The modern pipe organ is a gift that the Christian church bestowed on the world. There is nothing that can equal its grandeur in volume, its mature gentleness, its playfulness, and its many voices. ….From our time in Seattle to Bach’s time in Leipzig, through the ages on earth to heaven above, it is the pipe organ that so often calls us into God’s house. I am glad we get to pass this tradition on to new believers.
Dr. Earl F. Palmer, Senior Pastor
It was evident from the initial formation of the organ committee of University Presbyterian Church that the new worship instrument contemplated would need to be significant in stature and abundant in musical resources. The organ’s ultimate size and cost would be in keeping with the active worship life and outreach mission of this congregation. University Presbyterian Church worships, prays, teaches and ministers on a large scale to a diverse community. While University Presbyterian Church made an investment of 1.5 million dollars in the new Reuter pipe organ, this investment should be considered in the totality of the UPC ministry. University Presbyterian Church, with a membership of 4,500, averages nearly 6,000 in regular attendance in worship and has an annual mission budget of approximately $2,000,000.00. Over 40 people are serving in the worldwide mission field through the support of this congregation.
After several years of study and work by the organ committee of University Presbyterian, with regional, national and foreign organ builders interviewed, The Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas was commissioned to build a new pipe organ. Reuter’s Opus #2196 stands as a testament to the vision of this congregation in providing a pipe organ with musical resources unequalled in the Pacific Northwest. It is an offering for use in worship of our Creator as well as a gift to the community.
During excursions to listen to and explore existing Reuter organs in the Seattle area, Denver, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, and to the Reuter factory, the organ committee, their consultant, Joseph Adam and organist JoAnn Stremler undertook the awesome responsibility to collaborate on the new organ’s design with Reuter’s regional representative, David R. Salmen. The specifications of the organ needed to reflect an instrument that would:
- Lead their congregation in Christian worship through Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
- Accompany the choirs in singing repertoire ranging from baroque cantatas, to major romantic oratorios, to English choral anthems, as well as diverse contemporary compositions.
- Accompany various vocal and instrument soloists.
- Possess vast musical resources for its role in solo organ literature performed in worship services.
- Be user-friendly and accessible as a teaching instrument for use by the larger community of Seattle.
- Have all possible musical idioms available for use as one of Seattle’s major concert organs.
- Be visually pleasing to compliment the newly remodeled sanctuary.
To meet these goals, Reuter was offered the opportunity to craft a 4 manual and pedal pipe organ of 70 stops, totaling 93 ranks (with preparation for future additions as funding is available) utilizing electro-pneumatic pitman-style windchests. Pitman chests were selected for sound musical reasons as well as their proven reliability and longevity.
The process of building the organ in Reuter’s shop in Lawrence, Kansas, began with the visual design of the organ’s façade. Leading the Reuter team, Stephen Protzman, worked closely with the organ and building committees of UPC to insure that the functional façade with its 80 speaking pipes, fashioned of tin and flamed copper, would architecturally be appropriate and pleasing. The organ’s construction in Lawrence required about 7 months of time and nearly 20,000 man-hours to prepare for shipment to Seattle.
Arriving in Seattle, Labor Day weekend of 1999, the first two of four semi loads of organ components were unloaded. The team of Roger Banks, Ray Carolus, Ken DeJong, Rene Marceau, Doug & Suzi McCord, Edward Mikel, Robert Miller, Michael Ruppert and David Salmen spent the next five weeks installing the organ. Following the organ’s installation Dan Abrahamson and Joseph Wiessinger began the organ’s initial tonal regulation with Roger Banks and David Salmen performing the final tonal finishing. It was through this process of voicing that each of the organ’s pipes was individually and collectively regulated to achieve maximum balance, blend and beauty, acoustically marrying the organ to the sanctuary.
The organ’s stoplist, while a mere glimpse of its possible tonal resources, was broadly conceived in an eclectic design. Nationalist and historic styles of organ building are represented in a form, which is applicable to the rigorous musical demands of the Christian church today. The Great and Pedal divisions are unenclosed with much of their larger pipework in polished tin and flamed copper functionally displayed in the façade. The Swell, Choir and Solo are enclosed and under expression. Wind pressures throughout the organ range from 3 ½ inches to 27 inches. The wind is supplied from 4 blowers with a combined 15 horsepower.
The Great is conceived in what is probably the most eclectic of the divisional designs and is based on a true 16’ Sub Principal. It has three 8 Diapason (Principal) stops in the English style as well as three Mixtures. There is a classic French cornet based on the 16’ series and a more Germanic set of Principal scaled mutations in the 8’ series. The three Great reeds are quasi-Germanic including two 8’ Trumpets. The flutes are of stopped, partially capped, tapered, open and harmonic design. Crowning the Great is the stunning Trompette en Chamade. Voiced on 10” pressure, it speaks horizontally through the façade so as not to be visually distracting to the design of the organ’s case or intrude in the chancel.
The Choir is quite English in concept. This division contains the secondary choruses of the organ and is on equal power to the Great, but of a contrasting color. It is a true accompanimental division, having both flues and reeds at 16’ pitch; numerous 8’ accompanimental stops; as well as complete principal, flute, string and reed choruses. The reed chorus of the Choir utilizes broad scales and higher pressures allowing for weight, color and power in its tone. The string chorus includes an independent pair of 4’ Erzahlers as well as a Dolce Cornet III.
The Swell organ provides the French color and fire of this instrument. While containing a third complete Principal chorus, it is the broadly scaled flute mutations and fiery reeds, which give this division its bold personality. The Bombarde, Trompette and Clarion are harmonic in construction with the Clarion being of repeating design in the treble, finally breaking back to 16’ in the top octave. Atypical of a French Recit, our Swell division contains this organ’s quietest voices in the Skinner-style 8’ Flute Dolce and Flute Celeste.
The Solo is uniquely an American invention that Skinner would be proud to have voiced. The orchestral 8’ flute and 8’ reeds (Clarinet, English Horn and French Horn), playing on 9” wind pressure, are quite exquisite in their haunting, life-like, imitative styles. The 8’ Grand Diapason is to be employed when one wants a “wall” of true Diapason tone. The commanding Tuba, voiced on 27” wind pressure, crowns the entire organ with its power and majesty.
The Pedal contains complete and independent Principal and Flute choruses. The full length Pedal 32’ Posaune, built of heavy welded copper provides the final underpinning of the organ.
The organ is controlled from a moveable 4 manual English style drawknob console. The keyboards have been crafted with bone-surfaced naturals and rosewood sharps. Additional features include 99 independent memory levels, electrically adjustable organist’s bench, piston sequencer, transposer, MIDI interface and digital record/playback system.
Ted Thwing and William Whitfield led the University Presbyterian Church organ committee. Its members included Joseph Adam, Pat Bentz, Laurie Cromwell, Fred Drummond, Larry Fogdall, Jim Kenagy, David Munson, Elaine Rude and JoAnn Stremler.
In this house of worship we call University Presbyterian Church, that gift of great and tender sound is ours. Tears still well up in my eyes when I hear its subtlety and grandeur.
Dr. Earl F. Palmer, Senior Pastor
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