Cover feature

December 6, 2012

Kegg Pipe Organ Builders, 

Hartville, Ohio

Sacred Heart Church, 

New Philadelphia, Ohio


From the organbuilder

I recently agreed with a colleague who said you can determine a pipe organ builder’s priorities by the design of his smaller instruments. Large instruments are easier to design because you have all the sounds required. Nothing needs to be left out; the only decision is where to place everything. In smaller instruments, decisions must be made regarding how to best use the resources available, and these reveal just what is most important to the builder. While our firm has built many large pipe organs, we have made something of a name for ourselves with our smaller instruments, and it is in these instruments where you can discover our personal priorities for a parish pipe organ.

Some builders would say that any organ of 12 stops would be simply 12 stops. Since I was a young man discovering the pipe organ, I have always felt that the best use of funds, and the desire for an interesting specification, indicate that careful borrowing of stops between manuals and pedal was the better design choice for the smaller instrument than the academic approach. To do this requires some kind of unit windchest action. Many years ago I chose to work with the all-electric unit action to see if it could be built such that the undesirable pipe speech characteristics associated with this action could be corrected with careful execution. This action offers complete freedom of chest layout, and it can offer long, trouble-free life. After research and development and years of use, the Kegg all-electric action is now a highly evolved system, using oversized valves that feed copious wind to each pipe by way of an expansion chamber. The expansion chamber then conditions the wind to the pipe such that it has a gentle attack and release. With this action, borrows are economical while retaining integrity of pipe speech. Unity of speech is assured, regardless of the size of the instrument, or how many stops and couplers are in use.

Our new instrument for Sacred Heart Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio is an example of what I consider close to ideal for a parish church. At 12 stops and 15 ranks, it is not small. It is large enough to include a great deal of color and variety, while still being affordable, and it can physically fit into many spaces. The key to successful unit organ design is restraint, careful scaling, and of course finish voicing of the organ in its final location. Scaling of the pipes must be treated differently for a successful result on an extended set of pipes. It is a different treatment than you would give to the same pipes for a straight stop, and it eliminates the “unit” sound that older highly unified organs usually exhibit.

The stoplist of a successful unit organ must contain a core ensemble that is essentially straight. In the design of this organ, the Great contains a chorus of 16-8-4-IV with no borrowing. There are two flute ranks of different character. The wood Gedeckt is typical. The Spitzflute is delicate in the bass and increases in volume as you ascend the scale. This makes a softer 8 that can still sit above the Gedeckt well when used at the 4 pitch, and also provides a sparkling 2. Note that the flutes are distributed differently on each manual. Unification is minimized within each manual and the sounds, both individually and in combination, are very different on each manual. This is another example of carefully “breaking the rules,” while providing an interesting organ to play. The unification of the stops is musically invisible.

Kegg organs of this size are surprising because they give the player and the listener the impression that they are larger than they actually are. Several key design features contribute to this, including musical effects that are usually found only on larger instruments. Some of these design features are effective swell shades, a string celeste pair that are not too soft, more than one enclosed reed stop, at least one reed stop that continues to 16 completely within the swell box, and if possible, a special sound that is not expected from a smaller instrument. In the case of the Sacred Heart organ, we have all of these things.

The organ is entirely enclosed, with the exception of the 8 Great Principal and the 16 Pedal Bourdon. The effective swell shades allow the strings to be more aggressive because you have control over them. The 8 stops are of similar volume, allowing combinations to blend while retaining individual color. The Spitzflute’s milky sound gives the impression of a very soft stop with the shades closed. Having a Trumpet and an Oboe on an organ of 12 stops is a happy discovery for the musician. One reed stop doesn’t have to play all the reed parts. The Oboe can be gentle, while the Trumpet can shine. You are not limited to one “medium” stop trying to be all things for all music. Having the Trumpet extended to 16 pitch and enclosed provides the exciting sound of fiery reeds behind closed shades that is frequently heard only on larger instruments. An additional special sound on this organ is the Sesquialtera II on the Great. The flexibility of our chest action permits using the lowest rank of the Mixture for the tenor-C 223 partial, thus only needing the additional 37 small pipes of the TC 135 to be independent for this stop, and these pipes can be bold. Thus we have a strong leading solo voice that takes little room in the organ, plus it is another sound that is not expected in an instrument of 12 stops.

Another significant and unusual sound in this organ is the 16 Violone. This stop is an extension of the Viole and is slender in scale in the Cavaillé-Coll tradition. It is entirely enclosed within the swell box. The incisiveness of this stop blends well with the substantial Bourdon. It is a very present help when registering an intriguing Pedal line. It would be a welcome addition to any instrument, but particularly in one where only a single 16 Bourdon is usually found.

