Cover Feature

Emery Brothers, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Christ Church in Short Hills, Short Hills, New Jersey

 

From the builder

It is no secret that tonal styles and the desires and expectations of organists have undergone significant changes in the last hundred years. Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1347, built in 1960, evidences most of the characteristics one would expect from an organ of that decade—lower wind pressures (Positiv speaks on 2 inches wind pressure), ample mixtures and upperwork, and as I heard a colleague once say, “plenty of Zs and umlauts.” Make no mistake—this instrument, as originally designed, made a strong, cohesive statement as a whole, and with the clever division of Swell and Bombarde on the third manual, provided a surprising amount of room for creativity in registration.

Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1347 was well designed and well built, thus its physical restoration formed the core of the project. In the course of this work, we stripped and releathered pouch boards, stripped and releathered reservoirs, including the installation of double gussets, fashioned and installed new primary valves on primaries and unit actions, releathered tremolos and shade engines, totally rewired the organ, and reconditioned the blower and motor. Everything wooden received a thorough cleaning and, where appropriate, a new coat of shellac. Pipes were all individually cleaned and polished by hand, stoppers stripped and repacked, and open flue pipes fitted with new stainless-steel tuning slides. All pipework was checked for voicing and regulation before leaving the shop, with final tonal finishing completed onsite.

However, in this project we were tasked not only with addressing the physical breakdown of the organ’s various mechanisms after five decades of continuous service, but also with maximizing the instrument’s strengths through some sensible and judicious tonal additions and revisions. In addition, the original console was built around the structure of the chancel—one corner was cut out to make room for a beam—and so with the desire for the console to be made movable, provision of a new console was necessary. With the church’s very active music program, including the frequent presence of visiting organists, a multi-level combination action (provided by Solid State Organ Systems) was absolutely necessary.

In its original design, the Bombarde division featured independent reeds at 16, 8′, and 4 pitch. This was altered later, when Aeolian-Skinner removed the 8 Trompette from the Bombarde and moved it to the Great. The 16 Contra Trompette was then placed on unit action and trebles provided for it to speak at 16 and 8 pitch. This compromised the strength of the Bombarde reed chorus, and in the end the most sensible step was to put the Trompette back in the Bombarde, which also made room for a new 8 Major Trumpet on the Great. This new stop leans towards solo strength, while remaining usable in full chorus.

Mutations in the Positiv were originally pitched an octave higher than usual (113 Nasat, 45 Terz), and the 4 Rohr Schalmei was not particularly successful. Re-pitching the mutations presented no difficulty, and the solution for the Rohr Schalmei presented itself when the desire to replace the Swell Krummhorn with an Oboe came up. The Krummhorn was revoiced onto the lower Positiv wind pressure, and a new Hautbois built for the Swell.

The new Antiphonal organ comprises six ranks, all playing on electro-pneumatic action, designed to complement and provide a foil to Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1347 and to bolster congregational singing. Within a compact footprint (both cases measure 41x 72) are housed five of the six ranks (the Trompette en Chamade is mounted on the wall between the two cases), the blower, static reservoir, step-up blower and high-pressure reservoir, double-pressure divided wooden wind trunk, solid-state relay, four wind chests, and two additional reservoirs. Pipes 1–23 of the 4 Principal make up the right-hand façade. When played with the main organ, the Antiphonal organ has the effect of “pulling” the sound into back third of the room. The full-length, flamed-copper Trompette en Chamade was carefully designed to provide a rich and commanding solo voice that would stand up well to the full organ.

I am most grateful for Bynum Petty’s help in scaling and designing the tonal additions included in this project. I also extend hearty thanks to Brian DeWald (briandewaldwoodworking.com), who built and finished the new Antiphonal organ casework and assisted with installation; Dan Cole (pipeshader.com), who assisted in the casework design and provided promotional materials showing renderings of the Antiphonal organ; and Samuel Hughes, who restored all the reed pipes in the organ. New pipes and chests were built by A. R. Schopp’s Sons, Inc.

—Adam F. Dieffenbach

Emery Brothers

 

Emery Brothers staff involved with this project included: Adam Dieffenbach, Steve Emery, Rosemary Hood, Parfyon Kirshnit, Jon Kracht, Clem Mirto, John Nester, Ardie Peeters, Rich Spotts, and Ryan Stout.

 

From the organist and choirmaster

The Aeolian-Skinner organ at Christ Church was dedicated on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960. The instrument was typical of the era with a neo-baroque design that included bright principal choruses and ample upperwork. Joseph Whiteford voiced the organ on the aggressive side to cope with a dry acoustic and a low ceiling height in the nave. The organ was altered slightly in 1967 by the builder (Opus 1347-A) to adjust for the addition of heavy carpet across the center aisle. 

