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New Haven Documentary Film Festival: Organ Stops

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Friday • August 13, 2021 • 7:30 pm
St. Paul & St. James Episcopal Church 57 Olive Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06511

A close up, artistic angle of the bottom of the pipes of a pipe organ with the words "Organ Stops" in red and white script written over the top. There is a subtitle in gold along the bottom that says "Saving the King of Instruments"

The New Haven Documentary Film Festival (NHDocs), Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the NHSO present a special film-concert combo event: Organ Stops: Saving the King of Instruments.

Organ Stops – Saving the King of Instruments tells the story of Martin who has spent his life playing and building pipe organs; nowadays he dedicates all his time to rescuing them – “It’s a real crisis. There are at around fifty churches closing every year and half the organs in them are worth saving.” Beautifully made and historically important pipe organs are being scrapped in their hundreds.

Once at the centre of British culture pipe organs are now largely neglected and unloved. Often just one step ahead of the bulldozers, Martin and a small band of organ “anoraks”, travel the country on rescue missions. In one ex-mining village in the north of England he discovers a fine very rare nineteenth century organ who’s salvage and “rebirth” becomes the redemptive story at the heart of the film. It is eventually adopted by a vibrant, largely Afro-Caribbean congregation in London, and given a new lease of life.

Along with their organs the working-class Christianity at the centre of life in so many small towns and villages in the UK is endangered. Sprightly 95-year-old Blanche Beer, who played the organ at her local Chapel for 80 years, is the film’s most amazing character. Her description of life as a pit-village organist is a wonderful insight into the musical world that is disappearing.

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Seating begins at 7:00 PM.
The film begins at 7:30 PM.
Q&A with director James Dawson begins at 8:45 PM.
Live Organ & Trumpet recital begins at approximately 9:10 PM.

Mike Flynt, NHSO trumpet
Nathaniel Gumbs, organ

Concert organist Nathaniel Gumbs has performed at many venues in the U.S.A. and abroad. He is Director of Chapel Music at Yale University where he coordinates music for three worshiping communities: the University Church in Battell Chapel, and at Yale Divinity School in both Marquand Chapel and Berkeley Divinity School.

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