A feature story by the late Paul Sweitzer, long-time staff reporter for the Arizona Daily Sun, described Flagstaff’s Episcopal Church of the Epiphany as “The Little Stone Church on the Hill.” Those who pass by often identify the structure as “the church with the red doors.” From its position on the top of the hill, at the corner of Beaver and Elm Streets, Epiphany Church is now in its second century, having been built in 1912—the year Arizona became a state.
Of equal historical interest is the church’s unique pipe organ, an instrument often called the “King of Instruments” because of its vast tonal resources and versatility. The Epiphany organ has a long and interesting history and is undergoing a substantial process of restoration and rehabilitation.
This Saturday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m., a concert will feature the partially restored instrument in an effort to raise funds for the completion of its refurbishment.
The Epiphany organ had its origins in a no-longer existing church in the mining town of Jerome, spent some years in storage in Williams and, in the early 1950’s, was brought to Flagstaff and installed at Epiphany Church. Dr. John Stilley, a local dentist and activist in the local musical community, offered as a labor of love the installation and improvement of the instrument during the 40 years he served as organist at Epiphany Church. Stilley was also a major force in the acquisition and installation of the large pipe organ in NAU’s Ardrey Auditorium. Upon his retirement in 1986, I succeeded him as organist, and a few years later initiated the project of upgrading and rehabilitating this fine instrument.
The ravages of age and continuous use necessitated replacement or refurbishing of the organ's complex components. It was removed, much of it refurbished, and then placed back in its original location, a room which also was rehabilitated. The organ now has a new console (purchased in 2004), an upgraded and modernized wind supply, and new digital control systems. With an estimated cost of approximately $200,000 for the entire project, nearly three-quarters of the task has been accomplished with generous contributions from parishioners and other interested supporters. About $50,000 remains to be secured to complete the final stages.
There is no admission charge for the Aug. 18 concert. Donations toward the restoration fund will be graciously accepted, and there is an opportunity to contribute toward some generous matching grants. Organists Charly Spining and Jeff Hall, director of Lowell Observatory, will perform solo organ selections bracketing several works featuring organ and other instruments. Epiphany Church is blessed with a number of parishioners who are superb instrumentalists and members of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Flutists Jeannette Hirasawa-Moore and Andrea Graves, oboist Rebecca Scarnati, violinist Tammy Rauschenbach, trumpeter Joe Rauschenbach, cellist Maryanne Bruner, and bassoonist David Bruner will each lend their talents to a diverse program of solo and ensemble works with organ accompaniment.
Spining and Hall will be available to offer close-up tours of the organ, and a reception in the parish hall will follow the program.