By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Organ Recital Series Will Showcase Church’s Newly Restored Instrument
Social Media Brought Worldwide Response to Six-Year Organ Restoration Campaign
Our Lady of Refuge Church in Ditmas Park has become world-renowned, thanks to an international capital campaign to restore the Roman Catholic parish’s organ.
The parish was founded in 1911 to serve Irish and German Catholics. The current church building was dedicated 80 years ago, in 1934, around which time the organ, also 80 years old, was built and installed. The parish now has members from at least 30 ethnic groups, with English, Spanish and Creole being the primary languages in which liturgies are offered.
A New York Times article that narrates the chronicle of the Kilgen Organ Restoration underscores the passion that campaign chairperson Joseph A. Vitacco III has held for the instrument ever since his boyhood in the 1970s. Vitacco grew up in the parish of Our Lady of Refuge, at Ocean and Foster avenues in Midwood. Vitacco teamed up with his pastor, the Rev. Michael Perry, to give testimonials on the importance of this restoration. They also took to social media sites, including Facebook and YouTube, to raise funds.
The organ builder was George Kilgen & Son of St. Louis, which also made the instrument for St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Vitacco told the New York Times in a Sept. 10, 2013 article that the organist at St. Patrick at the time, Charles-Marie Courboin, was to be credited for part of the instrument at Our Lady of Refuge. It was Courboin “who decided on the stops on the instrument at Our Lady of Refuge. He told the factory, ‘This is how you’re making it,’” Vitacco told the Times.
A.R. Schopp’s Sons and Quimby Pipe Organs, Inc. joined forces to restore the instrument.
One of the top donors had never set foot inside the church until the night of the dedication liturgy, last October. Acclaimed Notre Dame organist Olivier Latry was the guest artist.
The restoration accomplishment now complete, Our Lady of Refuge Church has invited world-class musicians to play a series of organ recitals that begins on Friday, Sept. 5.
The duo of Craig Cramer and John Thiessen, on organ and trumpet, respectively, will launch the first concert in a program of music for those instruments. Cramer is professor of organ at the University of Notre Dame and Thiessen teaches baroque trumpet at Juilliard School of Music in Manhattan.
The following concert brings in guest artist Todd Wilson, a member faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music and director of music and worship at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Cleveland. He will perform the 1925 version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” accompanying this movie on the pipe organ. Readers please take note that the music for this particular film is different from the more familiar work by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lloyd Webber’s music will not be heard at this recital on Friday, Oct. 17.
The third recital, to be held on Friday, Nov. 21, will be “An Evening of Composed Music and Improvisations” with Thierry Escaich, internationally acclaimed composer and organist. Escaich is improviser organist of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris and professor of music at the Paris Conservatoire.
All the recitals begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available through Our Lady of Refuge Church’s website, www.olrbrooklyn.org/.
* * *
Bach to Brooklyn Organ Tour Spotlights Architecture Of Churches and Surrounding Neighborhoods
Architectural Expert Andrew Dolkart Has Led Tour for Many Years
The weekend of Sept. 5-7 promises to be rich for lovers of organ music. In addition to the recital series at Our Lady of Refuge, churches in the Midwood, Flatbush and Parkville neighborhoods are also participating in the annual Bach to Brooklyn tour of organs. The American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter sponsors this event each year.
This fall bus tour highlights distinguished organs in diverse houses of worship in and around the Parkville, Flatbush and Midwood neighborhood in central Brooklyn. Tour guide Andrew Dolkart, author of Landmarks of New York City, will speak on points of architectural interest in the featured churches, as well as in the neighborhoods surrounding them. A chapter organist, or the resident organist, will showcase the instrument at each church.
Bach to Brooklyn 2014 will feature the instruments of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church on Beverley Road, the Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church on Dorchester Road, Saint Stephen Lutheran Church on Newkirk Avenue and St. Paul United Methodist Church on Avenue D.
The tour runs from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6. Those interested in attending can register in advance by contacting the chapter dean, Ellen Wright, via email at [email protected]. The cost is $40 for guild members and $45 for non-members.
* * *
Leave Mobile Devices Behind for This Shabbat Block Party
Rabbi Raskin Emphasizes Importance of Reconnecting with Loved Ones
A Shabbat block party with an attitude comes to Remsen Street next month: electronic devices are not invited.
Promoted under the banner “Rest Is Coming to Remsen Street,” this Shabbat block party is an initiative of Congregation B’nai Avraham and Chabad of Brooklyn Heights and is designed to unite all those living in Brooklyn Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods. Partygoers are asked to unplug and leave their electronics at home, giving social media the night off in celebration of the Jewish Sabbath. “Rest Is Coming” will be held on Friday, Sept. 12, with festivities beginning at 5 p.m. on Remsen Street, between Clinton and Henry streets.
Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin, spiritual leader of Chabad of Brooklyn Heights, observes that people have lost the art of communication; every waking hour is spent with eyes glued to smartphones.
“It has become the norm for people to use their phones during meetings, at the dinner table and even while driving!” Rabbi Raskin says.
Thus, the aim of the “Rest Is Coming” campaign is to draw people away from social media; to remove them from the distractions of daily life.
