Cover Feature

May 30, 2017

Buzard Pipe Organ Builders, Champaign, Illinois

Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Charleston, South Carolina

1963 Noehren organ, St.
Richard of Chichester Episcopal Church, Chicago, Illinois

Robert Noehren (1910–2002) was an influential performer, recording artist, and teacher. He was for many years university organist and head of the organ department at the University of Michigan. Not satisfied with the work of contemporary American Neo-Baroque organbuilders, he founded his own enterprise, which built a total of 21 organs between 1954 and 1978. Noehren described his tonal style as an attempt to meld North German (Schnitger) principals with French classic and romantic reeds (Clicquot and Cavaille-Coll.)

Noehren himself performed the dedication recitals on his organ at St. Richard of Chichester Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois, on December 29, 1963. As originally installed, it had 1,885 pipes. Noehren also made recordings of the organ following its completion, which afford us insight into Noehren’s tonal philosophy and playing style on his own instrument. 

The organ remained basically unchanged over its 50 years at St. Richard’s. In 1996 the original electro-mechanical relay and setter board combination action were replaced with solid state equipment. At the same time a Zimbelstern was added and a 32’ Resultant stop was added to the Pedal, drawn from the original Subbass.

The instrument was installed above the gallery of the church, hanging from the ceiling on two beams in an exposed position. The Swell was enclosed at the rear of the beams, with the large, shared Great-Positiv windchest in front (see photograph below). The Pedal division was on two chests on the floor at the rear of the balcony.

By 2014 the congregation’s dynamic has changed, and they no longer required their organ and wished to find an appropriate new home for it. Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was in the market for an organ for their new sanctuary building and decided that the available Noehren organ would suit their needs admirably. Holy Spirit purchased the instrument and contracted with Buzard Pipe Organ Builders to remove and rebuild the organ for their new church.

The new installation required an entirely new layout for the organ, as well as casework sympathetic to the beautiful new sanctuary. The new casework carries all the new bass pipes of the Great and Pedal principals, replacing collapsed pipes that were formerly shared between both these stops. The organ was redesigned internally with a new layout, new floor and building frames, new Swell box, and a new and greatly augmented wind system and new blower.

The action in the organ is electro-mechanical. Originally the pipe valves were of the Reisner “floating valve” type patented by Roger Miles and George Gress. Despite the claim made by some that this kind of action never wears out, the valves in this organ were no longer reliable after 50 years. We have replaced all of the actions with new magnets and rewired the entire organ. This also enabled us to provide larger toe holes to properly wind bass pipes.

A peculiarity of Noehren’s original design was a sharing of low octaves throughout the instrument. For example, the bottom octave (1–12) of the Great 4Octave borrowed the tenor octave (13–24) of the 8 Principal. The cumulative effect of these compromises (which Noehren felt were justified because they reduced cost and saved space) was a weakening of tone throughout the instrument’s lower range. We undertook to provide additional pipework in almost all cases to correct these deficiencies, and so new, independent bottom octaves have been provided for the Great 4Octave, 4 Spitzfloete, and 2 Octave, as well as the Positiv 8 Gedeckt and 2Principal. The Swell flutes have retained the old system of borrowing, due to space limitations; however, their blend and balance have been carefully refined.

The organ has gained a new 4 Koppel Flute in the Positiv; a new, large-scaled Subbass rank in the Pedal, and new Chimes. A new Oboe rank, specially designed with a Baroque influence, replaces the original Swell Trompette. This Oboe has an interesting character, somewhere between an Oboe and an English horn. It can both color the flues in the Swell in combinations, as well as providing an excellent solo sound.

Some rescaling was undertaken, as well as numerous repairs and very careful regulation of all the pipework, especially removing inconsistencies in the flue voicing. The Cromhorne and Trumpet ranks were rebuilt for speech and tuning stability. The Mixture stops, originally each of five (!) ranks, were reconfigured. The Swell Plein Jeu was lowered significantly in pitch and now cleverly works as both the expected “crown” of the division as well as providing a much more useful substitute principal chorus in combination with the Swell foundations.

Installation of the organ was completed in autumn of 2016, the final stage of which was a comprehensive tonal finishing of the organ in the superb and lively acoustic of the new church. The end result is a still-bright but much warmer sound, which fills the handsome new sanctuary admirably. The organ can lead the congregation in hymns and liturgy, accompany choral anthems, and serve as a convincing vehicle for a wide range of solo organ repertoire. The sound of the instrument is by no means typical of the sound of a new Buzard instrument, but we are proud to have been able to make this instrument much more versatile and put it into as-new condition for the Holy Spirit congregation. 

