That was the reaction of the Rev. Mike Swimley after a recent dedication concert performed by Aram Basmadjian on a new digital pipe organ at Faxon-Kenmar United Methodist Church, 1225 Clayton Ave., in Loyalsock Township.
“The decision to do a concert was to allow people in the community to hear the new organ,” Swimley said. “It was a way to celebrate a new chapter in the church’s history.”
Before each selection, Basmadjian introduced the song he was about to play and gave additional information about the piece, the composer and himself.
Whenever he told a story about talking to an audience member, he would quote the listeners as calling him, “Mr. Bad Magician” as people struggled to say his name.
Basmadjian played about a dozen songs and almost all of them were performed without sheet music.
“‘Mr. Bad Magician,'” he said to the audience, acting like a child who had come up to him after one of his concerts, ‘ “My uncle knows how to play the organ, but he can read music.’ “
Yet he performed some magic that afternoon, telling the audience while they were looking at just one organ, it was, in fact, seven different organs that he kept alternating.
Since the organ has evolved over the centuries and throughout countries, playing songs as they were meant to be played when they were written can be difficult. Yet by just pulling out some of the organ’s knobs, the sound changes.
When Johann Sebastian Bach played the organ, he had people pulling out the enormous knobs. Now it is not so difficult. Basmadjian programmed the organ with pre-set settings so that when he hit a button, different knobs would pull out to change the sound, even during the song.
A digital pipe organ, which still sounds like a regular pipe organ, that has such capabilities certainly is an improvement over what the church previously had.
“We replaced the organ here at Faxon-Kenmar United Methodist Church because the old one had reached a point that it was unreliable,” Swimley said.
The church received the used organ shortly after the church was built in 1949.
The organ had several notes that seemed to play on their own for no apparent reason, untenable pipes, an inoperable crescendo pedal and large air leaks in three of the four air reservoirs.
In the spring of 2012, the organ’s tuner said the air reservoirs could go at any time and it definitely would happen within the year.
“We felt that the cost for repairing where we could play it again, but not play the whole thing, was not a good decision,” Swimley said.
After the organ committee heard a digital pipe organ at Christ Episcopal Church, its members decided to order an Allen Q300DE Quantum Digital Pipe Organ from Allen Organ Co. in Macungie.
The new organ was installed at the end of August. It first was played the second Sunday in September.
“The guest organist we had come in was phenomenal,” Swimley said. “It was amazing to watch his feet and fingers fly across the keyboards.”
Swimley also spoke with other people after the concert who said it was beautiful.
While the dedication concert is over, it is just the beginning for the organ.
“The hope is that we will have other organ concerts later on.” Swimley said. “The hope of our music director is that we will be having musical concerts for the community on a more regular basis.”
According to Basmadjian’s biography, he is one of the most accomplished organ virtuosos in the country. He began his piano studies in West Chester when he was 7 years old. He has toured for many years with Community Concerts in more than 50 cities a year. He toured with a large four-manual organ built for him by the Allen Organ Co. in order to have performances in venues that already did not have a suitable concert organ.
Basmadjian continues to record and perform recitals throughout the world. He manages the custom organ department for Allen Organ Co. and he recently was appointed as the Artist in Residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem.