Park Forest Organ
Worship Ministry

Our Choir

Under the direction of our choir conductor and accompanied by the famous Holtkamp Organ our choir is something you don’t want to miss. Interested in joining the Choir? Help raise a joyful noise during the Sunday worship service by contacting us and letting us know you want to sing!

The Holtkamp Organ

The Holtkamp Organ was built in 1965 by the Holtkamp Organ Company of Cleveland, Ohio as their Opus #1793. The Holtkamp Company won an architectural award for t aesthetic features and its creative incorporation into an existing space. The Holtkamp Company has long been considered one of America’s top designers and builders of pipe organs, and the Holtkamp Organ showcases exactly why. The organ was originally commissioned by the Penn State University class of 1938 during its 25th-anniversary class reunion, and it was dedicated in 1966, and later renovated in 2005. It now resides in Park Forest Village UMC after it’s sale in 2017.

This storied organ, combined with the beautiful choir music led by nationally-known conductor, Graham Sanders, makes this worship service something you won’t want to miss.

How The Holtkamp Came to PFVUMC

Miracles happen every day, and many times they begin in unexpected ways. You might discover, for example, that the church you’ve been visiting has been housing a preschool for local children, just something they do and forget to mention. So you decide that’s a church you would like to serve. These moments become life-changing events.

The little miracle of the Class of 1938 Organ began in a surprising way, too. Our Church had just finished the long, expensive process of getting a new steel roof installed. We were just recovering our breath when something unexpected happened. Over several years the church had been saving to repair its aging 17-rank pipe organ from the 1960s. The instrument needed between $75,000 to $125,000 for new parts and computerized controls. Some of the stops weren’t stopping, and relays were beginning to take their own sweet time sounding notes. Looking for something fun to do? Check out the Events Calendar

Then our faithful and talented organist told the Church Council that Penn State had decided to sell the 37-rank, recently renovated Holtkamp organ housed in the recital hall. The Holtkamp Organ Company of Cleveland has built organs for institutions like The University of Notre Dame since 1855. The PSU instrument had been a gift from the PSU Class of 1938 after their 1965 reunion.

The Council responded with a “What Now?” stare, like a small herd of deer in the headlights. Then, gradually, the facts filtered through the hesitation. For a rough estimate of $60,000, the church could double the notes and get a renovated organ in the bargain. After a lengthy discussion, one person after another said quietly that we should “go for it.” The room was full of the sense that this was something that was meant to happen.

Park Forest has a long musical tradition established last century by two departed members, Organist Roger Boop and Choir Director Charlotte Dunham. Boop was a gifted music teacher at Penns Valley High School who published choral and organ music. He played the Park Forest organ until ten days before his death. Dunham lead events like an annual Heritage of Music Sunday, attended in the 1980s by Dr. Wendell Whalum of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The Church Council surprised itself by making an offer. The path ahead, however, was not simple or smooth. The project’s expense was a good deal more than the highest repair estimate for the old organ. Removing the Esber Hall organ was over $33,000 alone, as care had to be taken lest the pipes get “bent out of shape.” Fortunately, years of savings for organ repair and recent fund-raising have covered roughly two-thirds of the overall cost.

The old organ has been sold and was removed at no cost to the church by a buyer. The Holtkamp organ has been installed on an enlarged platform constructed by the Edward & Cynthia Mills family, as you can see in the time sequence photos above taken by then Pastor Don Smith. And we held an “Organ Rededication Recital” on June 23, 2019, with organ performances by Dr. Anthony Leach (the last performer on the organ at PSU campus), Grace Lutheran Organist June Miller, Park Forest Village Organist Cynthia Mills, and a solo by Park Forest Village Choir Director Graham Sanders. As of Spring, 2020, the final installation loan (generously provided by an anonymous donor), has been paid down to the last few thousand dollars. Ms. Mills has brought the Sanctuary to life with exhilarating introits, anthems, hymns, and recessionals. So the grand old organ continues to raise a joyful noise and the spirits of the worshippers here.