Cover feature

June 23, 2011

A. E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company, Lithonia, Georgia
Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida

The early morning hours of December 23, 2007 were of significance and great loss for the Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church. Due to contract negotiations with the symphony, the then-locked-out musicians of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra performed at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church with a “Messiah Sing” on the evening of December 22. The proceeds of this performance were to benefit the Health and Welfare fund of the members of this institution. This was the last performance ever held in the sanctuary. Sometime in the morning hours of the 23rd a fire started and in a matter of hours consumed the church to the foundation. On the brink of Christmas, the stunned members and staff assembled on the church grounds in front of the still-smoldering pyre of their sanctuary, to console, pray, and plan. From this immeasurable loss they resolved to bolster their presence in the Jacksonville community with a new church and renewed dedication to their ministry.
Reverend Dr. Kyle Reese assembled a team to plan and oversee the rebuilding of the sanctuary. They vowed to have the church open no later than December 23, 2009, when they would again open the church to the public with a performance of Handel’s Messiah. In addition to Pastor Reese, key members who were to play a role in our building an instrument were O’Neal Douglas, chairman of the Sanctuary Renovation Task Force; Bill Mason, organ committee chairman; Reverend Tommy Shapard, Minister of Music and Worship; and Brenda Scott, organist. A constant presence on this construction project was O’Neal Douglas, who served as a living Gantt chart. He invested untold hours to assure the clear communications and coordination between all the different trades involved to build this church by the required completion date.
Lost in the fire was a three-manual, 48-rank Möller that had been installed in 1989. As one of the last instruments from Möller, it was a very good example of their building style and had been well loved by the congregation. Prior to working with our firm as a sales representative, Herbert Ridgeley Jr. represented the Möller firm. He had worked with then minister of music Reverend Kendall Smith on the installation of this Möller instrument. Marc Conley of our staff had worked on this instrument when he was employed by Möller. With these past affiliations, we began the initial discussions with the church as they considered a replacement pipe organ and evaluated firms that might build this instrument. In the words of Tommy Shapard, the charge of the organ committee was “to design an instrument with a variety of colors and levels of expression available in the new instrument to give our congregation and choir the opportunity to sing together more vitally and creatively as a worshipping body.”
I will always recall an exchange that took place early in our meeting with the organ committee. As we talked about a proposed stoplist, we were five minutes into the discussion when Chairman Mason raised a finger and jokingly said, “Arthur . . . from this point forward whenever we say Baptist, we want you to think Presbyterian.” He was referring to the landmark III/62 instrument our firm was building at that time for New York Avenue Presbyterian in Washington and its ties to President Lincoln and theologian Peter Marshall. (See cover feature, The Diapason, July 2010.) I came to find a much deeper meaning in his offhand quip. In public and private discussions, I have heard other builders refer to a “type” of organ they design by denomination. Personally, I do not believe one serves any church well by imprinting their view of any particular denomination—a generic “this is it” approach to stoplist and tonal design of an instrument. This is true regardless of whether it be Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopal, or any other denomination. There are and always will be the subtle and not so subtle differences in a church’s worship style. Often in my professional career I have had a church explain their “traditional” worship only to find a worship style that I might personally find to be contemporary, or often a church that describes itself as “contemporary” to be traditional. The euphemism “blended” often used by many churches to describe their music in worship does not solve any identity issues either. As a builder, it is incumbent upon you to experience a church’s worship with your own eyes and ears and then really listen to how your client will use the organ in their worship. This is the only surefire way to refine a stoplist and scale sheets into a cogent amalgam that will allow you to design, voice, and tonally finish an instrument that truly serves the vision of the church you are working for.
