Restoration to breathe new life into First United's historic organ

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First United Methodist Church announced recently that its 1925 E.M. Skinner organ will be completely restored with the grant issued by Bradley Charitable Foundation.

The E.M. Skinner organ was designated as an historic instrument by the Organ Historical Society on Oct. 22, 2001.

Michael Shawgo, an organist at the church, said that the organ was also recognized by the book, "Pipe Organs of Chicago."

The organ was built by Ernest M. Skinner, one of the premier organ builders of the 20th century. The organ was originally built in line with a symphonic style, popular in the 1920s, that was rooted in imitating the comprehensive sound of an orchestra.

In 1950s, however, musical tastes began to change and soon symphonic styles of organ were thought to be out of date. Many attempts were made to modernize the organs from the past musical era, but the E.M. Skinner organ was never subjected to any modifications, and still retains its 1920s character.

"The E.M. Skinner organ has a certain kind of tone that produces a rich sound, much like an orchestra," said Shawgo. "It's fortunate that our organ was never modified."

He said that $625,000 is required to completely restore such an organ.

"The reason that it takes so much money is because the restoration has to be pure," he said. "Even every screw is meticulously handled to a point of museum-quality restoration."

Shawgo plays the organ every Sunday at The First United Methodist Church.

"I want everyone to come and appreciate the beautiful sound the organ," he said.  "When you stand in middle of the church hear someone play the's truly a grand experience."
?#34;John Yoo

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