Emmanuel Episcopal, Rapid City, SD

About the Organ

For the congregation of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Rapid City, the Lenten season of self-denial had a new meaning as the congregation gave up their organ for Lent. Following Ash Wednesday services an organ building crew led by David Salmen, Wessington Springs removed the pipe organ that had led worship since the early 1940s with many pipes of the organ dating to life in an earlier theater organ. Once the organ had been removed with about 250 pipes carefully salvaged for reuse in the new instrument, reconstruction of the organ chamber area began. Walls were insulated and re-plastered to provide a more stable environment for the new organ. The tone opening was enlarged to provide greater tonal egress from the organ chamber.

On March 16 the new Salmen pipe organ was delivered and unloaded at Emmanuel Church. The installation crew from South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado – David Salmen, Bill and Barb Harris, and Kris Harris – began the task of assembling the organ in its new home. Within 8 days the physical installation of the organ was complete and the painstaking process of tonal regulation began. Assisting David with the voicing was Dan Abrahamson, Lawrence, Kansas. It is in this phase of the organ’s completion that its beauty of sound is realized when the organ is married acoustically to work with the sanctuary. Each of the organ’s nearly 1200 pipes was regulated for proper speech, pitch, color, power and blend.

With the procession of palms and loud hosannas on Palm Sunday, the new Salmen organ began its role of leading the Emmanuel congregation in worship. With the many diverse services of Holy Week and Easter the organ’s voice was heard in great variety in its new home. The visual design of the organ compliments the existing reredos and contains the pipes of the Great organ. The visual layout was done by Frank Friemel. New organ components were crafted by Organ Supply Industries. The fiber optic organ memory and switching system was built in Hermosa, South Dakota by Justin and Mark Matters. The tonal design of the organ is of an English flavor to have the flexibility necessary to lead and accompany the great diversity and wealth found in Anglican church music.   

Sincere appreciation is extended to Emmauel’s organist JoAnn Edstrom for her leadership in this project!

New Organ a Marvel

Story from Rapid City Journal May 22 by Deb Holland Journal Staff Writer

The majestic sounds resonate from every corner of the sanctuary at Rapid City’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church. It’s hard to imagine that air flowing through pipes can create such a sound.

But these aren’t just any pipes.

This is a custom built Salmen Organ created by David Salmen specifically for the church.

Emmanuel Episcopal contracted with the Wessington Springs organ maker last summer to develop a pipe organ for the 116-year-old church.

Emmanuel Episcopal is the only downtown Rapid City church still in its original building. The cornerstone of the little sandstone church was laid Nov. 10, 1887, and the first services were held in the new building in 1888. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attended a regular Sunday service in 1936 at the church, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

So, fitting the church with a new organ required attention to detail.

Amazingly, more than 1,250 individual pipes, ranging in length from smaller than a pencil to 16 feet were fit into an area 16 feet wide and 4-1/2 feet deep.

“All the framing, bellows and everything filled a small semi,” organ maker Salmen said recently while on a return trip to the church. “It took a crew of four about two weeks to install the organ. We spent another week teaching them how to sing.”

The “teaching” is done by manipulating the mouth and the foot of the metal pipes.

Salmen says one person sits at the keyboard playing notes while others manipulate the pipes until they find the correct pitch.

The length of the pipe determines pitch and the diameter determines the color, or boldness of tone, Salmen said.

“The fatter the diameter, the rounder flute-like it will sound; the thinner they become, the more string-like they sound,” he said.

Organ makers take into account whether a space is carpeted or not and customize to acoustics and worship style, Salmen said.

Humidity, fluctuations in temperature and dust are the worst enemies of a pipe organ.

Climate changes affect the different materials used in pipe making to varying degrees. Sound waves travel with less resistance in lower density air and that is why the pitch of the pipe organ sharpens with rising temperatures and flattens with lower temperatures.

“We usually tune before Christmas and in the summer,” Salmen said.The Rev. David Cameron, who became the 18th rector of Emmanuel in 1987, said he gets chills every time he hears the new organ.

“There is a lot of technical ability in organ building, but the real effort and the expertise is to voice every single pipe to our environment,” he said. “I stand in various places in the sanctuary when it is played and it is well voiced, as they say, to our space.”

Cameron said the church had an adequate pipe organ but it just needed updating.

“Some of the pipes on the old organ came from a theater organ in the ’40s. Most of the pipes were saved from that organ for the new pipe organ. New ranks were installed along with new guts of the organ,” he said.

The congregation made the commitment to fund a new organ about 10 years ago, Cameron said.

“We have a wonderful organist and she shared with us that somewhere down the line it would need to be updated or renovated. We’ve been setting aside money for the past 10 years. The congregation has been very thoughtful,” he said.

The new $200,000 organ is a technological marvel.

It is equipped with new state-of-the art digital controls with MIDI capability. The renovated organ can now add new sounds, transpose, record and play back live performances.

“It’s a complex instrument, but it’s absolutely wonderful,” Cameron said. “We are fortunate to have it as a resource and tool for worship.”

JoAnn Edstrom, who has been the organist at Emmanuel Episcopal for 26 years, agrees.

“It’s fantastic,” she said of the new organ. “I’ve had to take an alarm clock along with me to practice so I don’t stay too long.”

Edstrom says anything and everything she plays on the new organ sounds wonderful.

“And I think the congregation is singing better, too,” she said.

Contact Deb Holland at 394-8416 or deb.holland@rapidcityjournal.com

Master musician to perform on organ

Nationally known organist John Weaver will perform at the dedication of the new pipe organ at Rapid City’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

The dedicatory recital will be 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 26, at the church. The concert is free to the public, but due to space limitations, admission will be by reserved ticket only. To reserve your ticket, call 342-0909 or stop by the church office at 717 Quincy St. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Weaver has been director of music at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City since 1970. He has served as head of the organ department at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia since 1972, and was named chair of the organ department at The Julliard School in 1987.

Weaver’s musical studies began at age 6 at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. In 1959, he received the diploma of the Curtis Institute and earned a master of sacred music degree from Union Theological Seminary.

Weaver has been active as a concert artist since 1959. He has played throughout North America, Western Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil, presenting recitals from his large repertoire of memorized programs

Weaver regularly performs at regional conventions of The American Guild of Organists and has played several national AGO conventions, as well as at the 1987 International Congress of Organists, held in Cambridge, England.

Weaver’s main non-musical interests are riding trains, model railroading and hiking mountain trails. He plans to ride the 1880 Train at Hill City while visiting the Black Hills.

Construction Photos

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pdficon_small.gif Emmanuel Episcopal Specification

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