A very real challenge in the design of this instrument was that the church moved very fast in the design of a building to assure their December 23, 2009 first service. By the time a contract was signed with our firm, the basic design of the building was locked in place and key building materials had been ordered. We had to work with the architect to design space for an instrument in a building that was already well defined. To allow for an instrument, space would have to be created. As a design team, we found that if we changed the width of the hallway access to the baptistery on the right and left and had a concrete lentil poured above the hallway and above the baptistery, room could be provided for a 43-foot-wide chamber of varying depth and elevations. Taking into account the sloping ceilings in the chambers, we planned a left-to-right division orientation of Swell, Great/Pedal, and Choir. The enclosed divisions of the organ have tone openings on their front and also on the side openings into the center Great and Pedal division. These side openings provide a coalescence and focus for the enclosed resources into the central axis of the instrument.
The chancel façade is designed to frame the baptistery. The façade is silver with polished mouths and features pipework from the 16′ Principal, 16′ Violone, 8′ Octave, and 8′ Diapason. The casework has a maple finish to match the church furnishings. To support the needs of audio-visual functions in their ministry, a projection screen was incorporated into the center section of the upper organ case.
The completed organ is 60 ranks, divided among three manual divisions in the chancel and a floating Antiphonal division in the rear of the church. My specification and scaling for this instrument has its roots in American Classicism, with an emphasis on the English elements found within this stylistic construct. All of the organ divisions are weighted around 8′ chorus structure. The Great is designed around a diapason chorus that has richness and warmth but that still maintains clarity in its phrasing. The Swell features an independent 8′ Principal, which allows the 8′ Swell string scales to be narrower, since these stops do not need to provide the core 8′ flue foundation. The Gemshorn in the Choir is generously scaled, with a wide mouth to support a function in this division analogous to a foundational Spitz Principal. The mixtures in the enclosed divisions are pitched at 2′ and provide a logical completion to the enclosed division principal choruses. This allows completion of the 8/4/2 chorus ladder without breaks in pitch or the need for independent 2′ principals as single stop draws. In addition to avoiding the stridency sometimes found in mixtures with pitches above 1′, this treatment of the mixtures also frees up the 2′ pitch registers for independent manual flutes.
While individually differing in color, the two enclosed divisions have parallel flue pitch registers for support of choral accompaniment. With a large, effective shade front, these divisions provide ample resources of weight and color against the human voice.
The organ reeds were designed with English shallots, which prove much more favorable in a dryer American acoustic. As is our common practice, the organ reeds are placed on separate reservoirs, separate tremolos, and individual unit electro-pneumatic windchests. This treatment allows the reeds to be freed from the strictures of the manual flue wind pressures. This allows complete freedom in scale, shallot design and treatments, and tongue thickness. With a separate tremolo, achieving the correct depth and speed on the reed stops does not become as elusive as it can sometimes be when flues and reeds share a common plenum.
For a large festive solo voice, the chancel organ features a high-pressure English Tuba. This stop is located in the Choir division, and under expressive control it can be used as a darker ensemble reed when it is dynamically caged. It is carried down to the 16′ register to effectively ground the Pedal division.
A very complete Pedal division was desired, with multiple pitches represented from 32′ through 4′. Just the 16′ registers alone represent nine of the 24 stops in the Pedal division. In addition to independent Pedal registers, full advantage was taken of manual-to-pedal duplexes. The result is a plethora of stops under the organist’s control, with a full range of colors and dynamics.
Early on in the design of this instrument, we prepared for a 10-rank Antiphonal. Due to the beneficence of several members, the church was able to contract for this “prepared for” item and have it installed with the chancel instrument. Visually, the rear organ takes its design from the chancel façade. Positioned between the two cases is an 8′ Trompette En Chamade with brass bells. Cognizant of its position in the church and the presence of the high-pressure English Tuba in the chancel organ, the stop was voiced on a moderate 7½ inches pressure. By its position, it has presence and lacks the offensiveness that is sometimes associated with this stop. The core of the Antiphonal organ includes a complete 8′ principal chorus, a lyrical 8′ Gedeckt, and an ethereal pair of 8′ Erzahler Celestes.
Foundational support for the Antiphonal division is provided by a Pedal 16′ Stille Gedeckt and 8′ Stille Principal in the Antiphonal Pedal division. In addition to providing foundation for the rear division, these stops are also very useful in larger organ registrations by adding definition and dimension to the chancel bass presence.
