June 21, 2018
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Estate of man who left church over loss of pipe organ to fund refurbished Hook organ in Bangor

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Waldo McClure “Mac” Libbey was so angry 50 years ago when the pipe organ at Hammond Street Congregational Church was mothballed for a modern electric organ that he left the congregation.

In his will, Libbey righted that wrong. He left the church $183,000 to be used only for the acquisition and installation of a new pipe organ. If a pipe organ could not be found within 10 years, the money would go to other charities, according to the Rev. Mark Doty, senior pastor of the church.

“In the mid-1960s the church voted to get rid of its E. & G.G. Hook organ,” Doty said last month. “It broke his heart. He pretty much left the church and just came once a year or so.”

Libbey died Jan. 10, 2009, at the age of 86, according to his obituary. A Bangor native, he taught electrical engineering at the University of Maine from 1943 until his retirement in 1990.

Not long after learning of Libbey’s bequest, Doty ran into Kevin Birch, music director at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor. The York Street church has a Hook that was built in 1861, and a concert series showcases its versatility each summer.

An expert on the tracker organs made by Boston brothers Elias and George G. Hook, Birch helped connect Doty with members of the New Hope Baptist Church in Boston. That congregation was looking for a buyer for its Hook organ built in 1854.

The organ had not been played in 60 years, Doty said last month, but it was considered to be in good shape. The sale went through in November 2012, and the following month, the organ was removed from the Boston church and put in the studio of A. David Moore Pipe Organs in North Pomfret, Vermont, where it will be restored beginning next month at a total cost of $193,000.

Doty said the congregation has raised the additional money to pay for the organ and its restoration. The church also is working on creating an endowment fund to be used for maintenance and routine repairs.

Moore and his assistant Bill Heenehan were at the Hammond Street church last month to take measurements in the choir loft. Moore said that he will have to build a new console to fit the Hammond Street space but would use the two keyboards and 27 note pedal board from the old console at the Baptist church.

The organ maker and restorer did not think all 1,736 pipes removed from the Boston church would fit in the Congregational one.

“The pipes that provided the lower register are 16 feet tall and 11 inches in diameter,” Moore said. “They won’t fit in at Hammond Street.”

He said that the pipes left in the Congregational church would be used with the Hook from Boston.

“These will speak again to the glory of God,” Moore said.

Doty said he is sure that Libbey will hear them.


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