Requiescat in pace – Don Nieukirk

Don NieukirkDonald Nieukirk, 84, of Peoria, IL, died at 1:51 am Tuesday, June 23, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona. He was a member of Peoria Chapter of American Guild of Organists for many years and served on the executive board for two consecutive terms. His funeral was held on July 2, 2015 at Tremont United Methodist Church. Pastor Dan Perry officiated. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Tremont. Memorial contributions may be made to the Tremont Historical Society or the Tremont United Methodist Church.

Don was a member of Tremont United Methodist Church since 1943 and served as church organist for 57 years, with February 5, 2012 his final Sunday playing organ. He helped design and draw specifications for a new pipe organ which was installed in 1965. He also served as chairman of the Administrative Board, chaired various committees and was the church treasurer for several years.

He was born June 16, 1931 at his maternal grandmother’s home at 1013 S. Capitol St. in Pekin. He married Delores Ann Benn on June 23, 1963 at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Peoria.

Surviving are his wife, Delores; one daughter, Leanne Marie (Martin Jones) of Tucson, AZ; one sister, Ruth Ann McCormick of Lincoln; and several nieces and nephews.

Don graduated from Tremont High School in 1949, and graduated from Brown’s Peoria School of Business in 1951 after completing their most comprehensive course in accounting and federal taxation.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1952-1954 where he served in Headquarters, 7th Transportation Corp Major Port, Pusan, Korea. In addition to assigned duties, he played the piano for Port Chapel services.

Don worked at International Harvester Company District Sales office in Peoria from 1954-1962. He later worked in public accounting in Peoria CPA offices for 32 years retiring in 1994. He worked part-time at Illinois Antique Center after retirement.

He was instrumental in reorganizing the Tremont High School Alumni Association in 1951 and served as president of its Board of Directors for several years, and served as General Chairman and Master of Ceremonies for many alumni banquets. Don was named distinguished alumnus in 2003

He was a member and frequent soloist with Pekin Civic Chorus for 35 years, and a charter member of Bradley Community Chorus organized in 1958 and also did solo work with this group. Don was acknowledged at a 1998 concert as a 40-year member and continued to sing until 2006. He was a long time member of Morton Messiah Chorus where he was a bass soloist and later served as pianist for many years.

Don was a member of the American Pencil Collectors’ Society and an avid collector of wooden pencils. In 1997 he appeared on the FX Collectibles Show on national TV with his pencil collection.

He authored the book, “Pekin and Tremont, Illinois, History in Vintage Postcards” in 2000 using cards from an extensive personal collection.

Don was a member of Pekin Bottle Collectors Club.

He was a charter member of the Tremont Historical Society and served as its Vice President from 1985 until 2006, and served more recently as recording secretary. He wrote feature articles on local history for the Tremont News for several years. He was a charter member of Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society where he served on the Executive Board and as recording secretary for many years. The Nieukirk and Dillon ancestors were among the first settlers in Tazewell County in the 1820’s.

Preserving a Local Treasure

Marker near where the Hinners factory was located; the building no longer exists and the site is now part of a city park.
Marker near where the Hinners factory was located; the building no longer exists and the site is now part of a city park.

A pipe organ does not have to be a grand concert instrument to hold a place of significance, especially in regard to local history.  This holds true for the three manual Hinners pipe organ at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pekin, which was recently rebuilt and restored by John-Paul Buzard Pipe Organ Builders of Champaign, Illinois.  Although Pekin was home to the Hinners Pipe Organ Company and the location of several of their organs, the pipe organ at St. John’s is said to be the only working Hinners left in the city.

In 1927, the congregation of St. John’s Lutheran dedicated not only their current church building, but also the three manual Hinners pipe organ that still resides there and is used today.  Although the Hinners company had hand-crafted many different organs throughout the U.S. and also overseas, building a pipe organ for St. John’s was seen as a special project and opportunity.  Not only was the Hinners factory only blocks from the church, but records indicate that several Hinners employees were members of the congregation.  While not a particularly large organ, it functioned well for congregational use and the members of St. John’s were quite pleased with it.  Others also found it to be a fine and well-built instrument, including Edward Rechlin, an “eminent concert organist” and Bach interpreter, who wrote a brief letter to Hinners giving high compliments of the instrument after giving two recitals at St. John’s.  Regardless of how this organ is perceived today, it was seen as a fine instrument of good quality for the time and the circumstances.

