Cultural Network

Marilyn Musick

Marilyn is the Pipe Organist at St Luke's in Kearney. She is as much a miracle as the organs that she plays.
It's the beautiful quality of the Pipe Organ sound that cannot be replicated.

A native Nebraskan, Ms. Musick completed her undergraduate degree in music at Dana College in Blair. She subsequently earned her MM and DMA degrees in organ performance from UNL, studying with George Ritchie and the renowned Quentin Faulkner. Later, as a participant on two European organ study tours, Dr. Musick enjoyed learning about and playing historic organs (from the 17th to the 19th centuries) in both France and Germany. Currently, in addition to being organist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kearney, she is a much-in-demand Collaborative Pianist at UNK.

Dr. Musick speaks of her experience with the St Luke’s organ this way: “As organist at St. Luke’s, it has been a great blessing for me to play such a fine instrument. In choosing repertoire the organist is bound by the tonal colors available on the instrument, and the St. Luke’s organ is large enough to accommodate a wide variety of literature and color contrast. In addition to the instrument, it is wonderful to have people who are appreciative and active worshippers. Great joy comes to me when I feel like the organ, joining together with the whole congregation and the Holy Spirit, are creating a worshipful and moving service.”

As Dr. Musick notes, “An essential aspect of a pipe organ is keeping that organ in good repair, realizing the treasure that it is. We have appreciated the support of our priest and vestry, along with congregational offerings and memorial gifts, to keep the organ well maintained.” Here is a link to a clip of Marilyn playing the Roosevelt-Shantz organ at St. Luke’s (sometimes also played by Marty Garringer and Connie Moon, as its predecessor was played by Kearney’s artist Mim Worlock).

“It’s the quality of the sound,” the musician said of pipe organs. “Each of the pipes had to be hand built and then voiced. There are thousands and thousands of individual pipes. They all had to be handmade and hand voiced. The wind chests are made of wood and leather.”

“On that European trip I got to play an organ that Handel played,” she said. “It was from the early 1700s and a one-manual organ. Very few pedals. And then a week later I got to play the organ in Berlin, which has four or five manuals and I don’t know how many hundreds of ranks. It was built for totally different literature.”

St Luke’s Roosevelt/Shantz Organ

Imagine a series of, well, call them miracles. Or, you decide what to call them.

David Francis, court reporter and possibly the longest running substitute organist in Kearney history. Dr. Gerald Feese, then St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Music Director. Dr. Mark Meyer, orthopedic surgeon, choir member, and, in this case, 4-seater plane pilot. And Chuck Peek, then Rector.

Forced to land in St. Joe before being engulfed in a major storm center. Then, as it moved off, resuming the flight to Louisville, Kentucky—only to find the storm doubling back on itself and closing in. It closed in just behind the plane, close enough to give us a good scare and maybe more of a tail-wind than we’d counted on.

Landing in Louisville, getting a cab, and watching the cabby hurtling down an interchange and drinking out of pint bottle of whiskey. Yet making it safely to our lodging.

All to see the beautiful Roosevelt/Shantz organ Christ Church Cathedral was selling. (The Cathedral was buying two new pipe organs commissioned from Bedient in Nebraska.) Only to find they wanted twice what St. Luke’s budget would allow.

The Dean of the Cathedral discovering that in its budget in those days, St. Luke’s aimed to spend as much on a community benefit project as on any special purchase for itself—and deciding to sell the organ to St. Luke’s for half the asking price.

Convincing Bill Lynn that this organ at this price was better than an electric organ!

Still. St. Luke’s is in Kearney, the organ in Louisville. And has to be removed soon. Perhaps the person who had been maintaining the organ there could advise us. No—much better. He would see to packing up the organ, transporting it, coming with it, and installing it at St. Luke’s.

And so, Gene Ward, having installed it with the help of a crew managed by John Haeberle, returned to Louisville—but not before he had celebrated its installation with the first of a series of concerts on the new-to-St. Luke’s organ, staying on in Kearney with his wife and kids, joining the church, and being ordained to the priesthood.

The St. Luke’s pipe organ was purchased from Christ Church, Louisville, KY in 1986. It was disassembled, transported to Kearney and reconstructed. The organ contained pipes from two major organ builders, Hilbourne Roosevelt (from the original instrument, 1893) and Schantz (from renovations done in 1930 and 1952). The console has three manuals and a full pedalboard, operating 56 ranks of pipes and a total of 3,459 individual pipes.


Written by Chuck Peek and Marilyn Musick with assistance of Margeret Eager and Cassie Todd.
* Photos courtesy of St Luke's Episcopal Church, Kearney NE.
* Video courtesy of Marilyn Musik.

Categories: Music

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