First Congregational Church of Darien
“Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee". The Christian Hymn flows through the Meetinghouse of the First Congregational Church of Darien. With their heart the choir of this old community of faith of Long Island Sound inspires the worship of the Lord.
This Sunday morning the choir isn’t battling for presence with the now tacit Two Manual Pipe organ. No, it’s their moment, “bringing with their wonderful voices the gathered faithful to a better place”, as John says. John Stuart is the chairman of the Church’s Music Committee. Satisfied and moved, he lets the eye wander from the devoted singers and their master Dan Hague to another “resonating body” in the left corner of the hall. Carefully organist Max Pakhomov, a graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory, draws warm and almost endless sounds out of a shiny black piano and sends them towards the choir. Like a long-term companion the new Bosendorfer grand piano gentle joins the singing and carries the hymn to the people’s hearts.
Looking for a distinguished sound
John needs no more proof. The decision he had made, first with Dan, who coordinates the musical life of the church and runs the choir, and later with the people of the committee was right. “When we decided, two years ago, to invest in a grand piano, since our keyboard had got into age, one of the criterias was that the piano should have a clean sound that wasn’t competitive with the choir. At the same time we were looking for a distinguished sound, mighty and versatile, as Dan and I were planning to establish regular piano concert events at the church.
A distinctive organ and a distinctive grand piano in the First Congregational Church of Darien, Connecticut, USA
“Music”, Dan explains , “ has a spiritual leadership function in church. It should reinforce the preaching. Minor for unhappy moments, Major for joy and glory.. Music, it is worshipping God in another language. The Darian First Congregational Church always had a good musical programme. We always emphazised on the quality of our music as well as on the qualities of our instruments. We have a distinguished organ and now a distinguished grand piano. Both bring highest quality players to the church. And a new appeal for people who otherwise would hardly find their way to the church.
"We were talking about 100 years"
This approach helped to convince the members of the music committee and with them the community to invest in a real good piano. John and Dan: “Though it was a lot of cash that we were talking about. But we always pointed out that the decision that we were going to take was for 100 years.” The proceeds of the sales of antiques - that frequently are donated to the church - at the regular annual “Darien Antiques Show" contributed to the fund raising for the piano as did silent auctions and services. A letter went to the people and brought back many contributions. John: “We also had some memorial funds from people who were very involved with music. Their heirs considered the piano-project as right and prominent use for the memorial money.”
Dan Hague, Music Director of the Church (left), and John Stuart, Chairman of its Music Committee
A prominent role in the selection process was hed by Ori Bukai of Allegro Pianos. His piano shop was nearest to the church and the committee had decided to favour the local one, just for the case something happened. “ He was so unique”, Dan remembers, “when we first drove to his shop, we found ourselves in a residential area. When we entered his “Cadillac” showroom, boy, what an assortment: there were 35 pianos and grands in the basement among them top brands from Europe. And Ori gave us a whole presentation. He is a real piano guy. He didn’t sell us anything but made comments about things that were helpful for us decide. He was very keen at allowing us to decide.”
A wonderful sound
Dan relates :” I had played Bosendorfer before, years ago and since I quite often heard that instrument. But by the time you walked through this basement, even if you didn’t play, you could tell the difference. John again:” With the Bosendorfer 225 we appreciated the clarity that many of these European pianos have. At the same time there was a wonderful warmth coming through. I also noticed that the low notes could provide a beautiful sound without lots of volume. And on the other side we also recognized its capacity to fill our church’s hall.”
Dan enjoys the warm sound of the Bösendorfer.
The music committee shared John’s and Dan’s expertise and together they brought through the process of convincing the Church for the Bosendorfer 225 and of raising the necessary money. John:” Dan and I, we didn’t bring up any other options although, wow, Bosendorfer really has an art programme. But we thought selling the black model to the people involved in the decision making process was a lot easier. Therefore we always emphasized: pianos are black !