However, the general wear on the instrument in the following decades and certain decisions left the organ in need of extensive repairs and restoration.  It appears that the only time the organ has been re-built was in the 1960s, and it was during this time that the original console was discarded and additional couplers and a “floating” Positiv division were added.  Unfortunately, the added stops from the Positiv division were out of place with the organ’s original tonality, and it was discovered that the additional stops and couplers overtaxed the organ’s current wind system.  The negative effects of these changes, in addition to a large number of “inconsistent” or “dead” notes on various stops and major air leaks in the wind system, furthered the need for thorough work on the organ.  Occasional mechanical problems with the stop controls in the console, and possibly within the organ chambers as well, also caused some unwanted surprises while practicing and during services.

The organ pipes are housed in two chambers at the front of the church with openings into the nave and the chancel.  Pipes for the Great, Choir, and Pedal divisions are in the left chamber; pipes for the Swell are located in the right chamber along with the harp.
The organ pipes are housed in two chambers at the front of the church with openings into the nave and the chancel. Pipes for the Great, Choir, and Pedal divisions are in the left chamber; pipes for the Swell are located in the right chamber along with the harp.

Fortunately the need for extensive work on the organ was already under discussion, so starting this major project was mainly a matter of planning and financial decisions.  I was asked to gather some information about a few organ builders that could provide an organ evaluation and potentially complete the project along with continuing to maintain the instrument.  Based on this information and their own findings, the church trustees contacted three organ building companies and had evaluations of the organ completed in late 2013 and into 2014.  In spring of 2014 the church trustees decided to present the evaluation and proposal from Buzard to the congregation.  By late June a contract with Buzard was finalized with plans for work to begin in August.

The new organ console, located in the right transept, utilizes a reconfigured 1929 Hinners console acquired by Buzard from a Chicago church.
The new organ console, located in the right transept, utilizes a reconfigured 1929 Hinners console acquired by Buzard from a Chicago church.

A team from Buzard spent the entire first full week of August removing, packing, and taking all the components of the organ (except the organ blower) back to Champaign where most of the work would be completed.  Along with the general task of rebuilding the organ, a 1929 Hinners console acquired by Buzard was renovated for use at St. John’s.  In addition, the pipe organ was restored to its original specifications, removing the additional stops and couplers that were added in the 1960s.  During this time the church trustees had some necessary electrical work related to the organ completed within the church and also cleaned, repainted, and installed proper lighting inside the organ chambers.  Re-installation, voicing and tuning of the organ began in mid-November and was completed just in time for Christmas, although one feature of the instrument–a “harp”–was still being rebuilt and would not be reinstalled until later.

Name plates on the  organ console
Name plates on the organ console

The organ was first used for services again on Christmas Eve, with specific mention made in regard to its re-dedication during services the following Sunday.  A special Epiphany service held at St. John’s on January 11th also provided the opportunity for others from the community and surrounding areas to come and hear the organ as well as sing several Epiphany hymns together.  The congregation also received a little surprise on Easter Sunday:  the harp, which was finally reinstalled in late February, received its “debut” during the prelude that morning.

Response regarding this extensive project is both positive and enthusiastic.  Parishioners at St. John’s had many questions to ask, interest in each step of this process, anticipation in finally having the organ back again, and great satisfaction (and some surprise) in the final result.  Having an organ restored is a major project, but the result makes the expense worthwhile and helps to ensure the instrument’s further use and the ability for its musical sounds to be enjoyed by many for years to come.

New Recording by Peoria AGO Member

Cover ArtRachel Keehner, one of the Peoria AGO’s youngest members and also one of our Board Members, has just released a recording entitled “Savior of the Nations: Music for the King of Instruments.” It was recorded on the 1983 Schlicker organ at Trinity Lutheran Church, Peoria, and in conjunction with the Trinity Music Ministry. It features music by Bach, Buxtehude, Mendelssohn, Reger, and Alain among others. A list of the works on the recording and samples of each track are available by visiting http://ldr.fm/emx82.

To order this CD, click here or call the Trinity Music Ministry at (309) 676-4609 (x207). It is also may be downloaded from iTunes and other digital music suppliers or from http://www.loudr.fm by visiting http://ldr.fm/emx82. Note that the digital version does not include the Alain for copyright reasons.

A previous recording by Jonathan Wessler entitled “Praise Him With Pipes…” is also available from the Trinity Music Ministry. Both Jonathan and Rachel grew up as members of Trinity and began their pipe organ studies on this instrument.

Benefit Concert at FUMC on Sunday, February 8, 2015

FUMC PeoriaOn Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 6:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church in Peoria will present an organ concert featuring four organists. It will be a treat for all and will benefit a great cause! We will be hosting a concert for The Geoff Keller Chapter Group of the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States  to raise money and build awareness about Malignant Hyperthermia (MHAUS). Geoff was the son of Rev. Curt Keller, Pastor of Forrest Hill United Methodist Church and passed away of the disease in September, 2012 at the age of 26. Dr. John Orfe, Joshua Marck, Walter Stout and Sherry Seckler will perform music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Marcel Dupré, Percy Whitlock, and others. A free-will offering will be collected to benefit MHAUS.

