Rieger-Orgelbau GmbH, Schwarzach, Austria
Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
It rarely happens that a 30-year old organ is taken down and replaced by a
new one. It is even more startling when the organ taken down was a landmark in
organ building during the Orgelbewegung movement, with 68 stops, 98 ranks on
four manuals. At least for us it was the first time that we did so, in 2004 in
Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. For Christoph
Glatter-Götz, president of Rieger from 1977 to 2003, this organ marks the
beginning and the end of his career with Rieger: in 1975, as his first project
with Rieger, he took part in the voicing process. The contract for the new
organ was the last for him to sign before handing over the company to his
former head of operations, Wendelin Eberle.
There were several reasons for the decision to replace this organ. The first
one was musical: the high standard of church music at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian
Church demanded an organ of the same versatility and wide range of musical
possibilities. The church was especially interested in having an organ that
would inspire and support the singing of its congregation and renowned choir.
The second was the acoustics of the church: porous Guastovino tiles on the
walls, a sound-absorbing ceiling and cork floors resulted in a reverberation
time close to zero. The old organ was scaled and voiced to fit this
environment. Over the years, several attempts to improve the acoustics resulted
in an acoustical environment, which, while improving the higher frequency
response in the room, proved inhospitable to the organ.
Finally, there was the mechanical aspect: this organ was one of the first
very large instruments with a detached, mechanical console. In addition, there
were too many stops in too small a case, which made maintenance very difficult.
With the decision to replace the old organ, the church decided to address
the deficiencies in the acoustic and to provide climate control so that the new
organ would live in a hospitable environment. The church's bold decision to
replace the old organ and to totally renovate the sanctuary has born much
fruit. The new organ truly sings in this grand old Gothic space.
The conditions proved to be ideal in many more ways, too. A collaboration
between organists Jeffrey Brillhart and Olivier Latry, organ builder Lynn
Dobson and Rieger-Orgelbau was extremely fruitful and led to a concept of an
organ with 59 stops (83 ranks) on three manuals and pedal.
Tonally the organ is inspired by the greatest examples of French symphonic
organ building. The first test of the French symphonic organ is that of the
fonds d'orgue. This organ's four 16-foot manual flue stops and twelve 8-foot
flue stops excel in creating a sound that is both noble and filled with
gravity. Frenchman Michel Garnier, one of Rieger's three voicers, achieved a
fonds d'orgue that is startling in its array of tonal effects.
Each manual has a complete set of reed choruses, ranging from a full-length
32-foot Bombarde in the pedal to a 16-foot Corno di Bassetto in the Positif
expressif. Two mounted Cornets, numerous mutations, and Mixtures in both the
classic and romantic style, combine to create a full organ that is powerful
without being bombastic, and at all times musical.
Visually, Rieger took its cues from the church's soaring Gothic space, which
hints at the grandeur of the French Gothic churches housing the masterpieces of
Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. This casework, all made in solid oak, contains
4,000 hours of labor; one man alone worked an entire year to carve all the
In technical terms this is an instrument with slider chests and tracker
action. The couplers are mechanical, too, but can be played electrically as
well. At the same time there are electric couplers 16¢ and 4¢ for
every manual. Including this second electric action makes possible the addition
of MIDI, pedal divide, and sostenutos. The combination system offers space for
1,000 combinations plus three inserts each, for 16 users. Theoretically, this
is a total of 64,000 combinations.
All through these 30 years, Rieger Orgelbau and Bryn Mawr Presbyterian
Church have enjoyed a warm relationship. We are delighted to continue this
relationship and we are grateful for the opportunity this project offers and
the commitment and open mind of all involved.
I also want to thank all the workers at Rieger, who built this organ with
great enthusiasm and pride.
May this organ lift up everybody's heart and praise the Lord with a joyful
tel: 0043 5572 58132-26
fax: 0043 5572 58132-6
Grand Orgue (I. C-c4)
Positif expressif (II. C-c4)
Récit (III. C-c4)
Couplers (mechanical): II/I 8’, III/I 8’,
III/II 8’, I/P 8’, II/P 8’, III/P 8’
Couplers (electric): II/I 8’, III/I 8’,
III/II 8’, I/P 8’, II/P 8’, III/P 8’
I 4’, I 16’, II 4’, II 16’, III 4’,
III 16’, I/P 4’, II/P 4’, III/P 4’, Alt. couple
Combination System: 1000 generals, + 3 inserts each, x 16
users, ID card
Sequencer, General Cancel, Division Cancel
Special: Zimbelstern, Sostenuto, Pedal divide
Rieger Tuning System, MIDI
Grand Orgue 95 style='mso-tab-count:1'> mm
Positif expressif 85 style='mso-tab-count:1'> mm
Récit 100 style='mso-tab-count:1'> mm
Pédale 95 style='mso-tab-count:1'> mm