Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, April 9, 2006, pg. 18

As we observe Easter Sunday a week from now, we are reminded how many of our residents enjoy visiting the church of their choice on this special day. Many people have memories of going to church in Albion on Easter Sunday. There the congregation would sing the hymn that was written right here in Albion, “The Old Rugged Cross” by Reverend George Bennard, sung from the official church hymnbook, and played by the official church organist using the official church organ.

The organ used to be the major musical instrument which set the tone/atmosphere for the music sung in many of our churches. Time have changed, of course. Many churches have switched to contemporary Christian music with lead, bass, and electric guitars, plus drums and electronic multi-sound keyboards. Hymns that used to be sung in traditional organ/piano key signatures such as A-flat, B-flat or E-flat (i.e., lots of flats), have been abandoned and instead replaced by contemporary songs played in “guitar-friendlier” keys such as A, E, or G (i.e., lots of sharps). In fact, much of the contemporary music being written/sung today is “guitar driven” and therefore is written in those latter keys. Occasionally you’ll find a church that hasn’t “made the switch” however, like one near Albion that had a sign out front last year proclaiming “We Sing Hymns.”

With all the contemporary Christian music nowadays, the outmoded church organ has went the way of the dinosaur that didn’t get aboard Noah’s Ark in time. In some Albion churches, the organ has been covered with a plastic cover, much like you would cover the canary cage at night. It sits there to the side of the platform and collects dust. Church organists are also very hard to come by (they are also the lowest paid). I’ve seen want-ads in the Albion paper on different occasions by Albion churches wanting to hire an organist for their Sunday services. Some churches have had to resort to looking for musicians in other towns to play for them here in Albion.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a traditional “church scene” from February, 1956. Here we see Priscilla Felisky playing the newly-installed organ at the Eaton Street Baptist Church, 1006 N. Eaton St. She is observed by her pastor David Tirrell, who served there from May, 1955 to June, 1957. An “inaugural concert” to celebrate the new organ there was held on Sunday, February 5, 1956. Howard Skinner of Muskegon was the featured organist for the 3 p.m. concert that day. Priscilla, by the way, is now Rev. Priscilla Whitehead of Bal Harbour, Florida.

Does your church still have an organ? Do they ever use it? Whether your church sings contemporary music, or organic music, I do hope you’ll attend church here in Albion this Easter Sunday.

Priscilla Felisky playing the newly-installed organ, Rev. David Tirrell listening


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