First United Methodist is located at 116 NE Perry Ave. in downtown Peoria. For directions and/or further details, please call (309) 673-3641 or visit www.fumcpeoria.org.

Epiphany Service of Hymns and Readings at St. John’s, Pekin on Sunday, January 11

St. John's Lutheran Church, PekinYou are invited to an Epiphany Service of Hymns and Readings with prominent use of the newly renovated Hinners pipe organ. Featured organists will be some the Peoria AGO’s youngest members: Rachel Keehner, Nicholas Liese, and Samuel Bishop. The service will be held on Sunday, January 11 at 3:00 p.m.

St. John’s Lutheran Church
711 Court St.
Pekin, Illinois

Refreshments will be served following the program. Please join us to sing some great Epiphany hymns and support our young AGO members.

For a Pekin Times article the restoration of St. John’s organ, click here. For information on St. John’s Lutheran Church, click here.

Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas at Trinity on Saturday, June 14

The Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas will present a concert at Trinity Lutheran Church, 135 NE Randolph Ave., Peoria. This free concert is offered jointly by the Trinity Concert Series (www.trinityconcertseries.org) and the Peoria Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. This choir is a world class ensemble and we very honored to have them visit Peoria.

Since their founding in 1982 by their current director, Wiliams Adams, the choir has grown from 45 initial members into five performing ensembles with about 200 choristers. Located in the Greater Houston area, members are selected from the local area by audition and enter the Training, Town, or Tour Choir. The Tour Choir has traveled to 23 states and gone on nine international tours. For their 30th anniversary tour in 2012, they brought their music to France with concerts performed in several regions including Normandy, the Loire Valley, the Dordogne, the Basque region and Paris. The Tour Choir consisting of 36 choristers is touring Illinois this coming summer by arrangement with Witte Travel & Tours of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Highlights over the past 30 years include: performances for three U.S. presidents; performances with many symphony orchestras; recipient of an Addy Award; and a nomination for a National Emmy.

The choir was organized to give boys with special musical abilities and interests an opportunity to perform more challenging choral literal from classical selections to folk music. The group combines the freshness and enthusiasm of childhood with artistic maturity, something that can only be achieved through serious work. Boyish energy is channeled into dedication to excel, team effort and hard work. For other children, the boys serve as models of purposeful work and high achievement. For adults, they are inspirational reminders of human possibilities.

For more information on the concert, please call (309) 676-4609.For information about the choir and to hear some samples of their singing, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSDjdWNluzU&app=desktop or visit their website at http://fbbctx.org/.

Please forward this message to your friends and neighbors. Hope to see you on Saturday evening.

Position Announcement for Choir Director – Grace and Peace Lutheran Church

Grace and Peace Lutheran Church in Peoria announces an opening for a part-time choir director, beginning September 1, 2014. The position’s salary is based on working 10 hours per week September-May, and follows guidelines published by the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.

Grace and Peace was formed in 1994 from the merger of Grace Lutheran Church and Peace Lutheran Church. It is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and uses Evangelical Lutheran Worship for most of the hymns and liturgy. Full-time staff includes the pastor and the director of evangelism. Part-time staff includes the church secretary, organist, choir director, and custodian. Regular Sunday services are at 9 a.m.

There is currently an adult choir, hand chime choir, and children’s choir. One of these groups performs during the service each week September-May, for special services such as Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday, and once a month during the summer. There is also a global band which participates in worship approximately 12 Sundays a year by playing and singing music from Christian communities around the world.

The choir director is responsible for choosing appropriate music, organizing and directing rehearsals, and directing performances at church services. The choir director participates in the global band as a vocalist and/or instrumentalist. The choir director also selects and directs a children’s Christmas program. The choir director is responsible for scheduling special music for any Sunday through the year when one of the choirs or global band does not perform. The choir director is expected to attend monthly meetings of the Worship and Music Ministry, and semi-monthly staff meetings.

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in music and past experience directing church choirs, or the equivalent in training and experience. Interested individuals should send a resume, with a cover letter describing the candidate’s relevant skills and interests, to:

Choir Director Search Committee
Grace and Peace Lutheran Church
7611 N. Knoxville Avenue
Peoria, IL 61614-2023

Application materials may also be emailed to admin@graceandpeacelutheran.org, or faxed to 309-693-8421. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. For additional information, please contact the church secretary at 309-693-8428.