MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After a CrimeStoppers reward of $5,000 was offered for information on the theft of historic organ pipes from a downtown Memphis church, church leaders said it appears the rest of the missing pipes have been found.
Calvary Episcopal Church posted on social media that Sunday afternoon, May 28, police told them a CrimeStoppers tip led to a truck found in Memphis containing the organ pipes. They said the truck was retrieved and secured, and a final inventory will be completed when this remaining pipework is delivered to Boston for restoration.
Investigators had hoped the extra award money will persuade someone with information on the theft or the whereabouts of the missing pipes. They have not said if the money has been claimed.
“The pipes would have little or no street value but would cost the church about $100,000 to replace,” Kristin Lensch, the church’s organist and choirmaster told CrimeStoppers. “The pipes have a profound intrinsic value because of the historic nature of the organ."
Calvary Episcopal Church on N. 2nd St. said the church received a call about 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 16, that Memphis Police Department had found the stolen truck on a residential street. MPD said it was located at Mountain Terrace and Bethlehem. The church said they were told the officers were on a regular patrol when one of them remembered reading a news article about the theft.
The church said in a release at the time, "While a more accurate accounting will still need to be done, it appears that 15 of the 55 or so crates that were loaded on the truck are missing. We are hopeful that these missing crates will still be located."
Calvary said about 2,000 historic organ pipes had been loaded onto a 26-foor yellow Penske moving truck, bound for the Spencer Organ Company in Boston where there were to undergo restoration. Church leaders said sometime overnight Saturday into Sunday, May 13-14, 2023, the truck with license plate T65589 MA was stolen from the church.
The original MPD report said Penske told investigators the truck had last pinged in the 700 block of Burlington Ave. but when officers checked the area, they did not find the truck or pipes as of Monday.
According to that report, the organ pipes inside the truck are worth $700,000-$800,000. The report said the pipes are possibly made of zinc, and about 2’ wide, 8” stacked, and were on 40 pallets in the back of the truck.
Calvary said the employees of Spencer Organ Company are continuing their work, and the recovered crates, along with the crates that were packed since Sunday, were loaded onto a new truck for Boston.
The church said the pipes are original to the 1935 Aeolian-Skinner organ at Calvary, which has “great intrinsic value and is an integral part of the life and worship at Calvary.”
They said the pipes have accompanied singing and provided music for Sunday and Lenten Preaching services, weddings, funerals, concerts, and more over the last 88 years.
"Calvary is grateful to the Memphis Police officers who noticed the truck while on patrol and to everyone who helped us get word out to locate the stolen truck," said the news release.
Anyone with information on the theft can call the Memphis Police Department CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.