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After a Lengthy Transplant, Arlington Church Organ Finds New Life in Alexandria

A massive pipe organ that was once housed in the demolished Arlington Presbyterian Church is getting a new chance to make music, this time in Alexandria.

The organ was a centerpiece of the church for decades, back when it was still located along Columbia Pike. But the church’s congregation agreed to work with the county to redevelop the property into an affordable housing complex back in 2016, leaving the instrument’s long-term fate in doubt.

Though Arlington Presbyterian moved to a new space over on S. Glebe Road, church leaders decided to offer up the organ to give away. As it happened, the Calvary Presbyterian Church in Alexandria (6120 N. Kings Highway) had a pressing need open up for an organ at the exact same time.

Calvary leaders say their old organ was diagnosed with “metal fatigue,” which they deemed to be a “death sentence” for instrument. Accordingly, Calvary wrote to their Arlington counterparts to express their interest.

By April 2016,  Arlington Presbyterian told Calvary that the organ was theirs — if it would fit in their church.

“Out came the measuring tapes and, lo and behold, the pipes would fit like a glove within the church’s balcony,” the church wrote in a release. “Moreover, the baroque-like appearance of the pipes would find a comfortable home in Calvary’s sanctuary, which was constructed in 1954 and remains faithful to the traditional style of churches from that era.”

Even still, Calvary said the move required a “Herculean effort of a team of architects, engineers, carpenters, electricians, construction contractors, asbestos remediators, consultants, inspectors, and organ technicians.”

“It was more than two years from Calvary’s selection for the instrument to be installed and operational, following a celebratory and cathartic pipe washing party,” the church wrote. “Today, as you look upward from the pulpit of Calvary’s sanctuary on Old King’s Highway, what would make generations of parishioners from both Arlington and Calvary proud is that their pipe organ looks right at home, like it’s always been there.”

Calvary is even planning a special dedication ceremony for the organ, set for Sunday (Sept. 23) at 10 a.m.

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