New Organs

January 18, 2003

The Reuter Organ Company, Lawrence, Kansas, has built a new
organ for Second Congregational Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The firm's Opus
2197 comprises 49 ranks, 38 stops, for a total of 2,763 pipes; there are 9
digital voices. The organ is located in three chambers: Swell on the left,
Great in the center, and Choir on the right. The Tuba is housed in a separate
box inside the Choir chamber and has its own set of expression shades; thus one
can use both sets of shades for dynamic control. The combination action has 32
levels of memory with the ability to store and retrieve each level on computer
disk. The playback system allows the organ to record directly to memory card or
store on computer disk and play back exactly as performed. Twelve general
pistons are duplicated by toe studs; 8 Swell, 6 Great, and 5 Choir divisional
pistons; 5 Pedal toe studs, and 5 reversible toe studs controlling manual to
pedal couplers, Sforzando, and Cymbelstern; standard manual reversibles plus
Pedal to Great and Great to Choir transfer. Various solid state accessories for
transposition, memory, sequencer, MIDI, and player.

 

Second Congregational Church

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Reuter Opus 2197

 

GREAT

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Violone
(digital)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Principal

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Harmonic
Flute

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Bourdon

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Octave

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Spillflöte

                  II style='mso-tab-count:1'>              Cornet

                  2' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Fifteenth

                  IV style='mso-tab-count:1'>            Fourniture

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Trumpet

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Tuba
(Ch)

                                    Tremolo

                                    Chimes
(digital)

                                    Harp
(digital)

                                    MIDI
on Great

                                    Gt
16-UO-4

                                    Sw/Gt
16-8-4

                                    Ch/Gt
16-8-4

SWELL

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Rohrflöte
(73 pipes)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Rohrflöte
(ext)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Viole
d'Gambe

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Viole
Celeste (54 pipes)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Flute
Celeste II (digital)

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Principal

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Hohlflöte

                  22/3' style='mso-tab-count:1'>      Nazard

                  2' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Blockflöte

                  13/5' style='mso-tab-count:1'>      Tierce

                  IV style='mso-tab-count:1'>            Plein
Jeu

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Fagotto
(73 pipes)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Trompette

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Fagotto
(ext)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Vox
Humana (digital)

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Clarion
(61 pipes)

                                    Tremolo

                                    MIDI
on Swell

                                    Sw/Sw
16-UO-4

CHOIR

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Erzahler
(digital)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Diapason

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Gedeckt

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Gemshorn

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Gemshorn
Celeste (49 pipes)

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Principal

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Koppelflöte

                  2' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Principal

                  11/3' style='mso-tab-count:1'>      Quinte

                  IV style='mso-tab-count:1'>            Mixture

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Tuba
(TC, ext)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Cromorne

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Tuba

                                    Tremolo

                                    MIDI
on Choir

                                    Ch/Ch
16-UO-4

                                    Sw/Ch
16-8-4

PEDAL

                  32' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Violone
(digital)

                  32' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Gedeckt
(digital)

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Principal
(44 pipes)

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Subbass
(56 pipes)

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Rohrflöte
(Sw)

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Erzahler
(Ch)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Principal
(ext)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Subbass style="mso-spacerun: yes">  (ext)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Rohrflöte
(Sw)

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Choral
Bass (32 pipes)

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Subbass style="mso-spacerun: yes">  (ext)

                  IV style='mso-tab-count:1'>            Mixture

                  32' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Fagotto
(digital)

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Posaune
(44 pipes)

                  16' style='mso-tab-count:1'>          Fagotto
(Sw)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Posaune
(ext)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Fagotto
(Sw)

                  8' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Tuba
(Ch)

                  4' style='mso-tab-count:1'>             Trumpet
(Sw)

                                    MIDI
on Pedal

                                    Gt/Ped
8-4

                                    Sw/Ped
8-4

                                    Ch/Ped
8-4

                                    Cymbelstern
(prep)

A student reviews his mentor

David Craighead inaugural recital

This past December, I authored a piece on the challenges to
traditional values in sacred music as a lead article to the first issue of
"The Zarex Times," which was distributed gratis to the readership of
this journal as part of the Zarex 2000 Audio/Video Catalogue. It is likely this
article led to the invitation to write a commentary, or rather a review, of the
dedicatory recital appearance played on Sunday evening, February 20, 2000, by
the legendary American organist, Dr. David Craighead, upon the new Reuter organ
at Second Congregational Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This seemingly
simple request turned out to be a pleasant challenge, because the artist, Dr.
Craighead, is also this writer's mentor. From the time I first experienced
David Craighead's teaching and performing as an undergraduate at the Eastman
School of Music in 1974 until this day, I have valued all that this master
teacher has had to convey.

It never occurred to me that I might one day be asked to
review a recital by my former teacher. Is this possible? Is this fair? For that
matter, is any review by one individual over another's art so valid as to be
considered as a judgment for all readers to accept? In our hearts, I think we
know the answers to such questions.