When I came to Christ Church, the organ had served the parish for over 50 years, with minimal maintenance and annual tunings. The only change made to the organ was the addition of a remote solid-state capture action to operate the console. Because of failing leather, outdated wiring, and a worn console, the church formed an organ committee to address the needs of the music program as well as the acoustic issues in the church. While the committee did look at several possible replacements for the instrument, in the end the organ was restored because of the overall fine quality of the original installation.

With the guidance of the rector, wardens, and vestry, the decision was made to first renovate the church in several stages. Each stage was completed during the summer months to avoid conflicts during the program year. The first year included the removal of all the carpeting in the church and the installation of new hardwood floors in the entire nave. The second year included new plaster ceilings in the nave to cover the wood lathe ceiling panels and restoration of the stained glass windows. The last year included the removal of the organ, renovation of the ceilings and floors of the choir, and new lighting throughout the church. At that time the woodwork in the church was refinished, removing the white pickled oak stain so popular in the 1950s. 

The organ work performed by Emery Brothers for over a year and a half included new leather, new wiring, a new console, and a new Antiphonal division. The console is built in the style of the original, but is movable and contains additional drawknobs for the Antiphonal and Pedal divisions. The keyboards, music desk, and walnut key cheeks were retained. Only minor changes were made to the chancel organ specification. While the renovated church now has a warm acoustic that requires little amplification for speech, the length of the nave and low ceiling height called for the addition of an Antiphonal organ to support congregational singing. For festivals and weddings, a horizontal reed was added under the center of the Transfiguration window. The scaling and design were by Bynum Petty, installation by Adam Dieffenbach, and tonal finishing by Steve Emery and Charles Callahan. The console replica and the Aeolian-Skinner digital samples were supplied by Walker Technical of Zionsville, Pennsylvania. The organ was rededicated by Alan Morrison with an American Guild of Organists workshop and recital in November.

I believe that in the end we stayed true to the original design of the organ. With very minor changes we have made the organ more flexible and better equipped to serve the parish for the next 50 years.

It is truly a blessing for a parish to have such an instrument. May it lead and inspire worship each and every week for generations to come!

—Andrew Paul Moore, DMA

Organist and Choirmaster

 

From the rector

When I arrived at Christ Church in Short Hills in 2010, I discovered, to my delight, that it had a really fine Aeolian-Skinner organ. It had a sound that seemed to be saying, “Yes, I’m a cousin to some of those wonderful organs you’ve heard in other churches that have great music in worship.”

Now, I’ve lived in France and love the sound of a great French organ playing. And I’m Dutch, so those marvelous trackers sound to me like the DNA of my youthful upbringing in the Dutch Reformed Church. But the sound of the organ in Short Hills was American. I don’t say that in a prideful way, not even in a “better than others” way. But there was something about this organ that could sound the repertoire ranging from an English cathedral choir chanting a psalm, to full-blown-out Reger. It sounded it all well and with its own twist on things.

I’ve served churches with electronic organs and wheezing electro-pneumatics. I was just so grateful this instrument was neither. Unfortunately, this organ was a bit like that date that is really great the first time but doesn’t grow better as the time goes on; in fact, just the opposite.

After having been at the church a little more than a year, I began to wonder why people hardly sang the hymns in the back half of the nave? I began to wonder if it were just me, or if the sound really did fall off a cliff when we reached a certain pew in the retiring procession each week? We began to notice greater hissing noise, more frequent repairs, and costly service.

Then in 2011, Andrew Moore joined us, and he could make the instrument sing as I’d never heard it before. But he could also diagnose its illness, and he told us the prognosis was dim. The good news was that little work had been done to the instrument since it had been installed in the 1960s, so little harm had been done. He also confirmed that the congregation’s lack of singing in the back half of the church probably had to do with such little organ support. The acoustics didn’t work in our favor, and the sound just wasn’t getting back there.

We hosted an organ education night at which Stephen Emery from Emery Brothers in Allentown, Pennsylvania, came to show us worn leathers, ill-fitting pouches, tarnished pipes, cotton wrapped wires, and more. We led tours through the chambers, and people who had always taken the sounds of the organ for granted now were in awe of how it actually works—and why it didn’t. They saw piles of pipes that had been removed from their windchests and were unable to function.

Adam Dieffenbach from Emery Brothers proposed a complete renovation of the existing instrument and suggested a new Antiphonal for the rear wall, both to provide sound back there, as well as to pull the sound from the pipes in the front. Because of space issues, they proposed adding a limited number of digital stops to round out the instrument’s full sound and complete Whiteford’s original concept for the instrument.

