Organ News

Replacing Our Organ Console

Why retire the Möeller Organ console?

Picture what it is like driving a car today, and the experience you expect to have. Now, imagine that instead of your modern car, you were still driving a 1981 Buick. It was a perfectly respectable car in its day, but it is now both outdated and difficult to keep in working order. The organ that Dr. Lee plays every Sunday was installed in 1981/1982 and the console (the part with the keyboard) is filled with miles of wiring that make its insides look like an old fashioned telephone exchange. This console is made with outdated technology plagued with problems that make it difficult, and sometimes nearly impossible, to operate.

How our organ works, or doesn’t…

A pipe organ is a complicated machine. The console is the control center for the organ. The organist pulls physical drawknobs, or stops, on the console that link to a series of switches and magnets to control which pipes are connected to the keyboards (and pedals) at any particular moment. Pressing a key on the console sends an electric signal to a magnet that opens a valve that lets air pass through a particular pipe. Depending on the settings that the organist has chosen, a single key may cause the valves on many different pipes (tuned to the same pitch) to all open at once.

On our organ console 15 stops and 24 registers are not reliable because of connection issues within the console and the way it fails to send signals to the pipe valves. Frequently Dr. Lee has planned to play using particular stops and registers, but these fail at the moment she intends to use them, causing her to adjust on the fly and pull out other stops as she is playing until some kind of sound (often at a volume or in a style she doesn’t intend) comes out. This is frustrating for the organist and causes a poor experience for the listener.

Ongoing repairs…

The trustees and finance committees have approved a lot of repairs in the past three years to improve and fix problems with the console and pipes. Most of the pipes are now in good condition (with the few exceptions of some pipes of lesser quality added after the original installation). However, the console has had to be continually repaired or adjusted to keep it in a semblance of a working condition.

To find a more permanent solution, an Organ Committee was created to explore what our options are, and to meet with various organ company representatives to get bids for rebuilding or replacing our current console. Over the past several months, the committee has met with three major organ companies and received multiple quotes, and is now prepared to recommend a new console from Church Organ Solutions, which sells Rodgers Organs.

A modern console

Rodgers organ consoles are hybrid organ consoles which will control our physical pipes as well as play additional organ and orchestral sounds digitally in order to create a versatile hybrid instrument. The organist can create different combinations of sounds created by both our current real pipes and new digital ones playing through speakers, digitally sampled from other orchestral and percussive instruments. Additionally the organist can easily switch from pipe organ to digital organ as a backup if a pipe fails while playing. The committee is recommending a console they believe will meet all of our needs now and well into the future: the Rodgers Imagine 351D.

The Rodgers Imagine 351D

This console has three manuals (keyboards), compared to the two manuals that our current Möeller console has. The extra manual will make it easier for Dr. Lee to have different manuals set to play different kinds of sounds that she can switch between easily. The Rodgers 351D has 51 stops which can control both our existing pipes and up to 198 digital voice palettes across multiple different styles. Additionally, the customizable stop library offers another 88 pipe organ stops and 37 premium orchestral voices. Real-time stop selection also makes advanced mix-and-match options possible. With a total of 323 choices, the organist can create personalized registrations for any style and period of organ literature. Imagine Organs also provide an easy-to- use record and playback system and USB connectivity and storage. It is a modern, versatile, and reliable piece of technology that the organ committee believes would be a great improvement over our original malfunctioning console, and which should serve us well for many years to come.