The Bach and Handel Chorale of Jim Thorpe ended its spring concert season with a concert to benefit the St. John's Lutheran Church Kimball pipe organ restoration fund.

"St. John's has been our home for more than 25 years," said founder and conductor Randall D. Perry, noting that the church serves as both the chorale's spiritual home and weekly rehearsal location.

"We want to support the repairs for this very rare instrument. There aren't many Kimball organs left, and we're glad that this church recognizes what they have."

St. John's organ was installed in 1918 and is nearly 100 years old. It has been 50 years since the organ last saw a major restoration or repair. It is also one of the few functional Kimball organs left in the area.

As many traditional pipe organs become due for repair they have been replaced by less expensive electronic organs, which are also easier to maintain. But for music purists, nothing sounds or functions more beautifully than a traditional pipe organ.

Both Rev. Peter Muhr, pastor, and church council President Walt Schlenner were grateful for the chorale's support and fundraising efforts.

"From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much," Muhr said to the chorale members. "We try to do good things for God in this place. Do you realize what a great thing you do for beauty and truth by being at this church?"

"We'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to the fund so far," added Schlenner. "Once these repairs are completed, they say it will be good for another 30-35 years."

Repairs will begin this week, but the church will continue to accept contributions to the restoration fund for the next six months.

While St. John's is considered home for the Bach and Handel Chorale, it also holds special meaning for Perry, as it is the home church for his family. Perry's parents were married at St. John's, and his mother Eleanor Perry (a chorale member) is the church's longtime choir director.

St. John's is also where Perry first learned to play an organ the Kimball Organ which is now in need of repairs. He served as the church's assistant organist for several years.

During the concert, Perry performed just one piece on the organ. After playing "Nun Danket alle Gott (Now Thank We All Our God)," he noted that the organ will remain silent for the next six months as it undergoes repairs.

"I think it sounds pretty good, actually. But it's going to sound a lot better," he said. "When this organ is finished, it will be one of the best organs in the community. I wanted you to hear it now, so that you can come back later to hear it during a worship service."

The concert included a variety of sacred music selections, including the familiar "A Mighty Fortress," arranged by Gordon Young, and the Southern folk song "Wondrous Love" as arranged by Marie Pooler. Longtime chorale fans also recognized the a cappella "God So Loved the World," a piece performed frequently by the chorale and by St. John's choir.

Guests were also treated to a touching contemporary duet, "Take Up Your Cross," performed by chorale tenors James Varley and Stephen Kruzik. They were accompanied by Kruzik on guitar.

The chorale often dedicates one benefit performance each year to a community church or organization in need. They understand the need for financial support all too well, as the chorale is in desperate need of its own funding to continue offering performances with full orchestral accompaniment.

"There are groups folding left and right, but we have been lucky and blessed," said Perry, noting that they are "cautiously optimistic" about the future but are seeking additional funds for next year's events.

Contributions to St. John's Church Organ Restoration Fund may be sent to St. John's Lutheran Church, 319 South Avenue, Jim Thorpe PA, 18229.

To support the chorale or learn more about upcoming concerts, go to www.bhchorale.org. Contributions for the chorale's orchestra fund may be sent to 810 Carbon Avenue, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229.