Ashfield church organ topic of historic talk Sunday

  • The pipes of the 1903-built George W. Reed organ in the Ashfield Congregational Church. Recorder File Photo

Recorder Staff
Friday, February 09, 2018

ASHFIELD — For decades, the front pipes of the 1903-built George W. Reed organ in the Ashfield Congregational Church have been gilded with gold-colored paint. But what did the organ look like in its original state?

That’s the topic of discussion on Sunday at the Ashfield Congregational Church, when Marylou Davis of Woodstock, Conn., will give a special presentation about organ pipe decoration. The talk begins around noon, immediately after the 10 a.m. service.

Davis is a highly respected historic conservator whose research produced the correct wallpaper replication for Emily Dickinson’s bedroom in the Dickinson homestead in Amherst. The cheerful, pink-flowered wallpaper in that bedroom was reproduced from 19th century wallpaper scraps discovered above the bedroom ceiling less than 10 years ago, according to choir director Margery Heins and Susannah Lee of the capital campaign at Ashfield Congregational Church.

Last year, the church set out to raise $300,000 to restore the organ and to make some renovations to the church itself. But they raised nearly $48,000 above their goal. Projects thought to be beyond the church’s means are now being considered. These include: painting the outside of the building, selectively repairing or replacing church siding, building an additional storage shed in the church parking lot, replacing windows in Fellowship Hall, paving the driveway and parking lot. Also, the organizers are considering restoring the organ pipes’ original facade and stenciling.

Judging by old photographs, the 33 front-facing pipes have been covered with gold paint at least since the 1930s, according to Heins, but when the organ was built in 1903, the pipes were decorated according to the fashion of the times, with bands of colors and decorative motifs. But the capital campaign organizers say much of the original decoration still can be seen on the reverse sides of the pipes.

After the capital campaign goal was reached, the group received a $10,000 grant from the Bradley Charitable Foundation in Pennsylvania, to be used for restoring the organ.