Presbyterian Church Of East Hampton Celebrates Piano Refurbishment And Organ Anniversary

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After a very labor-intensive restoration, the Steinway piano at the First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton now can ring out as it first did when it was built in 1927.

Celebrating the piano’s new strings, as well as the 50th anniversary of the church’s Austin pipe organ, the congregation enjoyed a concert on October 26 called “Music, Milestones and Remembrances.” Church Music Director Thomas Bohlert performed nine piano pieces, in addition to a duo with violinist Stephanie Mocilan, and three pieces on the organ.

This year marks 50 years since the first organ recital—it was installed in the church in 1962, and an inaugural recital followed in 1963.

From light, jolly melodies to heavy, languid tones, the Steinway’s sound resonated with concert-goers as the notes echoed throughout the sanctuary.

It had been time to get the piano fixed, according to Mr. Bohlert. The baby grand, a Model L, was given to the church by Polly Bruckmann in 1999, and in 2011, Don Halsey provided seed money to fix the piano. From there, the congregation raised approximately $12,000. Donors included Virginia Backlund, Polly Bruckmann, Joanne Canary, John and Pam Cataletto, Bit and Andrea Cooper, Dennis and Barbara D’Andrea, Tom and Joy Edwards, Don and Ellen Halsey, Jane Kiembock, Sherry Kiger, Jean Knoesel, Glenn and Kate Lawton, the Rev. Dr. David Mulford and his wife, Nancy, Paul F. Nugent Jr., Joan and Bob Osborne and Carolyn Preische.

The piano’s strings, pins, felts, hammers, shanks, and flanges, just a few of its 12,000 parts, were replaced and refinished by Richard Realander of Realander Piano Tuning and Repair of Patchogue.

Gerry Paduano of Gennaro Piano in Huntington took over refinishing the piano, polishing all of its metal parts, sanding and refinishing its entire casework, and regulating its entire action.

After the concert, Mr. Bohlert said the piano’s sound is incredible. “It sounds fuller, alive,” he said. “Playing it—the keys are more even and responsive.”

A concert-goer and friend of Mr. Bohlert, Barbara Lipman-Wulf, said she loved the new, clear sound. “It was most wonderful,” she said. “It was fuller, and Tom played such light, accessible music.”

Pairing celebration with education, East Hampton Town Crier and Village Historian Hugh King provided a brief history of the church and its leaders since its beginning in 1648. Mr. King quickly went over the different ministers over the years—there have been more than 19 of them—and what they helped do during their respective eras. Mr. King spoke of notable church members, too, including elder Israel Otis Huntting, who lived during the mid-19th century. He joined the church choir at age 17 and remained in the choir for more than 50 years. His last effort for the church was raising the necessary funds to build the pipe organ and place it in the church. In 1865, he was recognized for his service.

The church concert was part of “Music at the Old Town Church,” a series of special arts and music programs the church offers.

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