Concert by local abbot rings in new organ at St. Peter’s

COLUMBIA — St. Peter Church celebrated the addition of their new Peragallo organ with a solemn blessing and dedication recital on March 23. Bishop David Thompson, retired bishop of Charleston was the celebrant assisted by Msgr. Leigh Lehocky, pastor of St. Peter’s.

The featured soloist was Father Francis Kline, abbot of Mepkin Abbey and an accomplished organist who has performed throughout the world. Some of his recording have been produced by Columbia Records.

“I would like to dedicate this concert to the nations of the world,” said Msgr. Lehocky at the beginning of the service.

He expressed how this organ and its music would give glory to God. When the war with Iraq started Msgr. Lehocky said he thought about postponing the dedication, but decided it might be what the community needed in this time of unrest.

Bishop Thompson thanked the congregation for the sacrifices they made in order to get this new pipe organ that was designed specifically for the church. He said that sacred music in the church is of the highest importance and the people of Columbia understood that fact.

“In the reading, St. Paul assures us that we have always been a singing church. With this organ you have made a giant step to ensure that your singing will always be on pitch and on key,” said Thompson. He added that it was time to let Father Kline’s fingers do the talking.

“It is always a privilege to hear Abbot Kline play. When we got the organ, I immediately asked Msgr. Lehocky if we could get him to do the concert,” said parishioner Doris Christle, who was glad that he was able to do it.

Also present at the concert were the organ designers, John Peragallo II and his son John III. Their company has made and installed many organs; a Peragallo organ is at St. Patrick Cathedral in New York and one is at St. John the Beloved in Summerville. The family normally tries to attend dedication ceremonies and felt especially moved to go to this one because the beauty and sound of St. Peter Church inspired them.

“The building is wonderful. It is the best renovation job I have ever seen. The church is not only beautiful but it provides great sound with the Gothic architecture, hard surfaces and high ceilings,” said Peragallo.

As a noted concert organist, Peragallo could not help but comment on how wonderful Father Kline played the organ during the dedication.

“He did a spectacular job using the different tonal colors of the organ. His selections were some of the most difficult organ works, and you could tell that he has performed them hundreds of times and no longer has to worry about the notes,” said Peragallo.

He particularly enjoyed the way Father Kline played Durufle’s “Prelude and Fugue on the Name of Alain, Op.7,” a piece he has performed himself.

Other selections played by the Juilliard-trained abbot were Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in A Minor,” “Trio Sonata #4 in E Minor” and Marcel Dupre’s “Three Preludes and Fugues, Op.7 in B Major, F Minor and G Minor.”

Jerrold Tidwell, St. Peter’s music director who turned the pages for the abbot during the concert, was impressed with his impeccable program notes that accompanied his masterful playing.

“The volume of his talent as a musician and a writer is rare,” said Tidwell.

As the church organist, Tidwell looks forward to playing the new organ. He feels a part of the process since he was able to collaborate with the Peragallos on its voicing (deciding what the coloration of some of the stops should be). With its 2,000 pipes, three complete keyboards and a pedal board, it is one of the finest organs in Columbia.