Cincinnati Enquirer 18 August 2016
THE ENQUIRER ///THURSDAY,AUGUST18, 2016 17A Sylvia Thiel had a two-week old b aby boy when her husband Mick v olunteered her to play the organ at St. Columban Church in Loveland. That’s where the story of the “Allen Organ” really begins. “ A lot of things at St. Columban b egan with me,” Thiel said, with a h earty laugh. “In 1971I started in July. I had a two-week old baby and my husband volunteered me, God love him. And I had three in diapers, he was my third son.” Thiel began playing the organ at c hurch for whatever Mass she attended. She said Marilyn Schildmey- e r also volunteered and played the organ at the 4:30 p.m. Mass every Saturday. While both began as volunteers, organist eventually became a p aid position. “The parish grew with me. We all g rew up together,” Thiel said. “I learned to play the organ and they learned to put up with me. We are a big singing parish.” Getting the people to sing was the greatest thing for Thiel. She served as the first parish music director until 1987. It was during the ’80s she a nd Esther Wolliver, another parishioner, were sent out to buy a new organ for the growing church. “It was the blind leading the blind,” she said. “I’m sure people w ere praying for us that we would m ake a good decision.” Their eyes were opened to an A llen organ by a most helpful sales person and prayers were answered. The Allen organ they bought from the Schooley Piano and Organ Co. served St. Columban very well from 1980, through installation in the current church in 2002, and until 2008. Then, after 28 years and still provid- i ng a good sound, the Allen organ was temporarily set aside for a new Rogers organ installed at no cost to b e showcased for the dealer. “We readily agreed to this, but kept the Allen organ for the day the a rrangement would end and we’d need to reinstall it,” said Mary Bell- man, current music director for St. Columban. “Several organs came and went that year, until a generous par ishioner came forward to donate the one we currently have.” With a new organ installed, Bellman said it was safe to let the Allen organ go. Word came that a Catholic r etirement home in Cartagena was in n eed of a small organ. St. Columban donated the Allen and told them to p ass it on. Thus the journey began for the traveling church organ. There is no detailed log of everywhere it has been since 2008, but the traveling Allen organ is known to have found several different homes. Among them was St. John the Baptist Church in Harrison. Just months ago a par ishioner there donated a new organ and “Allen” was ready for travel once again. “ The music director called and asked if we wanted it back,” Bellman said. “Most parishes would say, ‘No, t hank you’ but at St. Columban, we recycle.” Parishioner Diego Beeker has been playing bass at three of the four weekend Masses at St. Columban for m ore than a year. The 2016 St. Xavier High School graduate is also an excellent pianist and percussionist who will major in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama begin- n ing in the fall. If things go well f reshman year in engineering, he hopes to add music minor with a f ocus on playing the organ. The Allen organ was offered to the Beeker’s - it seemed a perfect match. “I got it from St. Johns over in Harrison,” said Beeker, who knows the St. Columban Allen organ history. “I think it’s really neat how something this big can travel and find its w ay from its original home at St. Columban, go visit some other people, and then just return here.” B eeker has a long history of organists in the family. His great-grandmother and great-grandfather - on h is father’s side - both played the organ. In fact, Diego has a photo of himself as a young boy sitting at the organ with his great-grandfather. He owned several organs the last of w hich is currently in the Beeker’s home. It’s actually newer than the Allen now installed in their Loveland home. “This organ is old,” he said, ref erring to the Allen organ. “It’s older t han me. The first one I got is actually younger than this one.” T he journeys we make in our lives tend to shape and mold our character. Beeker pointed to a scratch and nick on the Allen organ as a sign of its journey - a mark of character for the organ. He chose not to have the scratch and nick repaired. As Beeker prepares to begin his own journey to c ollege in Alabama, he is mindful of his youthful visits to see his great- grandfather and how his interest in m usic took shape. He is also aware of the journey the Allen organ travelled finding its way home to Loveland. “ I’ll find my way home,” Beeker said. Church organ finds way home to Loveland Traveling Allen instrument is back at St. Colomban Chuck Gibson email@example.com CHUCK GIBSON FOR THE COMMUNITY PRESS St. Columban parishioner and musician Diego Beeker plays the Allen church organ which began a journey at St. Columban in 1980 that took it to several churches and cities.