St. George’s Day on the Ridge - Pipe Organ Crawl in Ridgetown & Highgate

·2 min read

For the first time in two years, local churches were treated with the sound of pipe organs humming in the air last month.

St. George’s Day on the Ridge was a pipe organ crawl in the two communities, held in late April.

As part of International Pipe organ day, the tour featured stops at three local churches that are home to their own unique pipe organs. The churches were the Church of the Redeemer Anglican in Highgate, Mount Zion Presbyterian Church in Ridgetown and Church of the Advent Anglican.

The Chatham Centre of the Royal Canadian College of Organists put on the tour, as it has in the past.

According to spokesman Ian Mason, the last tour was in March 2020 in Wallaceburg, just prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mason said of the organs played, the newest was at Mount Zion Presbyterian in Ridgetown. It is a 2-manual Woodstock organ built in 1948.

Despite the mechanical elements of the organ being newer than the organs in the Church of the Redeemer in Highgate (1926) or the Church of the Advent in Ridgetown (1915), the pipes at Mount Zion are actually from the original organ installed in the church in 1899.

In 1880, a vote was taken as to whether a reed organ should be used in the Mount Zion Presbyterian Church in Ridgetown. The vote was by ballot with the result that 48 voted in favour and seven against. Prior to the formation of the newly created denomination, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Presbyterian churches had been forbidden by their respective denominations to possess any form of musical instrument.

The event itself was an informal, casual event, described as a “jam session” for those who play the pipe organ.

“At each stop on the tour, there’s an informal 45-minute jam session where local organists will play. The grand finale is a 30-minute concert at Mount Zion Presbyterian Church, Ridgetown, by recitalist Dr. Angus Sinclair of London, ON, formerly the long-time accompanist for The Three Cantors, former organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, ON, music director of the Blyth Festival singers,” said Mason.

The guest pianist in Ridgetown was Jeremy Burns, a pianist and teacher at Ridgetown District High School.

Mason said the organs are essentially all mechanical. The voices of them are produced by air, and therefore there is no digital sound. He added that in each organ’s case, they were built to be played in each location, which makes them unique.

“Each has unique acoustics. Every single pipe has been hand-machined one way or the other. It’s art and science together,” he said.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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