Wowed by an organist he saw in a YouTube video, Savannah’s Mark Williams wrote to the Italian church mentioned, asking about the musician.
A string of emails followed, and that impressive Italian concert organist he saw, Emanuele Cardi, is headed to Christ Church Anglican to play and dedicate the downtown church’s new organ in a free concert at 4 p.m. Oct. 21.
“At this concert, you will hear the organ in its full glory, from the floor to the rafters, played by a master artist ... in a really splendid acoustic,” says Williams, Christ Church Anglican parish musician.
Cardi will play works by Bach, French organists Charles-Marie Widor and Eugène Gigout, and German composer Friedrich Reubke.
But the new organ’s background is just as stunning. Williams designed and built it himself. It’s his third, “Opus 3.”
Williams, 58, recalls taping empty Christmas wrapping paper tubes to the back of his parent’s reed organ “to make it look like it had pipes when I played it.”
His connection to “the King of Instruments” extends even further: As a boy, Williams asked to sit by the organist at his Presbyterian church to watch her play.
“I thought the feet thing was pretty cool,” Williams says.
In high school, he began formal organ studies after studying piano since second grade. He became a church organist as senior, also apprenticing with an organ builder in Houston.
He also then began work on a manual organ in his parents' home, “a huge undertaking” he finished as a college sophomore in 1979. Following his “Opus 1,” he completed his "Opus 2" in 2009. He modeled the instrument after the domed Basilica of St. Nicholas in Amsterdam.
But when Christ Church Anglican left the large English pipe organ in the historic church on Johnson Square, they needed an organ.
Williams began constructing one for their new locale in their renovated historic church next to the Bull Street Library.
He used materials from Organ Supply Industries, Home Depot and Amazon.com, as well as supplies from Holland and Bulgaria. Some weeks he worked 10 hours, others more than 50.
“It is truly remarkable to have the gifts of our parish musician to craft and install this organ,” parish catechist the Rev. Joseph G. Gasbarre says of Williams.
Worship is one of the key values in their church vision, he says.
“Mark Williams’ time and talent of this organ exemplifies beauty and craftsmanship in such a way that deepens our vision to worship the greater beauty of Christ Jesus," Gasbarre says.
The pipe organ allows Williams to tap into music from as far back as the 1400s and replicate it, in hopes of enthralling the listener.
“It can really touch the soul,” Williams says, “as it can play so soft as to touch the innermost recesses of the soul, and so loud and rich as to stir the heart.”