Tag Archive | "Old Whalers’ Church"

Old Whalers’ Restoration Complete

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Heller_Finished Tromp L'oeil Restoration 7-2-14_2803_LR


The finished trompe l’oeil at the Old Whalers’ Church. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Annette Hinkle

The Old Whalers’ Church, which dates back to 1844, is a Sag Harbor icon. Even without its massive steeple (lost in the 1938 hurricane) architect Minard Lafever’s imposing edifice still has the power to inspire awe, especially among visitors who glimpse it for the first time.

A rare example of Egyptian revival architecture, in recent years, a number of repairs and restorations have been made inside the building to insure its historic integrity and beauty as well.

Last Sunday at morning service, the Old Whalers’ Church officially unveiled what some consider to be the highlight of those recent restorations­—the recreation of the original trompe l’oeil mural which Mr. Lafever designed to grace the massive south wall of the sanctuary. A concert held at 5 p.m. that evening to celebrate the event brought in more than 200 people.

Gone is the cracked, light blue mural which for decades graced the space behind the pulpit. In its place is a professionally rendered scheme completed over the course of the last month by a staff of restoration experts from International Fine Arts Conservation Studios, based in Atlanta, Ga.

Rendered in muted tones of gray and white with subtle shading, the 35-foot-by-25-foot mural implies the presence of a curved apse and Corinthian columns supporting a cofferdam ceiling—a space that doesn’t actually exist, but rather is a “trick of the eye” (or “trompe l’oeil” in French).

With only two black and white photographs to go on—one from 1899 and one that was taken pre-1890, Geoffrey Steward and his associates from IFACS visited Sag Harbor last November to scrape through up to 14 layers of paint and discern the history of the design and color palette of at least six full murals which have graced the wall since the mid-1840s.

When they returned in late May to do the work, the artisans cleaned and primed the plaster wall, affixed a canvas support to it and laid out the trompe l’oeil design using stencils. Finally, they painted the image in its original color washes and applied shading to complete the trompe l’oeil effect.

The new scheme portrays the illusion of depth in a way the well meaning, but inexpertly rendered, earlier mural never did. For church member Nancy Cory, the finished product represents the realization of a long time dream.

“I’m delighted, it’s more beautiful than I ever could have anticipated,” said Mrs. Cory. “It’s much more three dimensional and effective in shading and perspective.”

“It’s so different than what we had,” she added. “I think that’s why the moment to make the change came. People were tired of looking at the mural and noticing the perspective was off. We have such a beautiful building to worship in, why not complete the restoration? It’s more fitting and classier. The whole sanctuary is built for the glory of God. It seemed right to do it.”

In fact, it was Mrs. Cory and her late husband, David, who spearheaded the idea of the mural restoration. Mr. Cory was an avid historian who probably knew more about the Old Whalers’ Church than anyone. In the fall of 2007, the Corys vacationed in Provincetown, Mass. where they visited a church filled with fine examples of trompe l’oeil imagery.

Inspired, they brought the idea—and the name of Mr. Steward’s restoration firm—back to the congregation in Sag Harbor for consideration. Then, the economic downturn of 2008 hit, and the church had to put the project on hold.

But in 2013, the Reverend Mark Phillips and Mrs. Cory revisited the idea of the mural restoration. When Mr. Steward said the price would be $50,000—about the same as it had been in 2008—Rev. Phillips reached out to parishioners for financial support. Within a very short time, church members had pledged the entire amount.

“We have no debt for this project due to 12 anonymous donors,” said Rev. Phillips. “We’ve been very careful not to reveal their names, but the gifts range from very small amounts up to $20,000.”

When asked on Monday what he thinks of the new mural, Rev. Phillips responded, “I think its a great addition and a far improvement over what was there. Even though it’s detailed, I don’t think it’s overdone.”

“I was so impressed by the professionalism of the team here, not only were they greatly skilled at what they did, but they always took time, even if 50 people came in during the day, to come down off the scaffolding and explain what they were doing,” he added. “I felt bad Friday when we said goodbye to them.”

Though David Cory didn’t live to see his dream realized—he died in late 2010—Mrs. Cory is certain he would have approved of the new trompe l’oeil.

“David would have loved it,” said Mrs. Cory. “He would’ve been thrilled to have this project completed.”

“I wish he could have been here,” added Rev. Phillips. “But I like to think yesterday he was smiling down and was happy.”

