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McKendree - Simms - Brookland United Methodist Church,
Washington, D.C.

The McKendree-Simms-Brookland United Methodist Church grew out of a merger of three churches and is today one of the largest African-American churches in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. The original church was established in 1924, but it did not have a pipe organ until 1948. At that time, a 1936 Moller pipe organ was moved from the residence of George Everett of Washington, D.C. and installed in the church. The organ had what was then a typical design: French Horn, Harp, and Chimes all housed in two chambers. (NOTE: CERTAINLY THIS WASN'T ALL OF THE ORGAN, WAS IT?...S.)

Why is the Organ Being Rebuilt?
The enhanced pipe organ had been a dream of the music leadership of the church for many years. Mary Hubbard, the church's organist and member of its Organ Enhancement Committee, says "We hoped to be able to perform the great organ literature and a wide range of gospel, as well as accompany the many soloists, choirs, and congregational singing."

Scope of the Rebuild Project
The rebuild project was first seriously considered in 1990, but work did not begin until 1992. Since then, Lewis & Hitchcock, Inc. has put in some 1,300 hours of work, supported by more than 100 hours by congregants who volunteered primarily in chamber repair and preparation work. The project, done in stages, was completed in September, 1997, and included:

  • Adding 18 ranks;

  • Releathering of all electro-pneumatic chests;

  • Building new windchests for the Great, Antiphonal, and Pedal divisions, using electric action;

  • Addition of MIDI;

  • Upgrading to Peterson OrgaPlexTM solid state switching and couplers;

  • Upgrading to Peterson MSP-1000TM solid state combination action;

  • Improvements were made to enhance the beauty and sound of the pipe organ: the Great and Pedal divisions were exposed in the chancel on new windchests with decorative woodwork designed to match the chancel woodwork. The Antiphonal division was exposed in the rear Gallery.

Special Fundraising Events
Although the availability of some of the additional pipework and chests from a 1964 Moller organ made the project possible, several events raised funds for the rebuilding project: "Pennies for Pipes" and a "Rock-A-Thon," along with choir concerts, dinner theater, and concerts by visiting choirs and ensembles. This enabled the work to continue in stages.

Other Highlights
The organ was dedicated on September 28, 1997. A recital was performed by Mary Hubbard, the church organist, along with David McCahan, Dave Selby, Sarah Jackson, and Gerald Piercey of Lewis & Hitchcock, Inc. Pastor Edwin W. Williams said, "We are indebted to Lewis & Hitchcock, Inc. for their manual labors and for presenting a special concert on this day of our consecration. It is our fervent prayer that the beautiful melodious sounds produced by each component of the new organ will be a reminder from this day forward of the harmony that may be ours through working together in unity."

  • Special concerts are held regularly, especially in the summer months, to demonstrate the versatility of the instrument;

  • The MIDI system includes a separate Hammond keyboard as well as an orchestral sound generator, making the rebuilt organ fully capable of the rich traditions of authentic pipe organ worship music as well as contemporary music.

  • A monthly Gospel service features many of the voices now available on the enhanced organ.

Mary Hubbard may be contacted at McKendree-Simms-Brookland United Methodist Church at 2421 Lawrence St., NE, Washington, D.C. 20017; Phone: 202-529-3075.

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