“How to pay for it?” is every parish’s question and every rector’s challenge. But in this case we had two wardens, John Cooper and Cynthia McChesney, who recognized not only the need to do the restoration work, but also its stewardship. We had competitive bids for both rebuilding and replacement. Replacement never caught any of our imaginations. That would be more expensive, but also, we realized this was a very fine instrument with a fairly unique American sound, the likes of which simply are not being made today in the same way.

Through John and Cynthia’s leadership in fundraising and both Andrew Moore’s and my direct involvement in asking individuals for support, the entire amount needed was raised in about four months. That included a substantial cushion, of which we used every last dime as we made changes to both the organ project and the worship space.

Our people realized that this was the right time to act, not only because of the present need of the instrument, but also out of respect for the amazing talent of Andrew Moore. Every age has its gifts, and the wise church appreciates and supports those gifts when they happen.

Our choir went from five section leaders and three volunteer members to four section leaders and more than twenty volunteers over the last five years. Singing has vastly improved. This summer, the entire choir is going to England to be the choir-in-residence for singing the daily office at Bristol Cathedral. More than fourteen new music groups used our space last year, both religious and secular, bringing so many people through the doors of the church.

Oh, every once in a while someone will complain that the trumpets in the back are too loud, but then the person standing next to her will say, “I think it’s just great!” There you have it; life in the Church! And in our case, we feel our worship. Our welcome and invitation to others has vastly improved, all because we acted rather than argued about whether to be responsible for something our ancestors here had left us as a gift in the first place. And we feel we’ve left the next generation something better than we could have ever imagined.

—The Reverend Dr. Timothy Mulder

Rector, Christ Church in Short Hills

 

Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1347, Joseph Whiteford, 1960. 

Renovation/additions and Antiphonal division, Emery Brothers, 2015: 63 ranks, 3,625 pipes.

GREAT

16 Quintaton 61

16 Rohrbourdon (Sw)

8 Principal 61

8 Bourdon 61

8 Quintaton (ext) 12

4 Octav 61

4 Rohrflote 61

223 Quint 61

2 Super Octav 61

IV Mixtur 244

III Scharf 183

8 Major Trumpet (6 wp) 61

8 Trompette en Chamade (Ant)

Chimes

Zimbelstern

SWELL

16 Rohrbourdon 61

8 Rohrbourdon (ext) 12

8 Klein Erzahler 61

8 Erzahler Celeste (TC) 49

4 Geigen 61

223 Nasat 61

2 Octav 61

III Cornet 183

8 Hautbois 61

8 Menschenstimme 61

8 Trompette en Chamade (Ant)

Tremolo

BOMBARDE

8 Geigen Principal (digital)

8 Viol Pomposa 61

8 Viol Celeste 61

4 Flute Harmonique 61

V Plein Jeu 305

16 Contre Trompette 61

8 Trompette 61

4 Clarion 61

Tremolo

POSITIV

8 Nasonflote 61

4 Koppelflote 61

223 Nasat 61

2 Blockflote 61

135 Terz 61

113 Quint 61

III Zimbel 183

8 Krummhorn 61

Tremolo

8 Major Trumpet (Gt)

8 Trompette en Chamade (Ant)

ANTIPHONAL (Emery Brothers)

8 Rohrflute 61

4 Principal 61

2 Octave 61

II Rauschquint 113 122

8 Trompette en Chamade 61

PEDAL

32 Contrebass (digital)

32 Subbass (digital)

16 Contrebass 32

16 Subbass 32

16 Quintaton (Gt)

16 Rohrbourdon (Sw)

16 Rohrflute (Ant) 12

8 Principal 32

8 Gedectpommer 32

8 Rohrbourdon (Sw)

4 Octave (ext) 12

4 Gedectpommer (ext) 12

V Mixtur 160

32 Contrebombarde (digital)

32 Contre Trompette (digital)

16 Bombarde 32

16 Contre Trompette (Bombarde)

8 Bombarde (ext) 12

8 Krummhorn (Pos)

4 Bombarde (ext) 12

4 Krummhorn (Pos)

8 Trompette en Chamade (Ant)

Chimes (Gt)

 

Couplers

Gt/Ped 8

Sw/Ped 8-4

Bomb/Ped 8-4

Pos/Ped 8

Ant/Ped 8

 

Sw/Gt 16-8-4

Bomb/Gt 16-8-4

Pos/Gt 16-8

Ant/Gt 8

 

Sw/Pos 16-8-4

Bomb/Pos 16-8-4

Ant/Pos 8

 

Gt/Sw 8

Ant/Sw 8

Gt/Pos Trans

Gt/U

Bomb 16-U-4

Pos 16-U-4

Sw 16-U-4

All Sws to Sw

Pre/Next/Full

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