Angelica’s Organ Renovations

Below is the original overview letter from David Huffard in regard to our Organ Renovation Project. Farther down are further updates that have occured on our continuing project.

Many people have inquired regarding the status of the organ renovation, and we appreciate the enthusiasm and interest of our church family in this very important project. We are currently awaiting delivery of eight sets of new pipes that are being custom-made in Hagerstown, MD. These pipes, once installed, will fulfill the organ’s new tonal design. Delivery was originally scheduled for this past summer, but a staff shortage and a recent death at the pipe shop have delayed the work. As we know, though, quality work takes time, and past experience testifies to the excellent craftsmanship of the company.

Some may ask, why do we need more pipes? The answer lies in concepts that are perhaps specialized and difficult to explain, but will be made evident in the sound and effectiveness of our completed pipe organ. Our organ, when built, was quite modest in size and resources, but remains very dear to us because each different “stop” (a set of pipes of a particular tonal color) is truly beautiful in tone, and makes its own contribution to the range of variety as well as the overall ensemble. That cannot be said of most pipe organs, generally speaking, so we are particularly fortunate. However, the original design lacked certain stop of middle and higher pitches to provide clarity to the “chorus” registrations, such as those used for hymns, thereby requiring organists to increase tonal intensity through other means. The result is unbalanced sound that can be unduly harsh and muddy, also lacking a cleanliness of pitch that can be readily heard by the singing congregation. The new pipes, most patterned after contemporary work by the same builder, will provide what is lacking, and will open new realms of possibilities.

At the same time, the overall design of the organ is being enlarged to include a large variety of “color” stops, such as new pipes that resemble tones of a clarinet, trumpet, and oboe, pipes that will provide sifter tones for the pedal, and other pipes that can be used in special combinations. While a church organ does not try to imitate all the instruments of an orchestra, there are “families” of tone that are sometimes similar. Our organ will have new “string” and “flute” stops at different pitches to fill out the organ’s tonal resources as called for in a wide spectrum of organ music.

Five sets of the additional pipes were manufactured in 1926 by Casavant, the original Canadian builder of our organ, and possess qualities that will blend beautifully into our organ’s tonal style. Although they are seventy-five years old, the pipes are in excellent condition, and are of a quality that perhaps exceeds that of our 1952 organ. These older pipes were made by experienced immigrant workers who studied their craft with the old masters, and who enjoyed the luxury of pre-Depression financial stability and unrushed time in which to render truly artistic work. Other additional pipes are from various sources, but lend specific tonal colors appropriate to our instrument. The set of trumpet pipes added to our organ in 1977 is being re-worked and installed in a new configuration to improve functionality and tone (i.e. remove the former offensive quality and loudness).

Many thanks, as always, to all who have given to the Organ Fund during the course of our ongoing project; without you, none of the work would be possible. Your gifts and memorials will continue to serve the Angelica congregation for many years to come, while ensuring musical quality and our best offerings to the Lord in worship. As it is with any pipe organ, our instrument is a vital and important asset to the church, and is the most expensive item (in terms of original cost) second only to the church building. Its replacement value, when complete, will be over $350,000. Your gifts beyond the needs of the immediate project will ensure its continued care, and will preserve this unique musical treasure for future generations. Again, THANK YOU for the support you have shown.

David V. Hufford, M.Mus.
Director of Music/Organist

Organ Updates from 2002

As many have already seen and heard, the organ Chimes have recently been re-installed in the rear gallery of the church. The new configuration of the Chimes beautifully frames our very special stained-glass windows, adding to the appearance of our Sanctuary. This work was completed at a fraction of the cost of new Chimes through the purchase of new action frames from the company who originally manufactured our Chimes some fifty years ago. David Hufford spent several days adapting and transferring the original actions to the new frames, and completely re-wired the actions and relays. Kip Flood invested many hours in stripping the old lacquer from the brass tubular Chimes, and hand-polished the brass to restore its original luster. Finally, the actions were mounted in the Gallery by Bob Nowicke, David Hufford, and Kip Flood and the installation was completed over the subsequent several days. The wooden action covers are new, and were made from solid Walnut by Larry Turpening, of Renaissance Pipe Organ Company. Many thanks to all for their hours of diligent and careful work. We hope everyone will enjoy and appreciate the beauty and sound of our re-installed Chimes, as well as the wonderful things and teamwork in making God’s House a more beautiful place.

