Cover Feature

July 3, 2019

On December 29, 2011, a blazing fire engulfed and destroyed Westport Presbyterian Church. Located in historic Westport—the one-time outfitting station for traders, trappers, and pioneers heading west on the Santa Fe and Oregon trails—the Romanesque Revival church built in 1905 was home to a congregation that had worshipped in the community since 1835.

The second half of the last century saw a decline in both the congregation and the surrounding community as the population migrated to the suburbs. At the time of the fire, however, the residential, commercial, and entertainment districts of the neighborhood were thriving again, and the remnant of the congregation met this revival by turning outward in service toward the surrounding community.

The catastrophic turn of events may well have buried the small congregation, but brimming over with faith, hope, and love, the community doubled down on its joyful, inclusive worship celebrations, service and advocacy for the poor, and its outreach through arts ministries. Led by Pastor Scott Myers (also a poet and playwright), the congregation decided immediately to rebuild.

A team from the architectural firm BNIM (of Kansas City, Missouri), led by Erik Heitman, designed an award-winning steel and glass structure delicately nested within the limestone ruins of the old church, rising out of the rubble and ashes as a place of light and peace. The firm of Jaffe Holden (of Houston, Texas), under the direction of Russ Cooper, was engaged to oversee the acoustical design. Pasi Organbuilders of Roy, Washington, was simultaneously chosen to design and build a new organ for the church—a rare opportunity for architect, acoustician, and organbuilder to be involved in planning a project together.

The committee charged with recommending an organbuilder comprised several musicians and well-informed enthusiasts in the congregation, led by then-music director Filippa Duke, and later by former-organist Marian McCaa Thomas. The contract for the new organ was signed in late 2012, with delivery slated for late 2014. Delays in the church construction, however, postponed the installation of the organ until June 2016.            

The new Pasi organ (Opus 24) replaced a 1926 Reuter (Opus 215, 3 manuals, 30 ranks), rebuilt in 1962 by Wicks (Opus 4277, 3 manuals, 28 ranks). The claim to fame of the original Reuter is that it was dedicated in recital on April 1, 1927, by none other than Louis Vierne (who was apparently fascinated by all its modern registration aids). Since the budget for the new organ was fixed by the insurance settlement, the decision was made to forego such conveniences and invest as much as possible in the tonal resources of instrument. The specification is both as economical and colorful as possible. The mechanical stop action allows for two double-draws, and both manuals boast complete principal and flute choruses, mutations, strings, and versatile reeds.

The organ is housed in a tall, shallow white oak case, designed to visually harmonize with the horizontal panels of wood reclaimed from the old church.  The extreme height of the room suggested a 16′ case, while the room volume and budget required an 8′ organ. The horizontal pipe shades allowed for an 8′ façade in towers housing the full-length 16′ Posaun. The Great and Pedal chests are at the level of the impost with the Swell above.

All pipes for the organ were made in the Pasi shop. Most of the flue pipes are cast in 97% hammered lead. The 2′ stops and mixtures are made with an alloy of 25% tin and 75% lead. The strings are 90% tin. The various flutes are distinctive in color, and the Swell 4′ Rohrflöt has chimneys in the bass and is open in the treble. The Quint/Sesquialter is principal-scaled, while the Nasat/Hörnli is flute-scaled.

All reed shallots are made in the Schnitger (North German) style. Reed blocks are wood for the basses and metal for the trebles. The 16′ Posaun has wooden resonators in the low octave. All other reed resonators are made of 97% lead.

All open flue pipes are cut to length and cone-tuned. Metal stopped pipes have soldered-on caps. Reed pipes have resonators as long as possible for tuning stability. The organ is tuned in an unequal circulating temperament devised by Mark Brombaugh. The wind-driven Cymbalstern comprises five un-tuned bells.

The organ is winded by three 7′ x 3.5′ bellows located in a room directly behind the organ. They are either fed by a 3/4-HP Laukhuff blower or mechanically raised with foot levers.

Both the key action and stop action are entirely mechanical, controlled from a detached reversed console that allows the organist to conduct the choir from the console at the apex of the choral semi-circle and to visually interact with other instrumentalists in ensemble situations. Trackers are made of carbon fiber for both horizontal and vertical runs.

The organ was dedicated on September 23, 2016, with a recital by Filippa Duke and Kevin Vogt. Emily Davidson is the current music director and organist for the church.

Pasi Organbuilders Opus 24 is the work of:

Markus Morscher: windchests, case, pipe racking, design, installation, and shop foreman

Steven Jett: pipe making and installation

Kaspar Vonbank: key action, stop action

Clara Mainetti: pedalboard, case woodworking, and assembly at the shop

Jennifer VonHolstein: administration

Martin Pasi: design, key action, stop action, reed pipe making, voicing, and administration

Anthony Balducci: on-site installation.

—Kevin Vogt, organ consultant

Photo credits: Michael Robinson Photography (cover and top of this page)

Martin Pasi (all other photographs)

 

Pasi Organ Builders, Inc.

32215 8th Avenue South

Roy, Washington 98580

253/843-2914

http://www.pasiorgans.com/

 

Westport Presbyterian Church

201 Westport Road

Kansas City, Missouri 64111

816/931-1032

http://westportpresbyterian.org

 

HAUPTWERK (Manual I)

16′ Quintaden 58 pipes

8′ Principal 58 pipes

8′ Rohrflöt 58 pipes

8′ Viol di gamba 58 pipes

4′ Octav 58 pipes

4′ Spitzflöt 58 pipes

3′ Sesquialter II 116 pipes

3′ Quint (Half-draw)

2′ Superoctav 58 pipes

11⁄3′ Mixtur IV 232 pipes

8′ Trompet 58 pipes

Manualkoppel

OBERWERK (Manual II, enclosed)

8′ Suavial 58 pipes

8′ Unda maris (TC) 46 pipes

8′ Gedackt 58 pipes

4′ Fugara 58 pipes

4′ Rohrflöt 58 pipes

3′ Hörnli II 116 pipes

3′ Nasat (Half-draw)

2′ Waldflöt 58 pipes

2′ Mixtur III 174 pipes

8′ Dulcian 58 pipes

Cymbelstern

PEDAL

16′ Subbaß 30 pipes

8′ Principal (Transmission HW)

16′ Posaun 30 pipes

8′ Trompet (Transmission HW)

Pedalkoppel I

Pedalkoppel II

 

Detached console

Mechanical key action

Mechanical stop action

Balanced Swell pedal

Three wedge-shaped bellows

Quiet electric blower

Tremulant

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