What’s Happening With the Organ?

Summary

The Bower Hill sanctuary will buzz with activity, as our current organ is removed and a new Allen Organ is installed in time for Advent. This article explains the history and rationale for this investment.

History of the Organ At Bower Hill 

  • Our organ, a Hutchings, is mostly 112 years old and was installed in Bellefield Presbyterian Church in 1904. It was repaired and refurbished in 1962 by Moller and  six new ranks of pipes were added (54 years old). It was purchased by BHCC in 1985 and installed in 1986 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the church.
  • In 2003, $65,000 was allocated to purchase and install the current console from California, based on the recommendation of David Daugherty. The total cost was $59,402.12

How Does an Organ Make Sound?

Our organ sounds are created with 2064 wind-blown pipes.  Each pipe has its own valve which opens and closes a leather pouch located in the wind chest under each pipe. When a key is pressed, the appropriate valve opens (deflates) a leather pouch that allows the pipe to receive the air that makes it speak.

Excerpt from David Daugherty’s 2005 Annual Report

How long has the organ been failing?

Though the current console had been installed in 2003, Daugherty’s 2005 Annual Report indicated that an eventual rebuilding of the organ would be necessary.

o   Electro-pneumatic systems had begun to fail (inner workings of the organ).

o   Leather pouches in pedals had begun to fail.

o   Valves attached to leather pouches had begun to fail throughout the instrument.

o   Electro-pneumatic tremulants had failed at 100%.

o   Chimes had failed at 100%.

o   Ped 16’ Diapason pipes had become physically inaccessible to service.

o   He recommended that a redesign and rebuilding of the entire section of organ would be necessary to rectify the problems.

What has happened since 2005?

  • All pedal pipes need to be re-leathered. This is the cause of the frequent ciphers that have interrupted worship (approximately $3,024 to repair).
  • At the Henney funeral, numerous knobs literally flew out of the organ as I hit combinations. This is jarring for the musician and, potentially, the congregation.
  • Approximately 32% of the organ ranks are damaged – mostly in the pedal.
  • The 4th keyboard on the console is physically sinking, putting pressure on the swell keyboard. This will eventually render the swell- about 1/3 of the organ-unusable.
  • Shutters have continued to fail.
  • Pipes have been repaired with Duct Tape and string.

Impression

The bulk of our instrument is 100 years old and is far too small for the size of the sanctuary. The console is far too large for the instrument, and is, itself, failing.  If we were to redesign and rebuild it, it would likely cost in the neighborhood $500,000, and we would continue to have 100 year old parts that would still cause problems. A completely new pipe organ, appropriately designed for our sanctuary, would likely cost more than $1M. This led us to consider electronic instruments, which if done well, are indistinguishable from pipe organs.

Allen Organs, the gold standard of electronic instruments, is the vendor that supplied the organ at Heinz Hall, and an Allen Organ replaced the pipe organ at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

At its June Meeting, the Session voted unanimously to purchase a CF-62 Series organ from Allen at an estimated cost of $105K.

Meet the C-F 62 Chancel Organ!

57 Stops / 3 Manuals

  • Larger instrument and audio package than is used at Heinz Hall.
  • 12 key transposer, to make all hymns singable and accessible to instrumentalists.
  • Speakers in the rear of the church will fill the space with sound.
  • Voicings are spread over speakers in 4 different locations, so it will sound like a true pipe organ.
  • Custom console designed to our specifications.
  • 10 year warranty, zero dollars maintenance.
  • Never goes out of tune.
  • Projected to be fully installed in time for Advent!

 

–Anne Carper Smith

  Director of Music Ministries

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