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Congregation Hopes Messiah Will Help Save Instrument

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The Letourneau organ which was damaged is impossibly complex, with more than 3,000 pipes.
Jessica Gould
The Letourneau organ which was damaged is impossibly complex, with more than 3,000 pipes.

Congregants at a D.C. church hope a special performance of Handel's Messiah will help raise funds to repair an organ damaged during this summer's earthquake.

Choir Master Owen Burdick says the Letourneau organ is the heart of the music program at the Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes in downtown, D.C.

"Well, I love it. It’s beautiful. It’s like my baby, you know," says Burdick, of the $1.5 million Letourneau organ, which is his pride and joy. "There are over 3,000 whistles in there. They vary in size from the smallest being the size of your pinky to pipes over 30 feet long."

Together, Burdick and his organ make beautiful music. Or, at least they did, until an aftershock from the earthquake dislodged 150 pounds of plaster that came crashing down on the instrument.

"And that's what finished her off," recalls Burdick.

But Burdick isn't giving up. This weekend, the church is hosting a special performance to raise funds for the organ. He estimates it will cost $140,000 dollars to repair the instrument. So he’s counting on the Messiah to help.

"I'm thinking it's going to be a wonderful performance, and I'm really hoping people will come and join us," he says.

The performance -- replete with period instruments and 21 singers -- will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday.


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