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The James G. Kenan Memorial Organ represents a new chapter in a history that brings together memories, families and traditions at All Saints’
It all began two generations ago when Annice Hawkins and Thomas Kenan married, joined All Saints’ and raised four children. As active parishioners they were blessed by the church’s outstanding music program led by organist and music director Joseph Ragan, who had been hired in 1930. At the time, All Saints’ was enjoying its second organ since the original instrument had been destroyed in the 1920 fire.
Annice and Thomas Kenan’s son Jim graduated from the University of North Carolina, attended Harvard Law School, and graduated from Emory Law School before joining the United States Navy in the Second World War. He worked briefly in New York and then returned to Atlanta to manage a family investment firm. At the same time he began to engage fully his calling as a philanthropist. Active in the Atlanta community, Jim Kenan served on the All Saints’ vestry and on the boards of the Atlanta Speech School, the Atlanta Historical Society and the Emory University Board of Visitors.
In 1968, Gregory Colson became organist and music director at All Saints’. Soon after, the vestry voted to repair All Saints’ third organ, which had been in use since 1949. The vestry minutes of February 1969 report that Jim Kenan and his brother Frank, of Durham, N.C., contributed a generous gift to restore the 1949 organ. Repairs were not sufficient, and the following December the vestry authorized construction of a new organ. Once again the Kenan brothers offered a substantial gift, and in keeping with their wishes, it was consecrated in memory of their parents, Annice and Thomas Kenan. Jim and Frank Kenan’s vision complemented their generosity, for they also established a music endowment that continues to support the music programs and needs of All Saints’ Church. The Kenan Memorial Organ, built by the Schantz Organ Company, served the parish well for three decades.
According to Jim and Anne Kenan’s daughter, parishioner Sarah Kenan Kennedy, the Kenans were not a musical family. She recalls that her father had great appreciation for classical music and many composers but music was not a dinnertime topic of conversation. Nonetheless, Jim and Frank Kenan practiced stewardship with an open hand. Sarah believes that “Dad and Uncle Frank simply wanted to help with the needs of All Saints’ at the time, and the organ was a fitting way to honor the memory of their parents who had been so involved here.” With their gift, Jim and Frank Kenan connected past, present and future generations through the All Saints’ music program.
Having grown up in Atlanta, the third generation of Kenans gradually dispersed to various states beyond Georgia. Sarah and her husband Jim Kennedy returned to Atlanta from Colorado in the mid-1980s and began looking for a church. On their first visit to All Saints’ they knew they had found a home. According to Sarah, we realized immediately that this was the place for us.
In the late 1990s, All Saints’ parishioners became increasingly aware of the sounds of age coming from the Schantz Organ. Strange sounds and inoperable stops were impacting the performance of the thirty year-old instrument, and the All Saints’ organists – Ray and Beth Chenault and Jefferson McConnaughey – began the process of determining whether the existing organ could be repaired or if a replacement was needed. A preliminary report was presented recommending a new organ. The vestry authorized the formation of an organ committee to manage the project and the rector named Greg Kellison to chair the committee.
The organists and the committee carefully researched numerous organ builders. With vestry approval, the organ committee selected Buzard Pipe Organ Builders of Champaign, Illinois to build the new instrument. Chapman Coyle Chapman Architects of Atlanta, Georgia was selected to manage the overall project.
Sarah Kenan Kennedy acted quickly. “As a member of the organ committee that was formed to discuss the need to renovate or replace the organ,” Sarah recalls, “it seemed obvious to me that my siblings and I should carry on the Kenan legacy.” The Spray Foundation, created by the Kenan family, provided principal funding for the new All Saints’ organ. In keeping with family wishes, the organ is consecrated in memory of Sarah’s father, James G. Kenan.
The generous gift from the Spray Foundation is about memory, honor, history, and family. Sarah emphasizes, “This organ is not about us. It is about remembering Dad and reaching out to the folks at All Saints’, as he would have done.”
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