“We want to encourage them to focus on their family and friends without incessant buzzing, beeping and vibrating,” Rabbi Raskin explains. “This is what Shabbat is all about – G-d commanded us to rest on the seventh day. He knew what he was doing! If we are able to remove those day-to-day distractions, focusing on what’s important to us, it will enable us to lead more fulfilled and content lives.”
Partygoers will enjoy a BBQ dinner, entertainment by local Chassidic pop talent Moshe Hecht and a special performance by Kiddie Korner Preschool. The party is free of charge, thanks to a few generous donors, and all Jews are invited to attend, regardless of affiliation and background.
Congregation B’nai Avraham-Chabad of Brooklyn Heights is a community-based organization servicing the needs of the Jewish populations of Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn by providing prayer services, holiday programs and events, as well as support and assistance for all, regardless of affiliation and background.
* * *
Brooklynites Gather at Asser Levy Park, Showing Enthusiastic Support for Israel
A large crowd of Brooklynites, young and old, cheering and waving Israeli flags, united in Asser Levy Park in Brighton Beach last week for an emotional and music-filled concert and rally in support of Israel.
Co-sponsoring the rally were Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Zionist Organization of America, RAJE, DaNu Radio, American Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry, Kings Bay Y, Jewish Community Relations Council of N.Y., JCH of Bensonhurst, Shorefront JCC, Hadassah, Emunah, One Israel Fund, Jewish Press, JCC of Canarsie, Jerusalem Chai, Coalition for Israel, Simon Wiesenthal Center and COJO of Bensonhurst.
In addition to Assemblymember Cymbrowitz, the array of notable guest speakers included Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Michael Miller, CEO of JCRC-NY; Assemblyman Dov Hikind; IDF Brigadier General Ari Tesler; Andrew Gross, political advisor to the deputy consul general; Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America; Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay Y; Assemblymember Helene Weinstein; Rubin Margules, president of the Zionist Organization of America Brooklyn Region; and Eugene Shkolnikov, Russian-American philanthropist and board member of the Kings Bay Y.
“As so many around the world gather to condemn Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorists, it is imperative that we all stand together to show our support for the people of Israel,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. “Israel uses painstaking restraint not to harm citizens. We finally need to tell the world, ‘Enough.’”
President of ZOA Brooklyn Region and chief organizer of the event Rubin Margules said, “We put this event together because it was important to show our support, to be counted and to stand together for the people of Israel.”
President of ZOA Morton Klein said, “What would America do if 80 percent of its citizens were forced to run into bomb shelters twice a day from rocket fire from Mexico or Canada? That’s the situation in Israel, where over six million of the eight million Israelis are given 15 seconds to run into bomb shelters due to the 3,000 missiles launched by Hamas. The world now condemning Israel for Arab civilian deaths is a diplomatic Kristallnacht.”
Assemblyman Dov Hikind said, “Thank G-d there are no sirens going off on Fifth Avenue or 13th Avenue. Americans don’t know what it’s like to run for cover.”
A line-up of internationally known Israeli musicians performed pro bono. They had the crowd singing along to favorites like “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold)” and swaying along to “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Performers included Galit Burg Michael, Benny Elbaz, Sandy Shmuely, Ron Eliran and Gershon Veroba.
* * *
Cathedral Co-Hosts State Street Fair, Offering Middle Eastern Flavors
St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral and the State Street Block Association are joining forces to host the annual State Street Fair on Saturday, Sept. 6, offering everything from culinary treats to healthcare screenings.
The block-long street festival, on State Street between Hoyt and Bond streets in Boerum Hill, will offer more than the usual attractions like face painting, pony rides and games — it will have a Middle Eastern flavor.
The Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral’s history, dating back about 120 years to the 1890s, has its foundation in the Arab community. Most of the congregants are Arab Orthodox Christians whose ancestry is traceable to various parts of the Middle East and largely from Syria. In fact, Syria has a bond with the very earliest Christians — it was at Damascus where Saul had his blinding conversion and became Christian and, then, the apostle Paul. And Antioch, founded in the 3rd century before Christ, was one of the first Christian communities in the 1st century, Common Era.
The food specialties will include Turkish coffee, Middle Eastern cuisine, Phoenician French fries and baklava.
Mohammed Nasser and musicians will provide Middle Eastern-style entertainment. The Brooklyn Ballet is scheduled to perform and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will have activities. The North Shore Animal League will bring “adorable animals,” according to a flyer for the event.
The fair will also offer healthcare components. The New York Blood Center Mobile will be stationed to accept blood donations. Fairgoers can also get blood screenings done by representatives of The Brooklyn Hospital.
The annual State Street Fair runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sept. 6.
Throughout the evening, the crowd vocalized its support with frequent shouts of “Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live!).” At the end of the night, with the moon shining as bright as the crowd’s spirits, community and Jewish leaders danced the hora onstage and led everyone in “Hatikvah (The Hope),” Israel’s national anthem.
One familiar song performed by Ron Eliran, “Kol Ha’olam Kulo,” based on a quote by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, seemed to sum up the exuberant mood. The song’s message speaks of the importance of moving forward with confidence, despite prevailing uncertainty: “All the world is a very narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid.”