By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The organ at St. Mary Church has filled the ears of the faithful with music for nearly 140 years. Built by the Moline Organ Company and installed in 1883, “The Voice of St. Mary” is one of the oldest working organs in the Midwest, according to the Organ Historical Society.
The church is set to close its doors on Oct. 11 as a result of St. Mary Parish’s merger with St. Anthony Parish, also in Davenport. With future plans for the historic organ still up in the air, parishioners want to make sure people have a chance to hear the organ play in their church one last time.
“This organ is a significant piece of Quad-Cities history,” said Lars Anderson, a graduate of the former St. Mary School who has lived and worked in California since 1980. He is back in Iowa helping to plan the parish’s farewell events, and one of the largest endeavors has been planning an organ concert. “I sang with this pipe organ as a kid. I knew then that we had something special,” he said.
The concert will take place Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. Anderson hired local, professional organist Chris Nelson to perform at the event. The Anderson family financed repair work so the full range of the organ can be heard at the concert.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks will be required and indoor seating will be limited in accordance with diocesan protocols. Guests will also be able to listen outdoors using social distancing. The concert will take place in three short acts, with pew sanitation between. Two Hispanic dance troops from St. Anthony Parish will perform during the intermissions.
Anderson hopes the concert will be a joyful way to say goodbye to the parish and celebrate its history. “I understand churches come and go, and it’s sad, but we don’t have to approach this with sadness. We can bring joy and happiness into this also. We can be proud and celebrate what we have at St. Mary’s, and one of those things is that pipe organ.”