The organ was dedicated in a worship service and recital by Stephen Buzard on Sunday, February 12. A dinner and introduction to the organ was held at the church for the local American Guild of Organists chapter the following evening.

The organ as rebuilt comprises 26 independent stops, 37 ranks, and 1,853 pipes.

—Keith Williams


Buzard staff that were involved in the Holy Spirit project included:

John-Paul Buzard, President & Artistic Director

Charles Eames, Vice-President & General Manager

Brian Davis, Tonal Director

Keith Williams, Service Director

David Brown, Service Foreman

Shane Rhoades, Production Department Foreman

Mark Dirksen, Business Manager

Riley Ano, Tonal Assistant

Trevor Dodd, Service Technician

Viktoria Franken, Tonal Associate

Christopher Goodnight, Cabinetmaker

Max Konrad, Service Technician

Michael Meyer, Cabinetmaker

Dennis Northway, Service & Sales Associate

Jeremy Taylor, Cabinetmaker

Stuart Weber, Senior Service Technician

John Wiegand, Service Technician



Schnurr, Stephen J., Jr., and Dennis E. Northway. Pipe Organs of Chicago, Volume II. Oak Park, IL, Chauncey Park Press, 2009, pp. 109–111.

Houghton, Richard. “The Organs of Robert Noehren—Simplicity, practicality and economy.” Journal of American Organbuilding, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2015), pp. 8–14.


Original (1963) stoplist

GREAT (212 w.p.)

16 Quintadena (TC) 44

8 Principal (1–12 Pedal) 44

8 Rohrfloete 56

4 Octave (1–12 from 8) 44 

4 Spitzfloete (1–12 from 8) 44 

223 Nasat (TC, Positiv Larigot)

2 Octave (1–12 from 4) 44

2 Spillfloete (1–12 from Fl 4) 44 

135 Terz (TG) 37

III–V Mixture 244

16 Dulzian (TC, Pos. Cromhorne) 

8 Trumpet 56

SWELL (212 w.p.)

8 Bourdon 56

8 Gamba 56

8 Voix Celeste (TC) 44

4 Flute Octaviante (1–12 Bdn) 44 

2 Octavin (ext 4) 12 

III–V Plein Jeu 244

8 Trompette 56

4 Clairon (ext) 12


POSITIV (212 w.p.)

8 Gedeckt (1–12 Gt Rohrfloete) 44 

4 Rohrfloete (Gt) 12

2 Principal 56

113 Larigot 56 

III–V Scharff 244

8 Cromhorne 56

PEDAL (212 w.p.)

16 Subbass 32

8 Principal 32

4 Octave 32

2 Octave (ext) 12

V Mixture 128

16 Posaune (ext) 12

8 Trumpet (Gt)

4 Trumpet (Gt) 






Sw/Gt 16





Setterboard pistons 1–4 all divisions and generals


34 stops

42 ranks

1,885 pipes


2017 stoplist

GREAT (212 w.p.)

16 Quintade (rescaled, in Sw box) 56 

8 Principal (1–24 new, 1–21 façade) 56

8 Rohrfloete 56

4 Octave (1–12 new) 56

4 Spitzfloete (1–12 new) 68

223 Nasat (TC, Positiv Larigot)

2 Octave (1–12 new) 56

2 Spillfloete (ext)

135 Terz (TG) 37

IV Mixture (113) 224

16 Dulzian (TC, Pos. Cromorne)

8 Trumpet 56

SWELL (3 w.p.)

8 Bourdon 56

8 Gamba 56

8 Voix Celeste (TC) 44

4 Flute Octaviante (1–12 Bdn) 56

2 Octavin (ext 4)

IV Plein Jeu 224

8 Oboe (new) 68

4 Clairon (ext)


POSITIV (212 w.p.)

8 Gedeckt (1–12 new) 56

4 Floete (new, wood & metal) 56

2 Principal  56

113 Larigot 56

III Scharf 168

8 Cromorne 56


Chimes (new)

PEDAL (212 w.p., 4 Subbass)

32 Resultant (Subbass & Quintade)

16 Subbass (new, larger scale) 32

16 Quintade (Gt)

8 Principal (1–21 new in façade) 32

8 Quintade (Gt)

4 Octave 44

2 Octave (ext)

IV Mixture 128

16 Posaune (ext, 1–12 1/2-length) 12

8 Trumpet (Gt)

4 Trumpet (Gt)



Great to Pedal

Swell to Pedal

Positiv to Pedal

Swell to Great 16

Swell to Great

Positiv to Great

Swell to Positiv



General Cancel (thumb)

Combination adjuster (thumb)

Memory Lock (key)

Balanced Swell expression shoe

Zimbelstern volume adjustment knob


26 independent stops

37 ranks

1,853 pipes

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