Man gets to play Nevada’s largest organ at Christ Church Episcopal

David Deffner followed his fiancee to Las Vegas not expecting to find work in his field.

“I moved here a year ago and got this job in May,” he said. “I get to play the largest pipe organ in all of Nevada.”

He is the minister of music for Christ Church Episcopal, 2000 S. Maryland Parkway. He directs the choir, is involved in service planning and plays the organ on Sundays.

Deffner, 66, has played music for more than 50 years. When he was 7, he sang in the San Francisco Boys Chorus. He took piano lessons at the University of California, Berkeley, and studied choir conducting in Germany for a year. He has several degrees in music and has taught in high schools and colleges.

While Deffner was a minister of music for a Presbyterian church, the minister recommended him to his friend, the Rev. J. Barry Vaughn.

“I was looking for someone who was creative and flexible,” Vaughn said. “I met David for lunch and I thought he’d be someone I’d be comfortable with.”

Deffner was delighted when he saw the organ and got to to play it.

“I’ve played on many organs over the years, and each one is unique,” he said. “This one has a particularly wonderful sound.”

The organ is 7 years old and replaced a 40-year-old version. It has 3,402 pipes, only 244 of which can be seen without climbing into a crawlspace. The console (keyboards, knobs and pedals) is controlled by electo-pnuematic action and is only connected to the rest of the organ by an electrical cable.

“(The old organ) was small and not sufficiently loud to support congregational singing,” Deffner said.

The organ is much different from a piano. A piano is a percussion instrument, while an organ is considered a woodwind. A hammer strikes a piano key, while air blows through a pipe, constructing the organ’s sound.

“With one finger, you play anything from a single pipe to 100 pipes,” Deffner said. “I’m essentially controlling six different organs from this one location.”

By pulling out knobs or operating other controls, Deffner can make the organ imitate flutes, trumpets, bassoons, oboes or other wind instruments.

“The organ is a very flexible instrument,” Deffner said. “You can do all kinds of music with it.”

Deffner performed his first concert at the church March 3.

“It’s David’s first year here, so we haven’t been too focused on the concert series,” Vaughn said. “Las Vegas is a tough place for classical music. We want to diversify our concert series.”

Vaughn noted that the concerts can bring in new faces to the church, which is trying to rebuild its congregation after several years of decline prior to his arrival four years ago. He said the church is diverse, progressive and inclusive.

“On a Sunday you’ll see a white couple sitting next to a black couple sitting next to a Latino couple, a gay couple, a former U.S. senator and homeless guy off of the street,” Vaughn said. “It’s pretty cool.”

To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email or call 702-380-4532.

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