Musical interlude: New life for 140-year-old pipe organ inside the Beacon Building

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Eliot Lawrence with Dad Brian after the organ was unloaded.
Eliot Lawrence with Dad Brian after the historic pipe organ was unloaded.

MANCHESTER, NH – Most teens hope to get a car when they turn 16. Trinity High School sophomore and musician Eliot Lawrence has a 140-year old pipe organ to tell his friends about.

Photo of a photo of the circa 1870 George Ryder Opus 32 pipe organ at Community United Methodist Church in Byfield, MA.
Photo of a photo of the circa 1870 George Ryder Opus 32 pipe organ at Community United Methodist Church in Byfield, MA.

Eliot, along with two of his friends, his dad Brian Lawrence and two organ builders from Andover Organ Company, hauled a George Ryder Opus 32-pipe organ from a rental truck into its new home, the Beacon Building at 814 Elm Street in Manchester on Saturday. The elder Lawrence owns the atrium-style professional office building that houses dozens of business tenants, a restaurant and a radio broadcast studio. The organ was disassembled earlier in the day and delivered to Manchester in hundreds of carefully-packed pieces. Many of the metal facade pipes contain original art stenciling.

“We worked on this a good six, eight months now,” Brian Lawrence says of their search for the instrument that is rarely seen outside a church. “Eliot plays the organ at St. Marie’s parish, an incredible organ. We got in touch with the people that had restored that and (who) service it. We gave them an idea that we were looking to try to find one and incorporate it in the office building. He referred us to Andover Organ.”

That connection eventually led to the recently-closed Community United Methodist Church in Byfield, Mass. With a dwindling congregation attending services, the church closed its doors last November after 112 years, leaving the classic pipe organ silently gathering dust.

Lawrence would not disclose what he paid for the relic and its rebuilding, but hinted at what a new comparable pipe organ might cost.

Andover Organ Company organ builder disassembling the organ on Sept. 26 at the church in Byfield, Mass.
Andover Organ Company organ builder disassembling the organ on Sept. 26 at the church in Byfield, Mass.

“To have something built like this could be in the $200,000 range, easily. This is one that we really saved. The church had closed, so we really worked it with the Pastor there and were able to do a good deal with him,” he says.

“It’s the only organ that’s been in that (church) building but it was in another building before that. It was built in 1875 and put there in 1902 when the building was new,” says Andy Hagberg of Andover Organ Company, who, along with fellow organ builder Ryan Bartosiewicz, tore down the organ and prepared it for its imminent resurrection in Manchester during the first few weekends in October. It will be rebuilt on a platform at the north end of the Beacon’s second floor, in full view of the open concept building’s tenants and guests.

For most people, the thought of dismembering a complex instrument and putting it back in working order is a bit more intimidating than assembling a new bike on Christmas morning.

Organ builders Andy Hagberg and Ryan Bartosiewicz of Andover Organ Company.
Organ builders Andy Hagberg and Ryan Bartosiewicz of Andover Organ Company.

“It’s like putting 58 bikes together on Christmas morning,” Hagberg says with a laugh.

As far as acoustics are concerned, Bartosiewicz is not concerned.

“It was in a fairly acoustically dry room. This room has a little bit more reflection. There are hard surfaces, the brick, everything is a hard surface. I expect it to sound pretty darned good,” he says.

Bartosiewicz, an organist/choir director who plays organ at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Durham, adds, “I’ll be doing all of the setting (of) the temperament and tuning, so I’ll get a chance to sit down and play. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never played an organ in an atrium before.”

The Beacon Building may be the first commercial office space that comes with its own Ryder Opus 32-pipe organ, but Macy’s in Philadelphia boasts an organ with a mind blowing 28,500 pipes that is played in the Grand Court of the Wanamaker building at Macy’s Center City. Purchased in 1909, the former St. Louis World’s Fair pipe organ comes with six manuals and pipes that give it capabilities of three symphony orchestras, according to the Macy’s website. It is played twice daily.

Pieces of the organ in the Ryder rental truck.
Pieces of the organ in the Ryder rental truck.

If all goes well, majestic music will be bellowing soon from the Beacon Building by the masterful keystrokes of Eliot Lawrence, whose dreams include a life filled with music after what he hopes is a Julliard or Berkley education.

“I do plan on pursuing a career in music. A dream of mine is to become an orchestral conductor,” says Eliot. He recently started as the organist/pianist for the 4 p.m. Saturday Mass at St. Catherine of Siena parish. And what will be the first piece Eliot will pipe out of the new old organ?

“I’ve given it some thought. I’d have to say I’m definitely going to play Phantom of the Opera, starting that off as the overture to really kick off as the first song.”

So, dad, will there be any further stage effects for Phantom?

“Maybe we’ll have to look for a fog machine,” says his dad, laughing. “Yeah, we could do that.”

 


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About Carol Robidoux 5476 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.