In addition to the completion of the much anticipated mural restoration, on May 16 the congregation celebrated another major milestone—the building’s 170th anniversary, which, as it turns out, was David Cory’s birthday.

Restoration Concert

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The Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor is celebrating the completion of the mural restoration with a concert on Sunday, June 29, at 5 p.m.

Planned by the Reverend Mark Phillips, church music director Dominick Abbate and bell choir director David Cummings, the program will include the best of American music with Broadway hits, love songs, Disney favorites and more.

The Old Whalers’ voice choir will perform with guest choristers and its bell choir and soloists Michael Bodnyk and Susan Vinski.

Mr. Bodnyk, who performed at the 2012 holiday concert at the church, is a tenor who is a section leader of the Cathedral Choir at St. Patrick’s in Manhattan. Ms. Vinski has sung at the church several times and is the lead singer of the band, Suzy on the Rocks, as well as a frequent soloist with the Choral Society of the Hamptons.

The concert will be followed by hot dogs and ice cream. There is no admission but donations will be accepted for the building fund.

The church, which is located on Union Street, is celebrating the restoration of the trompe l’oeil apse mural. Originally painted in 1843 as part of the church’s original design, the mural was painted over and later inaccurately “restored” in the early 20th century. This re-creation is based off of the architect Minard Lefever’s original design through old photographs, sampling and analysis of the wall.

For more information, call (631) 725-0884 or visit www.oldwhalerschurch.org.

Discover Old Whalers’ Day This Weekend in Sag Harbor

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The Historical Committee of the Old Whalers’ First Presbyterian Church on Union Street in Sag Harbor will sponsor a free “Discover Old Whalers’ Day” on Sunday, May 18. The tour will begin at 11:45 a.m. in the church narthex, just inside the main front doors.

A member of the committee will give a brief, informal talk about the building, built in 1844, and the sanctuary, including the trompe l’oeil mural that covers the wall behind the pulpit. The mural will soon be restored to its original design and colors by International Fine Arts Conservation Studios, with work beginning on May 26. The tour will afford one of the last opportunities to view the “before” state of the mural.

Pastor Mark Phillips will give a short talk about the historic organ built by Henry Erben in 1845. The pipes and bellows inside the organ case can be viewed, as well as the manual pumping system, which permits the organ to be played without electricity, if necessary. The tour will culminate with a climb into the tower to see the huge wooden trusses which support the sanctuary ceiling, with initials carved into beams by some of those who constructed the church.

The Old Whalers’ Church, designed by Minard Lefever, is a National Historic Landmark. This event is part of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s annual Sacred Sites Open House weekend. The tour will conclude by 1 p.m., but the building will remain open to the public until 2 p.m.


Hamptons GLBT Center Hires Program Manager

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The Long Island GLBT Network has expanded its presence on the East End by hiring two new staff members at its Hamptons GLBT Center at the Old Whalers’ Church on Union Street in Sag Harbor. Manny Velásquez-Paredes and Lilianne Ogeka have recently been named the center’s program manager and program assistant, respectively, and have been charged with increasing services and programs for the East End’s GLBT community.

With the new staff in place, the Hampton’s GLBT Center can remain open on a full-time basis, expand its youth and senior services, and continue its outreach and visibility within the local community.

“The network is extremely pleased to welcome Manny and Lili to its organization. In their new roles, Manny and Lili will help lead the strategic direction of our Hamptons center and expand the network’s many programs and services in health, advocacy, education and more, and strengthen even further our ties with the community and encourage overall growth on the East End,” said Dr. David Kilmnick, chief executive officer of the network.

As program director, Mr. Velásquez-Paredes, a Riverhead resident, will manage the center and create engaging programs for the East End’s GLBT community and its allies. With more than 18 years of management experience in customer relations, events planning and non-profits, Mr. Velásquez-Paredes is a marketing and communications professional focusing in multicultural/diversity marketing/branding of the Hispanic and GLBT communities.

As the program assistant, Ms. Ogeka, a Quogue resident, facilitates programs and events that serve the GLBT community, as well as coordinate activities for the Hamptons Youth Group. Ms. Ogeka is a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she received her bachelor of science degree in physical education, health education and adapted physical education, as well as a minor in psychology.

For more information, visit liglbtnetwork.org.

Baritone Michael Maliakel to Sing at Sag Harbor’s Old Whalers’ Church

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Vocalist Michael Maliakel will sing at the Old Whalers' Church in Sag Harbor Sunday.

Vocalist Michael Maliakel will sing at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor Sunday.

