Spring tunings have been completed and we’re all in the shop working on several projects. My wife and I are looking forward to the International Society of Organbuilders meeting in Belgium in late August. We will be seeing some great instruments as well as visiting four organ shops. These organ conventions are not only a valuable learning experience, but also a lot of fun as well. We wish all of you good health and a fun summer! –Dennis
Soldiers and Sailors Auditorium in Chattanooga, TN.
The Chatanooga music club has been raising funds to restore their 114 rank organ. The Choir is now the third division restored by our firm; of the famous Austin organ. All the pneumatic actions have been re-leathered. We also re-leathered all the door seals to the original skived leather covers and the massive bellows has all new leather inside and out. All the pipes were repaired and the stolen ones replaced. One set of pipes called 8’ Cor De Nuit was a real puzzle. Edwin Lamear altered the original specifications. He calls for a 49-tapered scale in metal. The Austin factory had no information on the stop. In Lamear’s notes he wrote in reference to that stop “like Portland”. Gordon Auchincloss from the Austin factory, referred me to a colleague of mine, David Wallace, who rebuilt the sister organ in Portland, Maine. David said he would be happy to help and sent me photographs and measurements of the mystery stop. Organ Supply Industries made a sample pipe that matched perfectly. They were able to supply us with the full set that sings very well in that division. We are looking forward to restoring the Swell division. It’s in very rough condition but will be gorgeous when brought back to life.
Speaking of Chattanooga, we are expanding our tuning and service to that city. We are proud to have Brainerd Baptist Church under our care. (“inquiries are welcome”).
First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, TN.
First United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro has completed its new building and it is truly a work of art. I’ve heard some people affectionately call it the “Methodist Cathedral”. The sanctuary ceiling is 87’ tall and the acoustics are wonderful! The entire sound system consists of two hidden speaker clusters located in the organ chambers. The beautiful stained glass throws a rainbow of colors on our polished façade pipes. It was no small task to fill a room that size with enough sound to lead the large congregation. The fifty ranks not only fill the room with a great volume of sound, but many beautiful colors as well. The expression rooms were built over 4 inches thick, insulated with double layers of 5/8” drywall. With sixteen stage swell machines, the organ can speak as a whisper. We originally built this instrument twenty-five years ago for their former sanctuary.
The building has been deconsecrated and now houses the Mid South Bank. Mary K. and George Huddleston, who funded the organ, generously gave us a free hand in designing the organ to fit the new building both visually and tonally. Dr. Murray Somerville dedicated the organ November 22 and it was an exciting performance. On his last curtain call, he played a rounding rendition of “God Bless America” and brought the audience to its feet. We look forward to more local artist giving recitals. We are quite proud of this instrument and welcome all to visit.
The First Baptist Church in Decatur has completed a major renovation of their auditorium, music room, and offices. Since the sanctuary was not usable during the construction, the choir director felt this was the best time to update and enlarge their Casavant organ. They wanted a three manual console with a new Choir division and added some accompanying stops to their existing divisions. There was no physical space to place all the additional pipes. It was necessary to add electronic sounds to the organ. We called on the Walker Technical Company of Zionsville, PA. They are the undisputed leaders in fitting sampled electronic sounds to pipe organs. Dr. Fred Swann told me he has heard none better. We installed a new three-manual console for the Casavant in the main auditorium and rebuilt and installed the original two manual Casavant console in their chapel pipe organ. Our voicers worked with Walker’s voicers to make the best possible marriage. We have all heard poor combination organs. This one works. Elizabeth Carter is very happy with all her new bells and whistles!
McKendree Methodist Church in Portland had an organ "Extreme Makeover". This was my oldest son Derek’s project. It was quite a twist but we added four extended ranks to a Rodgers 740B electronic organ. We built a floor in the base of the alter that houses the blower, rectifier and switching system that supports the new pipe additions. The stops added, placed on two wind chests, were an 8’ Principal, 8’ Gedeckt, 4’ Octave, 4’ Kopple Flute, 2’ Principal and 2’ Piccolo. It’s the church’s first step to a full pipe organ.
A few years ago, we did some major rebuilding to the First Methodist Church Shantz organ in Huntsville, AL. At that time, a parishioner, Mr. Preston Hayes, wanted to add an electronic Echo division to the rear of the sanctuary along with a video camera. He never liked the looks of that addition and asked us to design a false façade to go in front of the screen. The pipes have an antique gold finish with a polished silver mouth. They sit on a dark pecan toe board. The pipes are so prominent; the camera hole is no longer as noticeable.
Forest Lake Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa, AL.