While this instrument would be effective in an intimate room, Sacred Heart Church seats approximately 400 people, was built in the early 20th century, and enjoys a superb acoustic with an empty reverberation time in excess of three seconds. Placement is ideal, high in the rear gallery. The gallery is rather shallow and there is a fine rose window that commands respect. Conventional wisdom would place the organ case in the center, as was the previous instrument. Because the gallery is only 10 feet deep, even a reasonably shallow organ case would mean that the choristers would be divided on either side of the case and/or console and not be able to hear each other well. The solution was to place the organ case entirely on one side, rather than in the center. This clears sight lines for the window and keeps musicians together, leaving all remaining space in one contiguous block. The choirs are already enjoying their new togetherness, with confidence and blend being immediately elevated. The free-standing case is away from each wall, leaving an insulating space. Every part of the instrument has a roof over it. These help greatly with tuning stability, projection, and blend.

The organ case has several features of note. On the long side is a pipe shade panel that has carved and gilded representations of the symbols of the four Apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are, in order: a human form, a lion, a bull, and an eagle. These appear on the capitols of each column in the church, which served as the inspiration for these particular examples. The forward-facing façade will have a pipe shade that will be an illumination. It is being created now by Jed Gibbons of Chicago and will be installed in the coming weeks. The corner tower extends the visual height of the case. Wanting the organ to visually balance this tall room, I designed the 8 Principal with long feet and forced length. The tallest pipe in this tower is almost 16 in length. The forward façade is speaking, the side façade is mute. All pipes are polished, to reflect the filtered color from the fine windows. The constant change in light is delightful.

The console is our premium stepped-terrace drawknob design, with warm LED lighting for music rack and pedal. It is movable and includes a comprehensive combination system with unlimited piston memory, performance record/playback, and transposer. Manual keys are wood with bone and rosewood coverings. As with all our instruments, the bench is adjustable, and there is a large, center pencil drawer.

The Sacred Heart organ is an instrument that has a wide dynamic range, provides warmth, fire, and excitement for homophonic music, two contrasting choruses for polyphonic music, and balanced independence for trios. Its reeds provide color and fire. Its flutes and strings are full of warmth and sparkle. In an age when substitute instrument dealers would have you believe that you must have three manuals and 75 stops to play a hymn, it is gratifying to build, play, and listen to an instrument of only 12 stops that is so satisfying.

No pipe organ project can come to be without the support of clergy and the enthusiasm of musicians. Father Jeff Coning has been an unending fount of firm support for both his staff and this project. Music director Beth Fragasse has led the project with understated elegance, and always in a straight line toward the conclusion. To them and the congregation of Sacred Heart parish we shall be always grateful.

We invite you to come see this newest addition to the Kegg family and to explore further on our website our ideas for organs of all sizes.

—Charles Kegg


Kegg Pipe Organ Builders

Charles Kegg, President/Artistic Director

Philip Brown

Michael Carden

Joyce Harper

Philip Laakso

Thomas Mierau

Bruce Schutrum


[email protected]




Kegg Pipe Organ Builders


16 Violone 73 pipes

8 Principal* 61 pipes

8 Spitzflute 73 pipes

8 Viole (ext)

8 Viole Celeste TC (Sw)

4 Octave 73 pipes

4 Gedeckt (Sw)

2 Flute (ext Spitzflute)

II Sesquialtera TC 37 pipes

      and from Mixture

IV Mixture 244 pipes

8 Trumpet (Sw)

8 Oboe (Sw)

Chimes (Deagan, 21 notes)

Great 4

Swell to Great 16

Swell to Great 8

Swell to Great 4

* Unenclosed


8 Gedeckt 73 pipes

8 Viole (Great)

8 Viole Celeste TC  49 pipes

4 Principal (Great 4 Octave)

4 Spitzflute (Great 8 Spitzflute)

22⁄3 Nazard TC (ext 11⁄3)

2 Octave (Great 4 Octave)

11⁄3 Quinte  49 pipes

16 Bassoon TC (ext Oboe)

8 Trumpet 73 pipes

8 Oboe 61 pipes

4 Clarion (ext Trumpet)


Swell to Swell 16

Swell Unison Off

Swell to Swell 4



32 Resultant (from Bourdon 16)

16 Bourdon  44 pipes

16 Violone (Great)

8 Principal (Great)

8 Bourdon (ext)

8 Viole (Great)

8 Gedeckt (Swell)

4 Octave (Great 8 Principal)

16 Trumpet (ext, Swell) 12 pipes

8 Trumpet (Swell)

4 Clarion (Swell)

4 Oboe (Swell)

Great to Pedal 8

Great to Pedal 4

Swell to Pedal 8

Swell to Pedal 4



Tonal Resources

15 ranks

12 stops

922 pipes


Adjustable Combinations

30 memories per user

Unlimited users

Great 1–5 thumb

Swell 1–5 thumb

Pedal 1–3 toe

General 1–8 thumb & toe

General Cancel thumb

Set thumb

Range thumb

Clear thumb

Undo thumb




Great to Pedal thumb & toe

Adjustable Full Organ thumb & toe



Expression pedal

Crescendo pedal with numeric indicator

Concave and radiating pedal clavier

Adjustable bench


Full Organ indicator light

Drawknob console, all-electric, detached. Pakkawood drawknobs. Console case, bench, and pedalboard of oak.

Manual naturals covered in bone, sharps of rosewood. Pedal sharps of rosewood, naturals of maple.


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