By Tessa Raebeck

Operatic baritone Michael Maliakel will appear as the guest soloist at Sunday’s 10 a.m. worship service at the Old Whalers’ Church, Sag Harbor’s First Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Maliakel sang as De Brétigny in the Peabody Opera Theatre production of Massenet’s Manon and was praised for his “smooth singing” by the Baltimore Sun. A New Jersey native, Mr. Maliakel recently made his first solo appearance in Musica Viva of New York’s January performance of the Duruflé Messe Cum Jubilo.

Walter Klauss, minister of music at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan since 1976, will accompany Mr. Maliakel, who will perform two of the “Five Mystical Songs” by 20th century British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Old Whalers’ Church is located at 44 Union Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call the Reverend Mark Phillips at 725-0894.

Old Whalers’ Church Yard Sale Benefit this Weekend

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On Saturday, September 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Old Whalers’ Church will host its second annual yard sale to benefit church programming and the historic building’s upkeep.

The Old Whalers’ Church, on Union Street in Sag Harbor, is accepting items for donation including hardcover books, new clothing and shoes, electronics purchases in the last three years, DVDs, jewelry, purses, linens, pots, pans, glassware, dishes, antiques, frames, small kitchen appliances, artwork, prints, collectibles, new children’s toys, gardening items, gift items and holiday decorations.

The church will not be able to accept televisions or computer equipment over three years old, VHS tapes, paperback books, children’s used toys, baby furniture, mattresses, venetian blinds or large upholstered furniture such as couches, chairs and recliners.

Those wishing to drop off donations, should bring them to the church basement on Thursday, September 20 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Friday, September 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The church is also looking for volunteers to help run the event as well as bakers interested in donating to the church’s bake sale, which will run simultaneously with the yard sale.

For those interested in lending their support through purchasing items, the church has also announced it has added a “Chinese Auction” to the yard sale this year. Local vendors, crafters and community members have donated items like a $200 gift certificate for a pet visit to Dr. Barry Browning, a $75 gift certificate for a wash, cut and blow dry at Elizabeth’s Place and a gift certificate for a one-hour body massage plus a month of wellness classes at Southampton Hospital, to name a few.

For more information, contact Diane or Fred Balsam at firstdi@optonline.net or Louise Gazda at louisegaz@gmail.com.

Michael Bodnyk

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Michael Bodnyk

By Candace Sindelman

The tenor soloist and cantor at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Director of Music at Saint Brigid Catholic School will be singing this Sunday Mass at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor.


How did you first get into music?

Actually in high school when we had first moved and my father started his job in a brand new location. My parents were encouraging me to audition for the school musical and I was kind of mortified. I never sang in my life. I told them ‘I am not going to do this until you get me voice lessons.’ I got the lead in the school musical. After freshman year I was asked, ‘what do you want to do now?’ and I said ‘I don’t know, give me something.’ It was my first classical piece, and I just latched on to it and I loved it and everything spun from there.


Have you ever sung at the Old Whalers’ Church before?

I never have been to Sag Harbor or the Hamptons, so this is going to be a first for me. I met Pastor Philips a couple of years back, through the cathedral that I work at and we became friends. When he moved to New York, he invited me to come sing one day in the summer. I looked at the church online; it’s very beautiful and filled with history and I am very excited to be out here. It’s always nice to go to the beach in August.


Do you ever get nervous singing?

I think everybody gets nervous at some point and learn to overcome that. I am not usually nervous singing in a church atmosphere. I try not to focus on performing something for other people; I am performing something for God to help lift people up. I do get the same jitters every now and then and just find ways to deal with it.


What have you enjoyed about teaching music?

Teaching music is something I totally fell into when I was in school in college. I never thought of myself as a teacher, but when I was a senior in college I was a hired as an assistant director of the Cathedral of Saint Patrick Young Singers. I was responsible for teaching vocal technique and every now and then conducting. That same year we were invited to Vienna Voice Choir and by happenstance met the principal of the school in New York City. I was hired right away to teach at Saint Brigid Catholic School in lower Manhattan. I teach kindergarten through eighth grade; I teach a bunch of different things, vocal choirs, instrumental groups and English handbells. It’s been such a thrill to instill music and the kids are great. Teaching is not something I ever thought I would do, but is something I will never stop doing.


What has been the most rewarding part of performing in the church?

