If you walked by the Reid Center in Richmond on Saturday, June 17, you would have been serenaded by the soulful sounds of the organ drifting out of the historic Tiffany glass windows. As soon as you walked into the church, you would be struck by awe of the organ’s grandeur. The organ, made out of wood, was intricately carved, and there were gold details on the wall. It spread across the wall in the front of the church. The organ was built in 1906, out of the Hook & Hastings company in Boston, Massachusetts.
If you’d stepped inside, you would have seen a group of young people gathered around an ornate pipe organ stretching up almost two stories, while organist Carolyn Ripp and local students were playing.
Two of Ripp’s students, Amanda Moore, a rising senior at Seton Catholic High School, and Sophia Walton, home-schooled, both 16, performed pieces on the organ, which began the workshop. A big screen showed a live video showing how their hands moved on the keys and how their feet moved on the pedals.
Moore and Walton were both Ripp’s piano students since elementary school, and both are participating in organ lessons with Ripp currently. After the performance, Ripp, the leader of the workshop, invited the students to gather around the organ itself.
The organ is a complex instrument with pipes ranging in length from three inches to 16 feet, as well as a multitude of pedals that organists can use to play melodies, sustain notes, and even increase the volume of the music. The organ has three keyboards: the swell, the great, and the choir. Playing on each keyboard will produce different sounds.
“Wolfgang Mozart used to say the organ was the ‘king of instruments,’ and that is very true. It is really like no other instrument because it is able to play so many different instruments, like the trumpet, a flute, or a string instrument, depending on how you use it,” Carolyn Ripp, the leader of the workshop, and organist, said.
She thought of organizing the Pedals, Pipes, and Pizza Workshop because she wanted to involve young people in music. The Dayton, Ohio, chapter of American Guild of Organists was the first organization to start offering camps like this in 2019, which first sparked the idea for Ripp.
“[The camp] was just supposed to be a fun outlet for them to learn about this amazing instrument, and I hope they enjoyed the experience,” Ripp said.
There were 11 piano students participating. The majority of students had been playing piano for over five years.
After a brief lesson, she invited the students to play a piece that they had brought from home.
“I really enjoyed this experience. It was cool to learn about the organ, and also get to play it. I thought it was interesting that the organ is able to play all these different sounds even though it’s just one instrument,” said Greta Royer, a 13-year-old piano student from Richmond.
The workshop lasted around two-and-a-half hours. This was one of the many educational and entertainment events held at the Reid Center. The Reid Center, formerly known as the Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church on North A Street, is now a performance venue.
The workshop aimed to give students an opportunity to come together and learn about an instrument that they may not have been familiar with.
“It was really supposed to be a fun way to have the students learn about the organ. I think it’s important for young people to learn about the organ, and get them more involved,” Ripp said.
Ripp has been playing the organ in the community for many years, and is the organist at First English Lutheran Church. When she discovered that there was an organ available in the Reid Center, she started to play in November of 2019, where she would host several performances, including one on Christmas Eve.
“The organ is so big, so powerful, and is an amazing instrument. I wanted to share that with the community,” Ripp said.
Lizzy Graham is an intern at the Western Wayne News.
A version of this article appeared in the July 5 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.