Niagara Gazette — For more than 100 years, the organ at Middleport United Methodist Church has accompanied the vocal offerings of the choir and parishioners, and a recent renovation has it spruced up for many years to come.
The original pipe organ was purchased from J.W. Steere and Sons Organ Company in 1907, and was insured for $1,500. The Steere Company, from Springfield, Mass., built church organs and they made some improvements to the MUMC organ in 1916. Organs built in those days were powered by pneumatic pedal action, pumping air through the more than 500 pipes of the magnificent organ.
The Parsons family, longtime MUMC members, have a personal history with the J.W. Steere Co, having a family member who worked for the company in 1906-07. It is entirely possible that their relation worked on the very organ purchased by their church.
The majestic organ inspired a young girl who often dusted the church with her mother. Helen Sheldon dreamed of being able to coax music from those keys and if she did a good job at dusting, she was allowed to play the organ. It was a special dream come true for young Helen. She went away to college, returning to Middleport in 1939. As luck would have it, the church needed an organist, and Helen was overjoyed to be back at the keys and pedals of her beloved organ. She served the church as organist for the next 30 years, until her retirement. When the organ needed repairs, Helen hoped and prayed that they would find the funding. She was baptized at MUMC as a baby and became a member at age 12. Helen is now 99 years young and still loves to hear the beautiful organ at her church.
In 1954, the decision was made by church members to electrify the old pump organ, to spare the expense of purchasing a new electric one.
At the time of the conversion, the organ floor was lowered and chimes were added. Middleport native Carl Rademaker was the organ-builder who did the work at that time, and the total rebuilding cost was $7,935. Rademaker had started as an apprentice at a very young age, joining the Delaware Organ Company. He honed his skill and went on to open his own business, known as the Carl Rademaker Organ Builders, which he operated for over 50 years.
For more than 30 years, Rademaker cleaned and serviced the MUMC organ. Other than tuning, very little work has been done to the organ since that time. Local musicians, including Paul Ferrington, have lovingly played the beautiful organ over the years.
Parishioners hold a great deal of pride in their magnificent organ, a relic of a bygone era. A new organ of the same magnitude was estimated to cost $350,000, but the members were determined to restore the organ that was so much a part of its history. The current work by Parsons Pipe Organ Builders of Canandaigua carries a price tag of $28,000, but the church members have faith that it is worth every penny to preserve the melodic piece of history.
Currently, talented organist and Handbell Choir director Danielle Mileham can be found at the keyboard, performing at church or giving lessons to young children of the church who are interested in the organ. She is there for the choir practices and church programs and enjoys sharing her love of music, and of the traditional organ. Mileham will be performing on the organ at the Rededication Concert and Dinner scheduled for Saturday at the church, 5 Park Ave.
Parishioners are welcoming the community to share in a dinner and to enjoy a concert on the mighty pipe organ. There will be a meat loaf dinner at 5 p.m., followed by the concert at 6:30. Admission is free; a good will offering will be taken.