I grew up in the church. My father is a Lutheran minister in Pennsylvania. The church is basically my second home. My dad is a very inspirational person to me. Music is so essential to a church’s life. When people sing they are praying, when they are listening to music they are praying. I am so lucky to be involved in a bunch of different ways. I sing about 300 Masses a year. It’s not work at all, I love what I do and I feel so lucky to have it as my profession.


Music & Survival: One Handed Organist Comes to Sag Harbor

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In the summer of 2003, organist Mark Thallander was driving from Wooster, Mass. to Ogunquit, Maine when it started to rain. Storm really — one of those gales distinct to summer in New England. Visibility was limited, and Thallander missed his exit and took the next one.
That’s when the car rolled over, several times. The driver’s side window gave out, and Thallander’s left arm jerked out of the car, and, as the vehicle rolled over, was dislocated from his shoulder.
Thallander doesn’t remember everything that happened after that. He remembers that the windshield was red — doctors would later tell him that he had lost 50 to 70 percent of his blood. He remembers the paramedics saying, “We don’t know how we’re going to get him out of here.” And he remembers signing an amputation release form, even as he told them that his profession — his art — required him to keep both of his arms.
Then the anesthesia hit, and Thallander was taken into surgery.
When he woke up, Thallander says now, he could feel his left arm. So even as the nurse told him that they had amputated it, he didn’t understand. It was a phantom sensation (they continue to plague him to this day) and the nurse called over a pastor who Thallander was staying with to explain what had happened during the surgery.
At that moment, the already accomplished organist thought he would never play again. And yet, this Sunday, Thallander will perform with Andrew McKeon at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor.
Took to the organ early on
Thallander was a fifth grader in Stockton, Calif. when his parents won an organ for a month — four free lessons included. He took to it, and so, when the month was over and the organ was returned, he was sad to see it go. But his parents had a suitable replacement in mind.
“I came home from school and I was pretty upset, and then the next day I came home and a piano was there,” he said.
He started learning the piano and didn’t have another run in with an organ until high school, when the organist at his church went on vacation. Thallander played instead, but it wasn’t until his junior year of college that he realized he wanted to pursue the instrument full-time.
After he graduated, he went on to receive a masters in music education — getting a job at the megachurch that would ultimately become known at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. near the tony Laguna and Newport Beach communities.  He worked first as a member of the television production crew for the church broadcast, but was given a break when an assistant organist left and the church needed someone to fill in.
Thallander’s career at the Crystal Cathedral went on for 18 years. Over that time, he ascended the ranks, eventually becoming the cathedral’s associate director of music. It was an administrative role, but he would also conduct the ministry’s choir when the director of music was out of town.
He left the church in 1983, and worked around the country, eventually landing on the music faculty of Vanguard University in southern California.
After car crash, support
The week after Thallander’s accident was tumultuous. At one point, the morphine pump he was using malfunctioned, and gave him a nearly fatal dose of the pain medication.
While he was in the hospital, Thallander’s father died in California. Because he couldn’t travel, he had to listen in to the private funeral through a cell phone a relative had placed on the pulpit.
But he knew that when he returned to his home state, there would be a public memorial service.
“I knew I wasn’t ready to face that public yet,” said Thallander. And so he began doing physical therapy in Maine, staying with a pastor friend of his. That’s when the music started to arrive.
Composers who had worked with Thallander started sending him pieces that were arranged for two feet — and right hand. Suddenly, it seemed as though he might play again.
“I was told that there would be a season of grief and a time of anger,” he said, “but I moved right through that because of all the support I was receiving and the positive encouragement I was getting.”
After Thallander recovered, he returned to California and asked another organist if he could play with her. When she went to her office to get some tape, he tried playing. He was able to, albeit by using a few different stops than he would have before his accident.
Then, his friends organized a concert in his honor that brought together a massive volunteer choir — and the Mark Thallander Foundation was born. Since then, the organization has put on choir festivals around the country and in Canada, giving amateur singers the chance to sing in a festival environment they might not be able to experience otherwise.
And Thallander has gotten back to performing — thought he’s had to make some adjustments to accommodate his different needs. Usually, he performs with another musician so that he can rest his right arm while they play a solo piece.
“I know now what my limits are,” he said.
Still, Thallander is happy that he can play, even if those limits are there.
“There were two times when I almost died, and when I look back on it those times give me strength because I’m still here and even though I’m limited in what I can do, I still have a job to do.”
And that’s the job he’ll do on Sunday, when he and organist Andrew McKeon perform at Old Whalers’. Thallander said that while the program will feature traditional organ pieces, the performers will also involve the audience by including some hymns for the whole congregation to sing.
Thallander said he had not met McKeon, the organist at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Center Moriches, until this month’s National Organ Historical Society convention in Chicago. He said he approached him and told him, “You look like your picture.”
“He’s a delightful young man and will add a youthful vigor,” said Thallander.
Mark Thallander and Andrew McKeon will perform on Sunday, July 29 at Old Whalers’ Church, 44 Union Street, Sag Harbor, at 3 p.m. Admission is $10.