As the organ work is being done on a cost-of-materials-only basis, there has unfortunately been little time this Summer for continued progress due to a heavy backlog of other work at Renaissance Pipe Organ Company. However, several items continue to be underway, and a recent update indicates that some some of the new pipes are nearly ready for shipment from the factory in Maryland. We look forward to hearing these new sounds, and to continued refinement of the existing instrument, in the months to come. An “upgrade” for the console systems has also been delivered, and, once installed, will make the rest of the console controls operational. Thank you to everyone for you continued faithful support. We hope you are enjoying the variety of music our beautiful pip organ can provide; we are fortunate to have such a special instrument.

Organ Updates from 2002 through 2007

The addition of what wound up being seventeen ranks of new and vintage pipes also required that suitable actions be installed in order to play them. By constructing a new set of toeboards for the Swell Cornet IV (having four pipes per note), it became possible to install three additional ranks of pipes on the existing Swell Main windchest. A significant “find” of four sets of vintage (1926) Casavant pipes from Seattle, WA, enabled the work to move forward with some important additions at great savings. Over time, twelve additional ranks of custom-made pipes were ordered from Eastern Organ Pipes of Hagertown, MD. All of the organ’s wind reservoirs were releathered in the course of the project, and a new two-horsepower blower was installed. During the major renovation of the church building in 2003, the south organ chamber was completely rebuilt through the responsive generosity of the congregation and much hard work on the part of some individuals, and long-needed plaster repairs were completed in the north chamber. In anticipation of this work, all of the pipes and most of the mechanisms were temporarily removed. It was only during this time that the organ was ever unavailable for weekend services. The pipe chambers were fully cleaned and painted, and the organ was carefully re-installed according to the remainder of the pipes and mechanisms. All of the new pipes were delivered, their installation awaiting the still-needed windchest actions.

Great strides in the project were made possible between 2005 and 2007, when long-awaited actions were located as disused parts from Casavant instruments in Salisbury, NC, and Birminghm, MI, both built in 1954. Each of these windchests spent several months in the Renaissance shop while being thoroughly checked, re-drilled, and modified to suit our needs. The two sets of reed pipes that had not yet received professional attention were revoiced in early 2007, and by June 2007, the last of the pipework was finally installed.

The project continues with final touches to refine and complete the console controls, wind system, and tonal finishing as well as to at last finalize the layout of the electrical cabling within the organ chambers. Provisions have been made in the electrical systems for the possible future addition of a horizontal Solo Trumpet (Trumpet en Chamade), probably to be replaced high on the gallery rail, should there be interest in further fundraising or a major gift to the Organ Fund. The organ presently comprises 32 ranks of pipes, having a total of 2,014 individual pipes of metal and/or wood that range in speaking length from barely one-half inch to over sixteen feet. The team of David Hufford and David R. Beck has been responsible for tonal finishing of the organ.

The comparatively-modest plans originally conceived in 1997 have developed into an undertaking of far-greater proportions than ever anticipated, with an overall financial investment of over $90,000. (This figure might be compared to the pipe organ’s present replacement value of approximately $425,000.) The generosity and response of the Angelica congregation has enabled the project to move forward at all times with a positive financial balance, and no debt ever has been incurred. Angelica Lutheran Church now enjoys a truly marvelous and first-rate pipe organ that is easily the finest in town, and which has drawn considerable praise and accolades from many visiting musicians. (One visiting concert organist remarked that “One just doesn’t expect to find such a gem of an organ in a neighborhood Lutheran church.” Its musical “personality” is captivating and colorful, and its impressive range of effects makes for almost-endless possibilities. Our organ’s rich and elegant tones serve to support all facets of our worship, bringing our hymns to life and enabling the due rendition of organ voluntaries from many genres of the repertoire. Its control systems are modern and reliable, and their features enable the rendition of music that might ordinarily be awkward without a three-manual console.

View the galleries below to see our many renovations along with complete descriptions:

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