Jerry Greenfield

Organs and Organ Playing

 
 

After studying piano with George Williston in high school, I took up organ when I entered Pacific University, intending to earn a music degree in the instrument. By my second year, I had talked the university into allowing me to pursue a double major that would give me a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.Mus. in Organ after five years. A subsequent seminary degree would then lead to a career in sacred music.

That was the plan. However, early in my fourth year, after completing most of the music degree requirements up to that point, I decided to go directly on to seminary the following year with only the B.A. in hand. With no less enthusiasm for organ, I continued my studies with D.Deane Hutchison that year and performed a senior major recital in the spring of 1964.

During my final two years at Pacific, I was the university’s convocation organist and performed as accompanist and soloist with the university’s concert choir in its annual California tours. During those years I served as the early service organist at First Methodist Church in Forest Grove, and did stints as interim organist for the Christian Science Church in Forest Grove and as summer organist at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Portland. In 1964, in addition to my senior recital at First United Church in Portland, I played solo recitals in Forest Grove and Portland, Twin Falls, ID and Fargo, ND. Years later, while living in Drexel Hill, PA, I came out of “retirement” to serve as the backup organist at the United Methodist Church there.

During my active years on the instrument, I practiced and performed on a variety of organs. The most memorable were the Casavant at First United Church in Portland. This instrument was played by Fernando Germani, Robert Noehring, Marilyn Mason, Flor Peeters, and others when their tours brought them to Portland. I was privileged to take my lessons on it for two years. Another significant organ I played occasionally when I lived in Reading, PA, was the 40-rank Maier Memorial Organ built in 1965 by the Schantz Organ Company in Memorial Chapel on the Albright College campus.


But the most memorable instrument I ever played was the large house organ in Hutchison’s Portland home, the former Barnes mansion on Klickitat Street. Installed and voiced by the Casavant technician who serviced the organ at First United, this custom organ was a hybrid of the Kimballs removed from St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland and the First Methodist Church in Peoria, Illinois. Speaking up the three-story central stairwell from the basement ballroom and played from the three-manual console in the second-floor entry hall, the organ made the entire house into a resonating chamber. During a performance, the audience sat in the hall on either side of the entryway, in the heart of the instrument’s blended and balanced sound. The effect was breath-taking. I played the inaugural recital on the instrument when installation was completed and took my lessons on it my final year at Pacific. I played another recital at the mansion on the occasion of a visit to Portland by the Chief of the MacNeill Clan in 1964. Sadly, the instrument was dismantled when the house was sold following Hutchison’s death in 1987. Reportedly, parts of it survive today in the organ of Immanuel Lutheran Church on SE 15th Street in Portland.