Going Once, Going Twice… Sold!

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By Claire Walla

Some kids dream of working in the E.R., fighting fires, or flying to the moon.

For Paul Bailey, it was auctioneering.

“One day, when I grow up,” Bailey remembered thinking, “I want to be an auctioneer!”

The son of an antiques dealer, Bailey had been a fixture at auctions across the East End from a very young age. He loved entering a room of worn possessions and artifacts; but, he particularly enjoyed listening to the auctioneer, who when describing each lot would essentially tell the story of how it came to be.

“I wish I could call this a profession,” Bailey, now 65 and a lawyer, wistfully admitted. Instead it’s a passion, although — lucky for him — it’s a passion he’s able to fuel this weekend.

On Saturday, June 2 Bailey will officiate a live auction at The Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor. The items, high end antiques and furnishings offered by 15 or so dealers from across the East End, will be available for “inspection” at 9 a.m. The live bidding process will start promptly at 11 a.m. and is expected to last until 3 p.m., depending on how many items end up on the block. (According to Bailey, it takes roughly one hour for an auctioneer to run through 100 lots.)

Bailey initially thought of organizing the event with his daughter, Kelly, about three years ago as a fundraiser for Stella Maris Regional School. However, now that the school’s closed, the Baileys decided to transition their fundraising efforts over to the Old Whalers’ Church for the benefit of the Community House at Old Whalers’ which was established to improve and maintain the facilities used by groups such as the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons, Alcoholics Anonymous and other organizations.

By partnering with local antiques stores here on the East End (among those taking part is Colette Home Consignment — which is putting up 300 lots alone — and English Country Antiques), Paul Bailey estimates he will ultimately auction-off anywhere from 200 to 400 lots. (The church will get roughly 20 percent of all sales.)

What’s more, in his estimation, Bailey said the event is the first of its kind on the East End in nearly 20 years. And he would know. Though never a full-fledged auctioneer, he has always been an avid auction-goer.

“If there’s an auction within my sightline,” he added, “I go.”

Auctions used to be an annual tradition on the East End, Bailey said. Most prominently etched into his memory now are the summer auctions, which took place each year in Water Mill, where they were run by a man named Charles Vanderveer.

“He did auctions for a living,” Bailey explained. “I was just fascinated by him, so I went up to him one day and asked if he needed a hand.”

Bailey was about 18 years old at the time, and ended up being his assistant for a few years.

Vanderveer didn’t do “a-mile-a-minute;” that verbal technique is reserved for those who’ve attended auctioneering school. (Yes, they do exist. At one point, Bailey even considered attending. “I wanted to be able to talk fast, just for fun,” he said.) Instead, Vanderveer gave Bailey insight into the back-end of the business.

“Being at the podium and doing the auction, that’s only 20 percent of it,” Bailey said. “The biggest issue is getting things organized.”

There are roughly 50 jobs that will be filled (by volunteers) at Old Whalers’ between Friday — when the consigners deliver the auction items — and Sunday, when the last of the items sold are expected to be picked up. These positions range from transporting lots, to guarding the lots during “inspection” and — perhaps most importantly — keeping an accurate list of who bid for what.

They’ll have their work cut out for them — goods to be sold include furniture, lighting, rugs, glassware, vintage toys and one-of-a kind pieces dating anywhere from the late 19th century to the 1960s.

But, behind the podium, Bailey will have his work cut out for him, as well.

Each lot will come in with a minimum dollar amount set by the consignor. While the auction will typically start below that asking price, it’s the auctioneer’s job to try to reach that goal, if not exceed it. Bailey is responsible for setting the pace of the auction by deciding increments.

For example, if the bidding for a table worth $300 started at $200 and several cards were up in the first round of bidding, Bailey might increase the selling point by increments of $25. For less popular items, increments might go up by $10.

“You have to watch your audience and pay attention to who’s bidding,” Bailey said. “Some bidders try to be subtle,” he added with a tinge of disdain. “And if they get lost in the bidding process, they squawk.”

