Lexington man makes himself at home by playing 28-foot tall church organ

The centerpiece of Jim Ingram's home near Lexington is ordinarily found in churches.

His home's 28-foot high entry hall is outfitted with a floor-to-ceiling organ that once supplied music for an Edgefield congregation.

Ingram's wife, Sarah, jokes that he designed the A-frame hall first, then worried about the house attached to it.

The organ has 85 sets of pipes, three times the number of the typical church instrument.

Edna Bedenbaugh, his keyboard teacher in high school, said Ingram "has always done things with all his might."

Ingram, 60, grew up with an a appreciation of organs -- his mother played the instrument in churches and in movie houses when silentfilms were standard.

"It's something I've always been fascinated with," he said.

Ingram decided to sell and service organs for a living rather than be a musician. Playing his organ at home is "great therapy," he said.

The Ingrams occasionally invite a few dozen friends over for concerts of classics and religious melodies.

"It's purist," he said of that historical emphasis.

His wife -- a retired school teacher -- often joins in on piano.

The Ingrams call themselves amateur musicians because they don't practice daily, but longtime listeners appreciate their performances.

"He uses all the bells and whistles on the organ," friend Lu Bickley said. "He uses all the facets, so you hear all the different ways it can sound."

The organ's sound is muted so it doesn't boom much outside of the home set on four acres with no neighbors nearby. Sound-proof doors mute the sound to the rest of the home from the hall where the organ sits.

While traditional in musical taste, Ingram is up-to-date when it comes to the tones his organ can produce.

He is adding digital features to enhance the musical quality of its 671 pipes, installing hundreds of feet of wiring himself.

Ingram expects to continue connecting the remaining 25 percent of pipes to a new console through late summer.

Cabinets with panels of circuit boards that Ingram calls the "brains" of the computerized setup are hidden in a loft behind tall pipes.

The pipes range from the size of a pencil to 19 feet high, with their sound controlled by knobs in the console as well as the keyboard and pedals.

Duplicating the setup would cost $325,000, he estimated.

The upgrade blends technology with tradition, Ingram said.

"You'll get a lot fuller sound. It is improved so it becomes an even more wonderful instrument."

It's typical, friends say, for Ingram to pull out all the stops when it comes to his passion for organ music.

"It's his baby," Bickley said.