On February 20, at 7:25 p.m., five minutes before the
concert time, every pew in the nave of Second Congregational Church was full.
The room at Second Congregational Church is not particularly conducive for
organ or choral music. It is quite dry, and with the mid-Winter heating in full
force, and a very full house of folks with winter dress, the acoustic seemed
still drier. The organ console was located in the center of the chancel in full
view. The organ chambers are located on the left and right sides of the
chancel. The only exposed pipework can be found in the mirror-image facades,
each of which contains 23 speaking pipes. There are 10' wide by 8' tall tone
openings on the walls of the chambers that face the nave on the left and right
sides of the chancel. These chambers house the Swell and Choirs divisions
respectively. The Great and Pedal divisions are located behind the farthest
chancel wall, behind an acoustically transparent cloth.

The program began with a series of prayers of thanks by the
minister, and acknowledgments of key people involved with the new organ
project. This was followed by brief remarks from Kent Hill, organist/music
director of Second Congregational church, and former Eastman student himself.
Dr. Hill then introduced the artist as a mentor, a colleague, and a friend.
David Craighead began not with the Final from Vierne's Sixth Symphony as
indicated in our bulletin, but with the Carillon de Westminster from Vierne's
Fantasy Pieces. The first notes of this piece proved that the pedal speech was
favorably prompt. The tempo was solid and strict, and, as in a style typical
for this performer, we were very sure of where the beat was!

The recitalist's juxtaposition of Choir division and Great
division flutes in Dupré's Berceuse from Suite Bretonne was very
successful. Often, flute stops on the Choir and Great divisions are too similar
in tone to be distinguishable from one another in a thick or contrapuntal
texture. The definition was clear in both flutes, even when seated seven pews
back from the chancel. In the Berceuse there was only the slightest hint of
bend, or elasticity to the phrasing. 
It is this simple, elegant and "matter-of-fact" playing that
is a hallmark of the artist's style, and it was evident in all of the playing
in the first half of the program. In the recapitulation of the Berceuse, the
Vox Humana (a very successful non-winded voice) and 16' flute combination
produced a typically French sound, although darker (perhaps with a bit less
strident harmonic development in the Vox Humana) than one might find in a
French combination of these stops.

The foil to the Berceuse was the Fileuse, or
"Spinner," also from the Suite Bretonne. It is an angular, awkward
but virtuosic piece of fluff. David Craighead took this movement at a healthy
clip, and he did not "hide" the Swell division sixteenth-note
figurations, as some are surely tempted to do. Instead of closing down the
Swell box, he kept it nearly wide open. This balanced well, as the Great and
Choir 8' flutes in this organ are of sufficient strength to cut through the
Swell strings, even when the Swell box is less than closed. Midway through the
performance, somehow the 8' flute on the Choir became lost, or canceled,
leaving only the 4' flute playing. During the recapitulation of the A theme,
Craighead drew upon his unshakable and solid console technique, and restored
the original combination on the drawknobs by hand, without missing a beat.

The Dupré was followed by four brief works from
Bach's Orgelbüchlein. Each of these demonstrated a different combination
of fluework from the organ. The second of these was "In dulci
jubilo," which organists know is often performed with the Zimbelstern tinkling
away. Janet Hill, spouse of resident organist Kent Hill and another dear friend
of the artist, who, during the recital served as a page-turner, acted here as
the "human zimbelstern." She had several small bells tied to a cloth
strip, and rang them by gently raising and lowering, in alternation, each ends
of the cloth strip. It was a very convincing effect. I actually prefer the
never-quite-the-same ringing of Mrs. Hill's human zimbelstern to the automated
counterpart.

The first part of the recital concluded with a staple of Dr.
Craighead's repertoire, the Concerto in A minor by Antonio Vivaldi (Opus 3 #8
from l'Estro harmonico, transcribed by Johann Sebastian Bach as BWV 593). By
registering without mixtures in the first movement, relying on 8' and 4' pitch
as the basis, Craighead avoided any redundancy of sound between the first and
last movements. He saved the mixtures and complete 8'-4'-2'-Mixture choruses
for the third, final movement. Also demonstrated to organists who play this
work was superior leading voicing of the 8' and 4' Great stops, in which the
scale in the 3rd and 4th octaves of the keyboard compass is allowed to
"lead" or to dominate. All too often when one plays this work, the
lower portion of the keyboard compass overshadows the upper register, resulting
in a soprano line which does not properly project over lower sustained voices
in the compass.

During the sparsely-textured Adagio of the Vivaldi concerto,
the 8' flute drawn on the Great division sounded quite opaque. It is dark, and
definitely not my ideal of a baroque quality. I would describe the sound as
"quasi-harmonic" and is certainly different from style="mso-spacerun: yes">  anything I've heard from Reuter in
recent memory. So curious is this sound that it makes me want to go looking in
the chamber to see the materials from which this rank is constructed. The
mutations in the Choir seemed full-bodied, and what I assume must be a wide
scale. During the final Allegro, David Craighead drew two very similar choruses
from the Choir and Great. From my vantage point in the nave, I would have
preferred a bit less similar sound in these two divisions, especially with
regard to the mixtures.

