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Pipes of peace

It is rare these days to hear the full power of a pipe organ unless you are lucky enough to attend a local church with one of these immense instruments centered in the apse, on view for the congregation to enjoy.

But on Sunday, Dec. 30, Dr. Margaret Evans will play Trinity Episcopal Church’s mechanical-action, 709 pipe organ in a recital, “Organ Music for the Seasons, Music of the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany Seasons,” for all to enjoy.

Starting at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal, 44 N. Second St., Ashland, the recital is a benefit performance for Options for Helping Residents of Ashland.

Evans says the performance is a celebration of the collaboration and compassion that Ashland’s civic-minded folks, churches and congregations have shown to those in need. Performed in the spare, beautiful space of Trinity Episcopal, Ashland’s oldest church building, the haunting, triumphant sounds of the 709 pipes in the Wilhelm organ will resonate in a sacred space first used for worship in 1894.

“Artistically, it’s very satisfying to play this organ; some of the works are fairly well-known organ pieces and some not terribly well known, but all based on hymns,” Evans says. “I’ve chosen the pieces so they will work well on this instrument and I think it will show off the instrument very well.”

Advent and Epiphany bookend the Christmas season in the Christian tradition. Advent is the first season of the church year, and the four Sundays leading up to Christmas comprise the season of waiting and preparing for the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. The Advent selections include works by Bach, Sowerby and Hailstork.

Works by Pachelbel, Schaffner, D’Aquin and Dupre will represent Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ that begins on Dec. 25 and lasts for 12 days. Epiphany begins on Jan. 6 and is said to be when the wise men visited the baby Jesus. Epiphany will be represented with hymns composed for the organ by Michel, Buxtehude and Hobby.

Each musical season will include a hymn for the audience to join in and sing along.

Evans and her sister, Barbara, long have been supporters of the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland’s work to serve those in the community who need help. OHRA president Ken Gudger says Ashland’s winter shelter program was started years ago by two First Presbyterian women.

According to First Presbyterian Pastor Dan Fowler, 18.7 percent of Ashland residents live in poverty, which is about 3,900 people. With a rental vacancy rate of about 1 percent, many can’t afford housing and essential services.

“We had to applaud the Presbyterian Church for taking this on because it’s such a multifaceted problem,” Evans said. “To have any organization say they want to be involved takes some real caring for the community.”

While First Presbyterian doesn’t have a pipe organ, Trinity Episcopal does, and that’s the pipe organ Evans played for years when she first moved to Ashland to teach at Southern Oregon University.

Four Ashland churches provide a location for the winter shelter until a single shelter site can be organized: First Presbyterian, Trinity Episcopal, First United Methodist and Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Other churches and nonprofits provide hosts who are responsible for running the shelter that night: First Presbyterian, Trinity Episcopal, Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist, Temple Emek Shalom, United Church of Christ, the Quakers and Southern Oregon Jobs for Justice. ACCESS, Jackson County and the city of Ashland are also involved.

“It’s a community collaborative,” Gudger said. “It’s a real success.”

Sunday’s concert is free, although a $20 donation to Options for Helping Residents of Ashland is suggested. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. with a reception in the Trinity Episcopal Church Parish Hall to follow.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

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