Organist and consultant Dr. James Dorrah was commissioned to find a good used pipe organ for Forest Lake Methodist Church. He narrowed his search to two instruments. We had worked on several projects in the past and he asked us to get involved. We decided on the Moller in Dr. Margaret Kemper’s Church in Kenilworth, IL. Dennis and Derek flew to Chicago, while Greg and Kevin drove the long distance with a van and truck. It took us three days to dismantle the 33 rank organ and load it into the trucks. The drive back home through downtown Chicago during rush hour, with a full load, was a grand experience! We have redesigned and rebuilt the instrument to fit in its new home. The organ is ready and the church should be finished this summer. We should be able to start the installation of the organ this August.
St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Manchester, TN.
Manchester, TN is about 40 miles south east of Nashville. Their budget did not allow for a totally new instrument. We had a Moller Artiste opus 10265 we traded for some rebuilding work on a Shantz organ at the Southern Methodist University in Birmingham AL. “A little horse trading with Dr. James Cook”. This was to be St. Bede’s swell division. We totally rebuilt the Artiste including solid state relays. We placed this division in the center and front edge of the balcony. The all new great division is suspended from the ceiling by four steel rods and fastened to the stone wall for stability. Both divisions are at the same height for stable tuning. The divisions blend well with each other and there is no stereo effect in the small live sanctuary. The organist Dr. Luwin Lewis is enjoying the new organ and working on mastering the midi and playback sequencer.
Highland Baptist Church in Florence
Highland Baptist Church is located in the city of Florence, Alabama. Their Auditorium on Simpson Street needed major renovations. After a great deal of study it was decided to demolish the building and build new at the same location. A new state of the art 1000 seat auditorium was constructed. The 1964 Shantz three manual organ needed to be disassembled and stored until the new sanctuary was completed. Milnar Organ Co. was contracted by Highland Baptist to remove the organ, make several repairs, and redesign the organ for the new worship center. All parts of the organ being repaired or rebuilt where transported to our shop facility in Eagleville, TN.
We were very excited about the move due to the changes made by the new room and upgrades to the organ. In the old auditorium the entire organ was hidden behind a screen. There is a beautiful new facade using pipes of the 16’ Pedal Principal, 8’ Great Principal and 16’ Bourdon. Six of the 16’ Principal pipes were mitered. We had to straighten and re-solder them before the gold paint was applied. New wind chests were built to support the new facade. The console was totally rebuilt and upgraded with a new solid state 32-level combination action. Multiplex relays and switches brought the organs electrical system to today’s standards. All the cotton coated DC cables were replaced with PVC coated cables. The new facade layout and solid state console, makes the organ as state of the art as the new auditorium. The congregation had their dedication to the building on Jan 18th 2004.
Keith Memorial Methodist Church in Athens, TN.
Keith Memorial Methodist Church in Athens,TN was told their Reuter organ was in terrible shape and needed to be replaced. They asked us for a second opinion. We found the internal and external leather of their pneumatic organ in excellent condition. The graphite on the inside of the toe boards had dried up and lost its lubricity and was causing some periodic ciphers. We consulted with the Reuter factory and decided the internal toe boards needed fresh graphite. This simple repair took care of the organ problems. While we were there, we upgraded the console to solid-state and added a soft string to the Great division.
Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, TN
Scarritt Bennett Center’s Casavant tracker just went through some renovations. The slider motors that had shafts impregnated with a lifetime lubricant, didn’t live up to the manufacture’s expectations. We had cleaned and re-lubricated their units for years. We finally had to replace them. We upgraded their entire electrical system and increased their console memory system from one-level to thirty-two levels. Jenny Smith and other organists can go through an entire service without resetting pistons. Hurray!
A Warm Welcome To Those Organs Now In Our Care!
Cumberland Presbyterian in Scottsboro, AL –Organist: Nora English
Covenant Presbyterian in Huntsville, AL – Dir. Music: Bryan Page
Brainerd Baptist in Chattanooga, TN – Organist: Barbara Bowers
Shades Mtn. Baptist in Birmingham, AL – Organist: Edwina Forstman
Huffman Baptist in Birmingham, AL – Dir Music: Dennis Altizer
St. Louis Catholic in Memphis, TN – Dir. Music: Mary Jo Hoffsommer
St. Bede’s Episcopal in Manchester, TN – Organist: Dr. Luwin Lewis
Messiah Lutheran in Montgomery, AL – Organist: Margie Lee
First United Methodist in Woodbury, TN – Organist: Bill Mancy
First United Methodist in Scottsboro, AL – Organist: Grady Bennett
West Nashville United Methodist in Nashville, TN – Organist: Tim Cover
First United Methodist in Batesville, MS – Dir Music: Alahna Ducker
Mckendree Memorial United Methodist in Portland, TN – Organist: Pat Empson
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