ABOUT THE ORGAN
Second only to the investment a congregation makes in their worship facility is the cost for a quality pipe organ. With proper maintenance this “king of instruments” may outlast the building in which it speaks.
Many of our rewarding projects as organ builders come in the form of preserving existing instruments. The work at First Plymouth Congregational not only merged modern technology with traditional wind-blown pipes, insuring future reliability and longevity; but it allowed us the opportunity to give the organ a “new voice” for a fraction of the cost of a complete replacement. Actually this concept has been employed with many of the historic European instruments. As musical styles evolved and technological advances materialized, organs were updated, rebuilt or enlarged.
The First Plymouth organ was built in a time (the late 1950’s) in which the organ reform movement was gaining in influence in America. Romantic organs of the early 1900s were being discarded in favor of instruments built along Classic and Baroque ideals. The sound of the First Plymouth organ somewhat reflected these new ideals and was understated in its potential as a result. As with most styles in America, the pendulum is in motion and tastes change. We were able to take the existing instrument – replacing 3 sets of pipes and adding a couple of additional voices – and revoice it to give greater power and color while still retaining its clarity. The process of voicing is much akin to a gemologist making the determination of where and how to cut a rough stone to reveal its color and clarity. With a pipe organ we are able to affect many parameters of a given pipe to alter its character.
Organs built before the advent of solid state switching technology used common mechanical components of the day to perform memory and switching functions. The technology of the original organ was much akin to that found in a mechanical adding machine. Today we have the opportunity to use components that are computer-based allowing for reliability, faster response, additional features and lower initial cost. While the organ’s tone is still traditionally created with wind, the interface between the organist and the pipes is solid state. A single fiber optic cable links the console to the pipe chamber. The organist now has access to such features as multiple memory levels, transposer, MIDI interface and digital record/playback of the pipe organ.
Working with me on the First Plymouth organ were technicians Roger Banks, Edmond, OK; Dan Abrahamson, Lawrence, KS; Jerry Kinsley, Colorado Springs, CO; Kris Harris, Denver, CO; and Bill and Barb Harris, Cheyenne, WY.
David R. Salmen
Salmen Organs and Farms of South Dakota
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