Ultimately, Bailey said the real draw of the auction process is the thrill of discovery.

He continued, “You sit in a chair and you get an education.”

The live auction at Old Whalers’ Church (44 Union Street, Sag Harbor) is Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with pre-inspection beginning at 9 a.m. The auction is unreserved and there is no buyers’ premium. The auction will take place rain or shine, under a tent on the front lawn weather permitting, otherwise in the main sanctuary of the church. The preview will be on the lower level of the church. A café on premises opens at 10:30 a.m., for cash sales of coffee, soft drinks, baked goods and hot dogs throughout the day.

Organist Dominick Abbate

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By Claire Walla

At the tender age of 24, the Southampton native is the new organist for the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor. He discusses his 10-year career and what it’s like to play the oldest organ on Long Island.

Q: Usually, it seems to be little old ladies who play church organs. It’s quite a contrast to you, who started playing church services when you were just 13.

Yeah, people would be so surprised to see me at the organ in church, and when people saw how little I was, they were like: Wow, that’s incredible that you can do that!

Q: Where did you first start playing?

I was the organist for the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Bridgehampton when I was 13. Then I played at the Methodist Church right across the street. It was funny, all my friends were working other jobs in the summer and I was playing the organ year-round. That was my job.

Q: When you went away to college, how did your friends there react when they found out you played the organ?

They were completely baffled. Like, “Why do you play the organ?” But, they were also impressed, because it is a strange talent; not a lot of people play the organ.

Q: Yeah, I imagine it’s kind of a dying art. Have you come across many other young people who play the organ?

No, the majority of organists are older. This is why I thought it was important to get my sister [now a high school junior] to learn to play the organ. I taught her when she was even younger than I was when I learned, because I knew how in demand it was. She’s actually now at the Lutheran Church [in Bridgehampton], and she took over at the Methodist Church when I went to college.

Q: You currently live and work in New Jersey. How did you end up here, as the resident organist for the Old Whalers’ Church?

I came out here to sub for two weeks, and Pastor Mark kind of made a joke about having me full time, then I told him I was looking for full-time work. I had never really considered Long Island because it is such a commute — it takes me about two hours to get out here. But, running everything through my head, it was like: I grew up here, and I could be with my family instead of being in New Jersey. So the combination of everything just worked out.

Q: How did the organ initially make its way into your life?

I started playing the piano when I was around 4. Then, when I was 10, I started taking piano lessons from Ray Duvlas, who was the organist at Southampton Methodist, and he very quickly asked me if I wanted to learn the organ.

Q: Before you began to play, what was your concept of the organ? Was it something that you saw solely as a church instrument?

Yeah, more or less; I really had no concept of it.

Q: You didn’t have visions of the Phantom of the Opera, or anything?

[laughs] No, no, not really. It was just very foreign to me.

Q: Can you explain how an organ works?

For this organ, you have the Swell keyboard and the Great keyboard, and then you have these Stops — [large wooden pegs at the sides of the keyboards] — which all have different sounds. So, for example, if I pull this out… [the notes changed pitch]. And then for every verse you pull out more Stops.

Q: And you have a series of pedals below your feet. What do they do?

You couple them with the keyboard; it’s like adding a bass guitar to a band. That’s what I love about the organ, it’s every instrument: you’re playing flutes and bass…

Q: This is very complicated.

Yeah, it is… Especially on an organ that was built in 1845.

Q: Right, I heard that this is technically the oldest organ on Long Island.

Yeah, it’s really cool. I feel honored to be able to play an instrument like this, which has been maintained for that long — and I think it sounds beautiful.

Q: Because it’s so huge and rather immobile, the pipe organ seems like an instrument that’s integrally linked to the church.

Yeah, it’s not something that you just pick it up and start learning. You really need to have the connections.

Also, there’s the art of playing for a church service. You need to know when to come in on the cues, when to stop playing, what intros to play, when to stop playing. That’s something that I don’t really think can be self-taught, because it’s not just about playing the music, it’s following the methods and the flow of the service.

Q: How long did it take you to figure that out?

A long time! When I first began playing, my teacher would stand behind me with his hands and say: If you falter I’m going to jump in and start playing.

Q: During the service?

Yeah, during the service. I just remember shaking… it took a long time to learn. People in the choir would help me when I first began, because it is really difficult to follow all the cues from the pastor.

Q: Were there ever any moments when you started playing out of turn and it became very awkward?

Yeah, last Sunday!