Charles Sukup, longtime president of the Sukup Manufacturing Co., and two other notable organists will perform a concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the clockwork organ at Ames United Church of Christ.

The show begins at 3 p.m. Sunday at the church, 217 Sixth St.

“It was set up in 1972, around the time the ISU was just beginning a program to prepare students who wanted to become organists,” said Charles Kniker, minister at Ames United Church of Christ. “But the ISU had no bodies on campus. So Professor Martha Folts brought her students to UCC Ames to practice the Kney organ.

“One of those students was Charles Sukup.”

Sukup first took piano lessons from her grandmother Bessie Bielefeld. While at Iowa State, he took organ lessons with Martha Folts and Lynn Zeigler. He gave two organ recitals on the Kney organ while studying for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering.

“Charles fondly remembers Martha Folts’ dedication concert of the Kney Memorial Organ 50 years ago as a new freshman at Iowa State,” Kniker said.

Sukup, whose parents, Eugene and Mary Sukup, founded Sukup Manufacturing Co. in 1963, served as company president for 25 years beginning in 1995. In 2020, he moved to chairman of the board.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Ames United Church of Christ will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its tracker-action organ.  Organists Charles Sukup, Michael Surratt and Miriam Zach will perform the free one-hour concert.

For the past 53 years, Sukup has been organist for Zion-St John’s Lutheran Church in Sheffield, where he lives with his wife, Mary.

Sukup will be one of the three organists invited to the concert on Sunday.

Iowa State professor Miriam Zach is the first recipient of the Charles and Mary Sukup Endowed Artist in Organ Award from the Department of Music and Theater at Iowa State University. She is Dean of the Central Iowa American Guild of Organists and Music Director of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ames.

Michael Surratt served as music director and organist at the suburban Chicago churches of Wilmette, Northbrook, Hinsdale, and Oak Park from 1971 to 2022. He served as organ soloist with several orchestras in the Chicago metropolitan area, has taught at Elmhurst University and has given organ recitals in the United States and Europe.

Charles Sukup

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The free, hour-long “Celebration and Thanksgiving” program on Sunday commemorates the church organ, which was built in London, England, and Ontario, Canada, by Gabriel Kney.

“Although quite small by some standards, this organ stands out for its versatility, lively tone, careful balance and overall effects to which each of its voices contributes. It is an instrument that meets the demands of a wide range of organ literature,” reads a church press release.

The organ is “perhaps the most unique organ in town,” Kniker said.

“It is a mechanically-acting organ or ‘tracker’, similar to many others in Europe, rather than electronic,” he said.

Ronna Faaborg covers business and the arts for the Ames Tribune. You can reach her at [email protected]


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