Never to be forgotten in an instrument of this size is the need for quiet contemplative moments. Early in our meetings we talked about the need for the organ to have the resources for what we began to refer to as “the whisper.” In the Choir division, we added a Ludwigtone stop. This is a wooden set of pipes with a dividing wall in the center of the pipe that has two separate mouths. Its unique construction allows each pipe to produce two notes, one of which can be tuned off-beating. In our stoplist as the Flute Celeste II, when it is drawn with a closed box, full couplers, and the Antiphonal Klein Erzahlers added to it, with a light 16′ Pedal stop, there is a moment of being surrounded by an ethereal magic that is at once all enveloping and yet without any weight.
Mechanically this organ uses our electro-pneumatic slider chests, with the organ reeds placed on electro-pneumatic unit chests. Conventional ribbed box regulators are used for the winding system.
The resources of the organ are controlled by a three-manual drawknob console. Built in the English style, the console sits on a rolling platform to allow mobility. The console exterior is built of maple, with an ebonized interior. The console features modern conveniences for the organist, such as multiple memory levels, programmable crescendo and sforzando, transposer, MIDI, and the ability to record and play back organ performances.
To allow full control in the tonal finishing of this instrument, we set sample pipes on the windchests in the organ chambers and then removed the pipes from the chambers to continue work with a portable voicing machine located in the chancel. This allowed us to work unimpeded and be more accurate with cutups and initial nicking, feathering, and flue regulation than could have possible within the confines of the organ chambers and the sea of pipework on each chest. After “roughing in” the pipework voicing, the stops were reinstalled in the organ chamber for final voicing and tonal finishing. In a process that lasted months, the tonal finishing was completed by a team including Daniel Angerstein, Peter Duys, John Tanner, Marc Conley, and Bud Taylor. In addition to our tonal finishers, our installation team included Marshall Foxworthy, Rob Black, Patrick Hodges, Jeremiah Hodges, Kelvin Cheatham, Joe Sedlacek, and Wilson Luna. I am thankful for their dedication and the long hours they put into this project to make sure that our tonal ideals for this instrument were not only achieved but exceeded.
The new sanctuary was finally at a point of completion by November 16 that we were able to begin the installation. The organ was brought up divisionally to allow autonomous work by our staff in multiple divisions. This allowed 40 ranks of the organ to be brought online when first heard in public on December 23, 2009. On this day, our staff was able to return home to be with their families during Christmas, and two family members, Art Schlueter Jr. and Arthur Schlueter III, were able to begin their Christmas together at the public opening of this church with Handel’s Messiah. Forever in my memory will be standing tall as father and son during the Hallelujah Chorus. As with all organ projects, there was still work to be done to complete and finish the organ, but it was a satisfying conclusion to a year that saw the installation of multiple new instruments by our firm and the fulfillment of a promise to this congregation and community.
A final chapter to this story must be told. To assist their search for an organbuilder and evaluate plans for a new instrument, the organ committee engaged local Jacksonville organbuilder, Jim Garvin, as part of their working group. As I developed my proposal for the church, he was a ready translator to discuss the minutiae of the organ proposal—from chest design, stop type, material construction, winding systems, etc. As a builder, I found it a great pleasure to work with Jim, who ably served as a liaison between the organbuilder and the church. Sadly, during the building of this instrument Jim began a battle with cancer. Even as he was weakened by his fight with the cancer, he never wavered in his role as consultant through the organ installation and dedication. I am happy to say that he lived to sing and worship with this instrument. One of our collective proudest moments was at the inaugural organ dedication with Dr. Al Travis. With a solid look in the eye and a firm stance, we exchanged handshakes as equals who had both worked to the best of our abilities on behalf of Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church. Earlier this year Jim lost his fight with cancer. His funeral was held at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, where I again returned to hear organ and choir, but this time to say goodbye. I will forever be grateful for my consultant and colleague I worked with in the completion of this project. Reminiscent of the way the project started, I once again heard Handel, as Jim’s final request for his service had been the Hallelujah Chorus.
Additional information on our firm and projects can be viewed at or by writing A. E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company, P.O. Box 838, Lithonia, GA 30058.
—Arthur E. Schlueter III, tonal and artistic direction

