A New Instrument for St Margaret’s Church
When we worship here at St Margaret’s, we utilize numerous tools to help us recognize God among us, from vestments, altar hangings, and flowers. We also employ a variety of musical instruments to inspire song and enhance our worship, including our sanctuary piano, digital keyboards, guitars, drums and violins. Of them all, the largest and most versatile is the organ. Other than the human voice, the church organ remains the central instrument of all Christian music. A fine instrument in capable hands adds a splendor to our worship and can powerfully lift us spiritually, sometimes when we don’t even realize it! It uniquely possesses the capacity to support the corporate singing of any sized gathering while giving resonance to the breadth of human emotions, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation. Though the main purpose of the organ is to enhance our worship by ably supporting congregational singing and accompanying music offered by our ensembles, it is important that it be an appealing instrument to hear and play outside of worship and be another vehicle in which to draw people to St Margaret’s, particularly youth and musicians.
Why does St. Margaret's need a new organ?
The current sanctuary organ was installed in 1992 and at 30 years old has far outlasted its expected lifespan, operating at 26% as of a recent 2019 appraisal. At any given service, the congregation is denied a full worship experience musically, with a fraction of the instrument used to keep a balanced sound and not be disruptive, while not fully utilizing the skills of parish musicians. With a music ministry of multiple ensembles and poised for immediate further growth, St. Margaret’s needs an instrument that:
-Enhances worship and properly supports and encourages vibrant congregational singing
-Accompanies combinations of vocal forces both traditional and contemporary
-Handles the entire organ repertoire, not a specific musical era (i.e. Baroque)
-Will not be overwhelmed at major holiday services and other occasions when joined by other
-Possess ideal specifications for teaching organ scholars, students or interns
In the fall of 2019, the Rev. Peter W. Mayer+ commissioned a new organ committee to research and choose a new instrument for SMC. Members were selected for their:
-Knowledge and love of music
-Relevant backgrounds that provide perspective on worship and liturgical music
-Connections to groups at St. Margaret’s, including the music ministry, vestry and day school
-Ability to clearly communicate aspects of the project to the church body and leadership
This group worked under the leadership of Director of Music Jim Douglas and consultant Tom Sheehan, the organist at Washington National Cathedral.
Click here to learn about the organ committee.
Click here to learn about our consultant, Tom Sheehan.
What will the new organ look and sound like?
For nearly a year, the organ committee visited many churches in the Washington-Baltimore-Annapolis area comparable in sanctuary size and ensemble size to listen to both digital and pipe organs built by major organ builders and smaller custom makers instruments from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The committee determined that a digital organ would be the best choice for St. Margaret’s, and focused on digital models. After visits to two digital manufacturers and the manufacturers subsequent visits to St Margaret’s, the committee unanimously decided that the "Opus 17" instrument proposed by Marshall & Ogletree Organbuilders of Massachusetts would best fit our needs.
Click here to learn more about Marshall & Ogletree and "Opus 17."
Click here for the specification list.
Organ Committee members share their thoughts and perspectives on the project below.
The cost of the project will be $390,000 for the instrument, the installation expenses, the custom casework and labor. Thanks to the incredible generosity of parishioners and friends, we have already raised over $370,000 of the entire cost (95%), and an anonymous donor has offered to double any contribution under $10,000 to reach 100%. Please consider making a gift to the organ fund by filling out the pledge form below or by going to