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David Hyde Pierce to help dedicate organ his family donated to church

Saturday, October 10, 2009
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David Hyde Pierce turns as Farrell Goehring, organist for the Bethesda Episcopal Church, offers instructions as each prepares for Sunday's dedication of the Pierce Memorial Organ.
Photographer: Bruce Squiers
David Hyde Pierce turns as Farrell Goehring, organist for the Bethesda Episcopal Church, offers instructions as each prepares for Sunday's dedication of the Pierce Memorial Organ.

— Award winning actor David Hyde Pierce on Friday said the Bethesda Episcopal Church was quite important to him when he was growing up in Saratoga Springs.

Pierce, his two older sisters and his older brother all sang in the choir at the historic church at 41 Washington St.

His late father, businessman George Pierce, was a longtime member of the church vestry.

Pierce, 50, who won four Emmys for his role as psychiatrist Niles Crane on the television sitcom “Frasier,” also learned to play the organ at the downtown church.

“I was baptized here, I was confirmed here,” Pierce said. “I played [the organ] for my sister’s wedding here.”

He also attended the funerals of his parents at Bethesda Episcopal.

Church leaders asked the Pierce family if they were interested in contributing to a new gallery organ at the church, which was built in the 1840s.

Pierce, his sisters, Barbara and Nancy, and his brother, Thomas, said they would pay the entire cost for the installation of a custom-built organ and its 520 pipes that line one wall of the church’s organ loft.

Pierce was at the church Friday afternoon, learning to play the new organ under the guidance of church music director and organ master, Farrell Goehring. The actor had driven up from New York City earlier in the day.

“This is the first time I have seen the new instrument,” Pierce said. “Farrell is getting me acquainted with it.”

Pierce and Goehring will play the gallery organ, which was built by Daniel Lemieux & Associates of Argyle, at 1 p.m. Sunday when the instrument is dedicated in honor of Pierce’s parents, George and Laura Pierce of Saratoga Springs.

Pierce, who most recently appeared this spring and summer in the Broadway play “Accent on Youth,” said he hasn’t played an organ in some years. He took organ lessons at the church when he was 16 and a student at Saratoga Springs High School.

His love of music led him to become a piano and music major at Yale University in 1977. He later changed his majors to English and theater arts, graduating in 1981.

Pierce said his father was a vestry member in 1967 when the church removed a 1920s organ from the gallery loft. His father convinced the church to buy a real pipe organ for the front of the church rather than a cheaper electronic version that was being considered.

There was no gallery organ in the church since 1967 until the new, extensive organ was installed this year. The pipe work includes “carefully selected vintage ranks from the first three decades of the 20th century, chosen for their quality and similarity to the style of E.M. Skinner, the organ that was in the church gallery from 1920 to 1967,” says a church statement.

Pierce said he preferred not to say how much the organ and pipe system cost. The entire instrument is computerized with a state-of-the-art digital switching system.

Pierce said he lives in New York and Los Angeles. He is currently in discussion stages about appearing in a new Broadway play next season.

He received excellent reviews for his role as Sir Robin in the 2006 Broadway hit, “Spamalot.” Pierce’s voice can also be heard in a variety of animation films, including the character Abe Sapien in the comic book adaptation of “Hellboy” in 2004.

Pierce, his two sisters and brother each was awarded the Yaddo Medal when they graduated from Saratoga Springs High. The Yaddo Medal, which dates back to the early 1900s, is awarded to the high school senior with “the highest standard of character and scholarship during four years of high school.”

Pierce is known as a tireless advocate for Alzheimer’s research and has chaired Alzheimer’s research fundraisers and initiatives. His father suffered from the disease before his death.

 
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