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Sounds of Artown: The Pipe Organ at Trinity Episcopal Church


After a month-long celebration of the arts in Reno, Artown is wrapping up this week. The festival includes a variety of events showcasing local treasures, including the massive pipe organ housed in downtown Reno at Trinity Episcopal Church. At a lunchtime concert there, Reno Public Radio’s Michelle Bliss found the pews packed with a hundred eager listeners.

Organist Angela Kraft Cross has been playing for most of her life—she began at age ten, transitioning from the piano.

“The organ is a fantastic instrument. There’s a certain power to playing," she explains, "but there’s also an enormous versatility. It’s like having an orchestra at your fingertips.”

For Cross, who traveled from her home church in San Francisco to make a guest appearance during Artown, this instrument allows her to practice what she calls “her deepest worship.”

“Music is almost the most important part of the worship service," she says. "Now, that sounds almost heretical because obviously the sermon and the message and the readings from the Bible are important, but there’s something magical in music that reaches you in your inner core, and it changes you.

Trinity Episcopal Church had the organ installed 15 years ago. Back then, it was the largest in the state.

“There’s a total of 2,177 pipes," church member Bob Snavely says, "and they range in size from, oh, a pencil-size up to the large pipes on the front of the organ that are 16 feet tall.”

Snavely has been a member of the church for 45 years and he helped raise the roughly half-a-million dollars it took to bring the massive instrument to Reno after it was built in Quebec.

“When it was finished, they shipped it to Reno in trucks," Snavely remembers, "and that was a huge holiday here. It was quite the new thing in town.”

Since its installation, Snavely says the organ has become a community staple, not just a parish resource.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.