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A new kind of music at St. Michael's

A new pipe organ is in place at St. Michael's Catholic Church.2 / 2

There is a beautiful piano at the front of the worship space of St. Michael's Catholic church. Gleaming black, it has been there to accompany countless services. But for Eric Larson, it never felt quite right.

Larson, who took over as the church's music director a year and a half ago, grew up in churches with pipe organs. In his mind, the sound of an organ goes with worship like wafers go with wine. He started advocating for the addition almost immediately. There was support, but no clear direction.

Then, earlier this year, Larson made a search on the online classified site craigslist. The results that came up both surprised and delighted him.

Larson had found an organ he played as a student at the University of Minnesota. The building that had once housed it had been torn down, and the organ was sitting in a basement in St. Paul. The price was good, and Larson knew from experience the organ sounded great. So, he approached the church's leadership. And he got approval to make the purchase. The church had enough money on hand to buy the organ. They'd find a way later to replenish the funds.

Ultimately, an anonymous donor came forward to cover the entire cost.

That's how Larson found himself hauling organ parts on the hottest day in June. And it's how St. Michael's finds itself in possession of a beautiful new instrument to go alongside that shiny piano.

Much of the organ was installed earlier this year, but an installer was working last week to install 200 additional pipes donated to the church. All told, the organ has more than 500 pipes, all controlled from a keyboard with piano-like keys and switches for imitating instruments from clarinets to trumpets.

The organ's keyboard doesn't look like much next to that shiny black piano, but once Larson sits down at the keyboard its value becomes clear. For Larson and for many of the church's members, it's what a church service should sound like.

Church members Conrad Adelmann and Charlie Weber donated their time to build a new base for the organ. The additional pipes have been installed in a walkway along the back wall, pipes of wood and metal sticking up in neatly ordered rows.

"It looks like it's always been there," Larson said.

The organ isn't fully functional yet, but Larson has already used the part that came from the U of M. He's thrilled with the result. The organ fills the worship space in a way that piano never could.

Other people have noticed, too.

"People have said it's been worth the wait," Larson said. "The singing improved instantly."

Larson hopes to have a concert in October to feature the new organ.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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