New Organs

April 1, 2015

Patrick J. Murphy & Associates in Stowe, Pennsylvania, recently completed a major renovation of the organ at Church of the Covenant, Scranton, Pennsylvania. The 3-manual, 37-stop, 56-rank instrument recasts the existing 1960s-era Schlicker with a new Swell division, revoiced Great and Positive fluework, new chorus reeds throughout, and a new PJM Signature console.  

Tonally, the biggest change is in the Swell division. New chests, a new, extra-thick expression box, new and revoiced fluework, and new reeds give the Swell greater accompanying power and a much wider dynamic range. Its tonal center of gravity is enhanced making it an equal partner to the Great in building the total ensemble. The Great division is also broader, taking full advantage of the improved acoustic to embrace the congregation with warm, rich sound. The Schlicker tonal ideal of clean, clear choruses is still evident, enhancing the performance of contrapuntal organ literature. 

Speaking façades comprising a new 16 Principal were designed based on photographs of the Hutchings-Votey instrument installed when the church was built. Those original pipes had been discarded when the Schlicker was installed, giving the organ the “pipes in the open” appearance popular at the time.

All of the existing chests were releathered and rewired to comply with current electrical codes. Reservoirs were releathered and all winding reconfigured for a much tidier chamber layout. The new, movable console incorporates a state-of-the-art control system and combination action with all the features expected today, including multiple memory, transposer, and record/playback. 

The organ project at Church of the Covenant presented an opportunity to demonstrate what can be accomplished when everyone involved works together toward a common goal. What started out as a rather modest console replacement, gradually evolved into a total renovation of the organ and the worship space. It was a great pleasure to work with the director of music, Dr. Timothy Smith, whose gentle encouragement helped us find ways to achieve maximum results from the minimum amount of change, and Stephen Carter, who so ably coordinated the efforts of all the various contractors in this renovation project. 

—Fredrick Bahr


Photo credit: Patrick J. Murphy

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