cleaning and revoicing, Dengler said. The crew tested everything there and transported everything back to Altoona.
In mid-July, the re-installation of the pipes began, and the new organ console – manufactured in Italy – was installed.
“The versatility of this organ is just amazing,” Dengler commented. “It’s going to aid in various types of worship. The music that I’ll be able to play on this instrument will be much more diverse. I’m very, very excited.”
The new instrument, Dove added, does a number of things.
“One important thing to me was that we weren’t just making this organ larger just for the sake of making it larger,” he said. “What we were really doing was trying to make a cohesive instrument that would satisfy any musical demand throughout the liturgical calendar year.”
Father Frank pointed out that the new organ will allow the parish to continue its excellent music program and enhance the architecturally beautiful church.
“With all the additional features that this pipe organ has, it will be a great asset to support our growing choir and cantors,” he stressed.
The price tag for the organ was more than $550,000.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is enjoying great success with its campaign.
Anyone interested in contributing may visit the parish website for a pledge card or contact the parish directly.