WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- Vermont farmer A. David Moore is an unusual combatant in the nationwide worship war between the pipe organ's foes and enthusiasts. He builds the Queen of Instruments almost exclusively from materials grown and raised on his land.
Judging by his order book - and those of his competitors - organ lovers appear to be winning the conflict with the followers of church growth promoters such as the California pastor who shouts at fellow pastors, "Why are you still using this thing people hate?"
Moore and his sister own 1,100 acres of pastures and forest in Pomfret near Woodstock, Vt. They grow blueberries and apples, raise cattle and pigs, and have them slaughtered and turned into filets, loins and sausages only 100 yards from the shed where Moore and two helpers labor on an instrument that will fetch anywhere between $250,000 and $300,000.
Yes, when slaughter occurs it does slow down organ building somewhat, Moore allows. On the other hand, dead cows do contribute to an organ's birth. Their hides will become leather, an essential component of the instrument, whose key covers Moore fashions from a departed animal's bones.
The Moore family, which has owned this farm for more than 200 years, is a model in self-sufficiency. David plants the trees, Maple, for example. His sister later milks their sap for syrup. And when the time comes, David cuts them down and cures their wood to be turned into organ pipes.
"This is an all-inclusive operation," he says, "no middlemen here."
Of course, it's not only maple wood that gives the Moore organs their warm, almost human sound, which makes them ideal companions of a congregation's, choir's or soloist's voices. Moore uses other woods as well, oak, basswood and butternut, for instance, plus tin and lead from recycled old organ pipes, and from ore melted down in his farmyard smelter. "I also used to melt pennies for copper," he says in an interview, "but it turned out that their metal was too impure."
What kind of an organ comes off this Vermont farm? Well, Moore says, it's usually a 25-rank instrument with two manuals plus a pedal board, tuned neither like the central German organ, which is particularly suited for playing baroque music, nor like the typical French organ that lends itself chiefly to Romantic and modern works.
Moore's products are typically American, much like the eclectic and therefore very versatile instruments built in the United States between 1825 and 1875. He personally fits well into this pattern, Moore admits: "I love Romantic music, and of course Bach, but especially early, pre-Bach composers such as Schuetz, Schein and Scheid."
In the worship war, Moore and his helpers are in a sense a M.A.S.H. unit fixing up casualties. Here is how this works: As the praise band addicts rip pipe organs out of their sanctuaries, rescue teams rush in and salvage the unwanted instruments, put them in a safe place, have them restored, and then try to find a loving new home from them.
As irony will have it, there has emerged parallel to the American praise band craze a movement in precisely the opposite direction - back to traditional liturgies, often with smells and bells, Gregorian chant, the Lutheran chorale and the Geneva Psalter. This is a movement of young, cultured professionals, whose neo-traditionalism is also reflected in their preference of solid confessional 16th-century theology over contemporary feel-good religion.
Some start new congregations, too small to be able to afford brand-new organs, but willing to buy discarded and restored instruments at a lower price. David Moore might be their man. "Thirty miles from my farm, an organ clearing house maintains a warehouse holding currently 50 instruments looking for a new home," he says. "I have myself restored about a dozen." How much do they cost? About half as much as new organs.
Moore views the current hostility of some pastors and church councils to the pipe organ as a passing fad, which has had many predecessors - the nutty replacement of pipe organs with harmoniums, reed organs and, more recently, electronic instruments delivering, in effect, just canned music.
"It's stupid," growls Moore, "because if a church has a good organ, it attracts a first-rate organist, and that translates into concerts, higher revenues, and ultimately more parishioners."
Grace Episcopal Church, a charming sanctuary once built for Potomac sailors and men working on a canal in Washington's Georgetown section, is a case in point. It has only a small congregation of some 200 members. Yet it features Francine Maté, who holds a doctorate in sacred music and is considered one of the capital's finest organists.
And guess who built the organ Francine Maté thumps mightily during Grace's services and especially the church's annual Bach Festival, which has already a ten-year history? You've got it -- it was A. David Moore, the Vermont farmer.