Jonas Nordwall, organist and artistic director of music for the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, works on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, at preparing a 2013 Allen Bravura Organ for its first public concert at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Nordwall played free inaugural concert at the church on Friday, Nov. 15. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jonas Nordwall, organist and artistic director of music for the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, works on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, at preparing a 2013 Allen Bravura Organ for its first public concert at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Nordwall played free inaugural concert at the church on Friday, Nov. 15. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Donations fill church with joyful noise

Project brings organ and speakers to Holy Trinity.

After more than a decade after Holy Trinity Episcopal Church was rebuilt, the downtown place of worship and event venue finally sounds like its old self.

An organ that had been at the church since the late ’70s was among the things destroyed in a 2006 fire. Services resumed at the rebuilt church in 2009, and a baby grand piano has provided music during services and events.

In 2017, Tim Fullam donated an organ to the church, and since then the church raised funds with help from Juneau Community Foundation and a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to purchase speakers the organ needs to work.

[Watch: Holy Trinity has a new organ]

“It’s great,” said Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Rector Gordon Blue in an interview. “I’m very happy with how it’s come together. That’s a magnificent machine.”

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s 2013 Allen Bravura concert organ was played by a visiting organist in its first public concert Friday, Nov. 15,2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church’s 2013 Allen Bravura concert organ was played by a visiting organist in its first public concert Friday, Nov. 15,2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Bruce Simonson, who helped bring the project to fruition, said the Rasmuson Foundation grant was for $12,500. The Juneau Community Foundation helped raise an additional $12,500, and the church contributed about $5,o00. While he would not provide a specific figure, Simonson said the organ’s value exceeds five figures.

The organ produces sounds using speakers rather than pipes, and more speakers enable it to more closely approximate a pipe organ, Simonson said. The sounds played over the speakers aren’t synthesized, Simonson said. They’re sampled from organs from Germany, France, England and the U.S.

When played, the swirling notes are an extremely close approximation of a pipe organ.

The project to build the lofts that hold the speakers was spearheaded by Larry Talley, who said care was taken to blend the structures with the church’s architecture.

Jonas Nordwall, organist and artistic director of music for the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, performs Friday, Nov. 15. Special lofts were built to hold speakers that The event attracted a crowd to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Jonas Nordwall, organist and artistic director of music for the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, performs Friday, Nov. 15. Special lofts were built to hold speakers that The event attracted a crowd to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Blue said the organ is intended to be a community asset, and it would not immediately replace the piano in services at the church.

“We need to train or recruit an organist that can handle the machine,” he said.

On Friday, an inaugural concert was held featuring a professional organist: Jonas Nordwall from Portland, Oregon. Nordwall was sponsored by the Allen Organ Company, which made the organ housed at the church.

Nordwall told the Capital City Weekly the Allen Bravura concert organ is among the largest made by Allen, and it would have no problem providing ample sound for a 500-seat auditorium.

“It’s quite remarkable that it ended up in a community like this,” Nordwall said. “They don’t grow on trees here.”

The organ made its way to the church through the generosity of Fullam, who told the Capital City Weekly he is not a member of the congregation —just someone who had followed the church’s story.

Jonas Nordwall, organist and artistic director of music for the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, works on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, at preparing a 2013 Allen Bravura Organ for its first public concert at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Nordwall played free inaugural concert at the church on Friday, Nov. 15. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jonas Nordwall, organist and artistic director of music for the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, works on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, at preparing a 2013 Allen Bravura Organ for its first public concert at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Nordwall played free inaugural concert at the church on Friday, Nov. 15. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Fullam came to own the organ as part of a post-retirement hobby.

“I’ve been interested in organs from my earliest memories,” he said.

However, Fullam realized a musical career wasn’t for him. Instead, he became a geologist and computer scientist.

Upon retirement, Fullam decided to revisit his old interest and learn to play the organ. So, he bought the Allen organ.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Fullam said.

However, the hobby stuck, and he was interested in getting another organ, which he ultimately did.

With a redundant organ on his hands, Fullam began looking for a place to which he could potentially donate the concert organ, and he found a match in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

“I just want the church and community to enjoy it,” Fullam said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.Concer


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