All photos taken by Tim Rucci (

Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church
Three manuals, 60 ranks

(unenclosed) (16 ranks)
16′ Violone 61 pipes
8′ Diapason 61 pipes
8′ Violone 12 pipes
8′ Flute Harmonique 49 pipes
(1–12 Pedal Bourdon)
8′ Bourdon 61 pipes
4′ Octave 61 pipes
4′ Spire Flute 61 pipes
22⁄3′ Twelfth 61 pipes
2′ Super Octave 61 pipes
IV Mixture 11⁄3′ 244 pipes
III Klein Mixture 2⁄3′ 183 pipes
16′ Double Trumpet 61 pipes
(English shallots)
8′ Trumpet 12 pipes
16′ English Tuba (Choir) (non-coupling)
8′ English Tuba (Choir) (non-coupling)
4′ English Tuba (Choir) (non-coupling)
Chimes (Choir)
Zimbelstern 9 bells
Great to Great 4′

CHOIR—Manual I (enclosed)
(13 ranks)
16′ Gemshorn 12 pipes
8′ Hohl Flute 61 pipes
8′ Gemshorn 61 pipes
8′ Gemshorn Celeste 49 pipes
8′ Flute Celeste II 80 pipes
4′ Principal 61 pipes
4′ Spindle Flute 61 pipes
2′ Harmonic Piccolo 61 pipes
11⁄3′ Quint 61 pipes
III Choral Mixture 2′ 183 pipes
8′ Clarinet 61 pipes
(English shallots with lift caps)
8′ English Tuba 61 pipes
Choir to Choir 16′
Choir Unison Off
Choir to Choir 4′

SWELL—Manual III (enclosed) (14 ranks)
16′ Lieblich Gedeckt 61 pipes
8′ Geigen Principal 61 pipes
8′ Viole de Gamba 61 pipes
8′ Viole Celeste TC 49 pipes
8′ Rohr Flute 12 pipes
4′ Geigen Octave 61 pipes
4′ Nachthorn 61 pipes
22⁄3′ Nazard TC 49 pipes
2′ Flageolet (from 16′) 24 pipes
13⁄5′ Tierce TC 49 pipes
IV Mixture 2′ 244 pipes
16′ Bassoon 61 pipes
(English shallots with lift caps)
8′ Trumpet 61 pipes
(English shallots)
8′ Oboe 12 pipes
4′ Clarion 12 pipes
Swell to Swell 16′
Swell Unison Off
Swell to Swell 4′

ANTIPHONAL—floating division (10 ranks)
8′ Weit Principal 61 pipes
8′ Gedeckt 61 pipes
8′ Klein Erzahler 61 pipes
8′ Klein Erzahler Celeste 49 pipes
4′ Principal 61 pipes
III Mixture 2′ 183 pipes
8′ Trompette En Chamade 61 pipes

16′ Stille Gedeckt 12 pipes
8′ Stille Principal 32 pipes

PEDAL (7 ranks)
32′ Violone (digital)
32′ Bourdon (digital)
16′ Principal 32 pipes
16′ Violone (Great)
16′ Gemshorn (Choir)
16′ Subbass 32 pipes
16′ Lieblich Gedeckt (Swell)
8′ Octave 32 pipes
8′ Violone (Great)
8′ Gemshorn (Choir)
8′ Bourdon 12 pipes
8′ Gedeckt (Swell)
4′ Choral Bass 12 pipes
4′ Bourdon 12 pipes
IV Mixture 22⁄3′ 128 pipes
32′ Posaune (digital)
32′ Harmonics (wired Cornet series)
16′ Trombone (ext Tuba) 12 pipes
16′ Double Trumpet (Great)
16′ Bassoon (Swell)
8′ English Tuba (Choir)
8′ Trumpet (Great)
4′ Clarion (Great)
4′ Oboe Clarion (Swell)

Inter-manual couplers
Great to Pedal 8′, 4′
Swell to Pedal 8′, 4′
Choir to Pedal 8′, 4′
Antiphonal on Pedal

Swell to Great 16′, 8′, 4′
Choir to Great 16′, 8′, 4′
Antiphonal on Great

Swell to Choir 16′, 8′, 4′
Antiphonal on Choir

Antiphonal on Swell

MIDI controls (programmable as preset stops) (with record/playback) (audio included)
MIDI on Pedal
MIDI on Great
MIDI on Swell
MIDI on Choir

Combination system with a minimum of 128 levels of memory

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