With 4,336 pipes, its awesome and powerful sound can shake the floor.

But the E.M. Skinner Opus 327 pipe organ can also be the source of quiet and soothing bells and chimes, perfect for contemplative time in a house of worship.

This weekend, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, at 939 Hinman Ave., celebrates the 100th anniversary of the historic pipe organ’s installation, with concerts and other events, including performance of an original composition written specifically for the Opus 327.

Some of the more than 4,000 pipes in the Opus 327 organ.

“For generations,” says Peggy Newton, director of a nonprofit that supports preservation of the Opus 327, “this magnificent instrument has elevated everyday worship,” as well as weddings, funerals and other highly significant personal events.

Peggy Newton, director of the Opus 327 foundation and member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

But the organ, Newton adds, “is not something just for the congregation, but for the entire community.”

The Opus organ, one of just a few in the nation in close-to-original condition, is, Newton says, a “hidden gem” in the community.

The Skinner Organ Company was considered the gold standard of church organs in the early 20th Century.

With a 1922 price tag of $50,000, the Opus 327 was a bit of a financial stretch for the St. Luke’s congregation.

But Newton says that George Craig Stewart, the church’s rector at the time, “had his sights on nothing less than the finest organ.”

“He was a big dreamer,” Newton adds, noting that the rector led a fund-raising drive that came up with the money.

Installation was such a big deal that thousands attended a three-day festival.

The Opus 327, Newton says, was “at the height of technology. People were amazed” when they saw it, and even more amazed when they heard it.

Skinner applied the term “Opus” to many organs manufactured by his company, but each of those organs had its own number.

Thus, there is only one Opus 327. There was a 325, 326, and so on.

The 320 series, Newton says, “were thought to be Skinner’s best.”

The Opus 327, she adds, was “designed to mimic the symphony orchestra. It was a wonder of its time.”

One way the organ can create such a sound is with “stops,” some 70 knobs on the sides of the keyboard, each of which adds a particular sound.

Rows of “stops,” knobs next to the keyboard.

Pull on a knob and instant English or French horn, or both.

For a bigger sound, you “pull out all the stops,” which is how that well-known phrase actually originated.

This weekend, St. Luke’s will indeed be pulling out all the stops, with the hope that this three-day festival, 100 years after an earlier festival celebrated the organ’s arrival, will showcase a “piece of living history.”

That piece of history has touched thousands.

“The range and the sound soaring through these high ceilings enhances your spiritual feeling,” Newton says.

“I feel like music brings us closer to God.”

For more information and schedule on this weekend’s events, go to Opus327.org. There is a fee for tickets. Proceeds will go for maintenance and repairs of the historic organ, with the goal of having it around for a 200th anniversary celebration.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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