News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
January 25, 2021
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Oldest Organ in Brooklyn

By Lisa M. Collins
Reverend Johannes Siegert, 46, from Bavaria, Germany, is a resident at the Church of the Visitation of Mary in Red Hook.
Photos by Joshua Kristal

The Church of the Visitation of Mary, in Red Hook, near Coffey Park, was in need of revitalization. So the Catholic Church sent over a team, first a new priest, then a nun and a reverend who are musically gifted, and now, for the past eight days, a team of organ repair-experts from Italy, who came to repair the oldest organ in Brooklyn, located in the church. The Italian emissaries have turned the parish around. Just recently, the church balanced its books for the first time in years.

Brooklyn photographer Joshua Kristal visited the church to document the work. This Saturday, at 3 p.m., the church is holding a concert and special mass to mark a new priest of the parish taking his vows.

Fixing the organ was an 8-day project by Robert Tognolatti  and Giovanni Pradella. Pradella comes from Berbenno Di Valtellina. He says that since he was 14 years old, organs have been a passion of his. He used to listen to his older brother play classical church music, and it “opened” his heart to the sounds of the church and the organ, he said.

Pardella has travelled the world fixing organs, from Japan to Eastern Europe. Pradella says he likes Brooklyn but misses his wife and seven kids back home. Pradella says he looks at his job as similar to that of a painter. Instead of mixing and choosing colors, he is mixing and correcting the sounds of the organ, and blending them together just so.

For Tognolatti, this visit was monumental–it’s his first time on a plane, and the first time to the U.S. The two also build organs from scratch, crafting each wooden pipe, a project that can take up to three years.

Traversin says she really likes Red Hook, as she can find anything she needs just around the corner, and she likes that it’s not part of the “big tour,” but instead has real, working people. The sister lives in Park Slope.

Violinist Johannes Siegert, from Bavaria, says he likes the people and architecture of Red Hook, and the proximity to the harbor and views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, which he can see from his room in the rectory.

Siegert says he likes the multicultural make up of the neighborhood, “artists, workers, African-Americans, Yuppies, Hispanics.”

The reverend, who has played violin since he was 11, says he was walking through a subway station in Munich when he was introduced to this community of the Catholic Church — Koinonia John the Baptist, an evangelical group that works within communities — by people handing out flyers. He was pursuing a PhD in Physics, went to one meeting and was transformed. At that moment, he says, he “knew the love of God and peace.”

The Koinonia has men and women working together creating a family-like atmosphere.






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