Many in attendance expected an intermission after the
Vivaldi-Bach concerto, and were surprised that the concert continued to part
two without intermission. The performing style in the second half of the
program seemed much freer as compared with that which came before. David
Craighead's words to the congregation prior to the onset of part two dispelled
any notion that its first piece, the Bolcom Gospel Prelude on "What a
Friend We Have in Jesus," was a spoof or a joke. The prompt pedal speech
was a superb match for the piece, as were the Swell strings. For my taste, the
staccato chords that form the opening ostinato for the setting were a bit too
sharp, especially in the dry room. But as the piece unfolded through the second
chorus, things got looser, the dwell on the staccato chords became heavier, and
the "soul" came shining through.

Following the Bolcom setting, instead of a Rheinberger
movement as was printed in the bulletin, we heard two miniature works, the
Trumpet Tune in D by David Johnson and the sumptuous Sowerby Carillon. In the
Trumpet Tune, which David pointed out was the theme-song for the
nationally-syndicated radio program (originating from WWXI-FM in his home-town,
Rochester) "With Heart and Voice," we heard a stunning new Tuba,
which, in this organ, is given its very own chamber and swell pedal. This Tuba
is full of English fundamental, with lightning prompt speech, both with regard
to smooth attack and release. Contrasting this was Sowerby's Carillon. The
mysterious flutes that did not work so well in the Vivaldi concerto were
perfect for this style of piece. Again, Dr. Craighead played in a manner which
is not overly emotive, with rhythm that is easy to comprehend.

To close his program, David Craighead gave us another staple
of his repertoire, Max Reger's Choral-Fantasy on "Hallelujah, Gott zu
Loben." It is sad that this chorale, as is the case with so many German chorale-based
organ works, is not a popular hymn in today's American churches. If it were
better known, this and the other Reger chorale-fantasies would be much better
appreciated. To counter this lack of familiarity, the program bulletin included
a complete translation of the German chorale text, and as Dr. Craighead
explained, one can hear how Reger followed the text of the chorale verse for
verse, with differing musical interpretations reflecting the action of the text
throughout. The colors of the fluework were used to good effect here. There
were several details about his performance of this Reger masterpiece that may
be of interest to the organist. One point is the manner in which David
Craighead added and subtracted, by hand, one or two stops, such as Swell flutes
and celestes, during quieter passages. The demonstration of as many colors and
combinations as possible was one of the artist's stated goals for the recital,
and each of the changes, although subtle, was heard in the nave. Being true to
the score in Reger can be a disaster on some organs, because Reger writes
extensive passages that require that the organist refrain from playing on the
Great, remaining on the Choir division instead. Choir divisions in many
American organs simply do not have the fundamental power to sound satisfactory
when performing these contrapuntal Reger-esque passages. The organ's Choir
division here was beefy enough to handle the task.

Another point well worth noticing is the artist's restraint
in registering the passages marked forte and louder. By viewing the coupler
rail during his Reger I noticed only unison couplers in place, even as the
concluding Fugue built up to its fortississimo conclusion. At full organ, the
room was filled with a solid, but not a painfully loud nor shrill, ensemble. Of
all the works played in the recital, this final work pointed directly toward
the central philosophy that seems to have dominated in the tonal design of this
new organ, and to sum it up, I would offer three observations, as follows: [a]
the tonal scheme is slanted toward the darker, more opaque, and somewhat
English, tonal palette, [b] brightness, sharpness and clarity in the plenum is
shifted away from extreme upperwork and does not rely upon mixtures for these
qualities [c] however, instead of looking solely to the upper harmonic
development of big reeds to provide brilliance, the brilliance comes from a
development of the lower and mid-harmonics in all 8' stops and in the 4' range
of mutation ranks.

There was much love which pervaded the sanctuary as the full
house in attendance rose to a standing ovation at the conclusion of the
program. The artist responded, again without undue fanfare, with the simple and
reverent "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." The recital program, divided
almost equally between music for worship and music for concert, and the artful
demonstration of what this organ has to offer, has set the stage for similar
dual use of this instrument in the life of this church for the coming years.

--Frederick Hohman

 

Frederick Hohman divides his career between that of concert
organist, recording artist, and recording/television producer. He holds the
MusB, MM, and DMA, and Performer's Certificate from the Eastman School of Music
as a student of David Craighead, and has the distinction of being the only
student to have attained all of these degrees while remaining continually under
Craighead's tutelage. He took First Prizes in the 1984 Eighth National
Organ-Playing Competition (Mader Foundation) and in the 1984 Arthur Poister
Organ-Playing Competition. To date, he appears on nine CD recordings on Pro
Organo, and his Midnight Pipes television series has aired in the United States
on many affiliates with PBS. He is also the president of Zarex Corporation,
which produces, manufactures and distributes organ & choral music on
compact disc and for television broadcast, in South Bend, Indiana.

 

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