Watch CBS News

Elgin church recreates program from 1893 at pipe organ concert

Organist to perform 130-year-old concert program at Elgin church
Organist to perform 130-year-old concert program at Elgin church 02:16

ELGIN, Ill. (CBS) -- You could call it the concert of the century.

On Tuesday night, the First Congregational Church in Elgin recreated the first concert on its big pipe organ. That concert happened 130 years ago – back when the World's Columbian Exposition was happening in Chicago.

The First Congregational music director and organist, Dr. Jeff Neufeld, started with the church in 2021. At the time, there was information on the organ about who performed the dedication concert back in 1893.

Neufeld's one-time professor, renowned organist Douglas Cleveland, performed the exact program that historically acclaimed organist Clarence Eddy performed in 1893. As noted by the Daily Herald, Eddy's 1893 performance was declared by the Elgin Daily News to be "a splendid concert in every way."

CBS 2 Photographer Lana Hinshaw-Klann caught up with Cleveland as he practiced the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini – which was among the selections Eddy performed 130 years ago.

"Organ solos – the unique thing is that several of them are transcriptions," Cleveland said. "So they're pieces that were originally for orchestra."

Cleveland was Neufeld's master's instructor at Northwestern University. They are friends now.

"I'm glad that I don't have to perform all the pieces – I got someone to do it for me," Neufeld said.

Cleveland is also a concert organist who performs around the world. As noted on his website, he has played at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Westminster Abbey in London, the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and the Minato Mirai Concert Hall in Yokohama, Japan, among many other venues around the world. He has also put out albums – including one of a performance on the comparatively new organ at the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel, which dates from 1928.

Back at First Congregational in Elgin, Neufeld explained, the organ was installed a few years after the building was completed. But it has been modified over the years. The console was originally embedded in the case of the organ pipes, but it was replaced with a new one in the corner of the organ in the 1930s and another new one in the middle pit in the 1950s.

The console in the middle pit remains in place.

"It's very nice because it has a lot of colors to highlight just everything that I'm playing," Cleveland said. "It fits perfectly for the Victorian music I'm performing today."

The concert was held Tuesday evening at the First Congregational Church of Elgin, 256 E. Chicago St. Watch below:

Frederick J. Steffen Memorial 130th Organ Anniversary Concert by FCC Elgin on YouTube
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.