Special to The Star
I remember like it was yesterday, watching the moving truck drive off after our furniture was unloaded at our little rental house in Golden Springs in 1985. My family had moved to Anniston and soon after, we joined the First United Methodist Church on Noble Street.
My little brother, Seth, and I joined the Crusader Choir and our mother sang in the Chancel Choir then led by James P. Roberts, better known as Jimmy.
I can’t think of growing up in that beautiful church without thinking about Jimmy playing “Name that Tune” with us when we were in Crusader Choir; if we got the song right, we’d get a dollar. I remember listening to him play anything from “Take me Out to the Ballgame” after the Children’s Minute to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”
If you have ever been to FUMC, you know exactly what I am talking about.
The organ is a force in that sanctuary. The music bounces off the slate flooring.
The organ plays familiar hymns we love to sing and amazing preludes that fill the air on Sunday mornings. It can bring a tear to one’s eye and even bring you closer to God during your time of worship.
The church started humbly in 1881. The current church at 14th and Noble was built in 1955 to replace the previous church used from 1893 -1955. A little-known fun fact is the pipe organ in the sanctuary is the exact same type of organ as the one at the Old North Church in Boston’s North End famous for the location Paul Revere used on April 18, 1775, to signal “one if by land, and two if by sea.”
The organ was built by Schlicker Organ Co., of Buffalo, N.Y. Mr. Schlicker took some pipes from the Kimball organ in the church’s previous sanctuary to their factory in Buffalo. The old pipes were completely rebuilt and voiced and then incorporated into the present instrument. It took 20 men three months to build it.
There are four complete divisions on the organ. The Great and Swell divisions are located on the right side of the Chancel and the Choir and Pedal divisions to the left. These pipes range in size from 16 feet in length to three-eighths of an inch. The total number of pipes in the organ is 3,037 and there are 47 ranks of pipes.
The organ is voiced on low wind pressure which was employed during the 17th and 18th centuries, but since then has become a lost art. Because the Schlicker Co., began the return of this type of voicing, it has achieved international prominence throughout the Western world.
In all the years we have enjoyed it, although it needs it, this beautiful instrument has never been restored and would cost a million dollars to replace.
In April, the organ restoration will begin.
In 1985, I sang my first solo in the church to Jimmy playing that organ.
At 6 p.m. on March 16, I walked down the aisle on the arm of the man I have loved and adored all my life to “Here Comes the Bride,” and at 6:20 p.m., I recessed down the aisle on the arm of another man I will love and adore the rest of my life to the “Wedding Recessional”.
This special day in my life, like so many other brides from our congregation, was all centered around Jimmy Roberts and that gorgeous organ.
If you have ever experienced the organ and want to preserve something historical that has touched so many lives in a spiritual way, visit our Facebook page at FUMC Anniston Organ Fund, and see how you can help.
Shea Snider Miller is a member Anniston First United Methodist Church and lives in Washington, D.C.