Organo Pleno Newsletter 2016

The crew that removed console and pipes from FBC Shelbyville, TN.


What a great year 2015 was for all of us! The economy is growing and the gas prices have been falling. Great news for technicians traveling for service calls. Our company had a vibrant year with more churches calling for service work. We traveled from Kentucky to Mississippi, working on many interesting projects. Here are a few projects that we would like to mention.


First Baptist Church Shelbyville just completed a renovation of their sanctuary. We first removed the console and façade pipes so the contractor could enlarge the stage for the choir and pulpit. The console had been painted white and the church members decided they wanted it changed back to the original natural color. We took the console and façade pipes back to our shop facility to make the alterations. The console was taken apart before starting the process of removing the white paint. It took many hours to remove the paint without damaging the beautiful carvings on the case. The pipes were sanded by hand and dents removed before spraying a new coat of silver/gray paint. Everyone was pleased with the results of our work to the console and facade.


We just completed the third stage of the renovations to Belle Meade’s 37 rank Schantz organ. Doing the renovations in three stages made it possible for the organ to be playable during the entire project. The first two stages of our work were done in the pipe chambers — re-leathering the organ. The third and final stage was upgrading the console to an ICS-4000 Peterson control system with new chamber relays. A new set of Peterson chimes was also installed. Choirmaster and Organist, Mark Acker was very helpful and patient through all three stages.


In 1865, barely six months after the end of the Civil War and just two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, three men; John Ogden, the Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath and the Reverend Edward P. Smith established the Fisk School in Nashville. Fisk's world-famous Jubilee Singers originated as a group of traveling students who set out from Nashville on October 6, 1871, taking the entire contents of the University’s treasury with them for travel expenses, praying that through their music they could somehow raise enough money to keep the doors of their debt-ridden school open. The singers struggled at first, but before long, their performances so electrified audiences that they traveled throughout the United States and Europe, moving to tears audiences that included William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Ulysses S. Grant, William Gladstone, Mark Twain, Johann Strauss and Queen Victoria.


Today, we are honored to be refurbishing their 1960 Holtkamp organ that is located in Jubilee Hall. This past summer, we re-leathered the Great division and polished the façade pipes. We will be re-leathering all divisions and upgrading the console under the watchful eyes of Dr. Phillip Autry and Dr. Anthony Williams. We are excited to be part of this ongoing project.


The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer purchased a used Reuter organ from our firm. They built a new room in their sanctuary for the chests and pipework. We added three new stops, 2 2/3 Nazard, 1 3/5 Tierce and 1 1/3 Nazard. A set of Chimes and a Zimbelstern were also added. The entire organ is under expression except for 11 pipes of the 8’ Principal that are in a display. The new windchest and casework support the façade pipes. It was a snug installation in the new chamber room but, everything fit and sounds great. Dr. Kristen Hansen made the project possible, and she loves the organ. She found the experience so inspiring that she plans on writing an article for the AGO magazine.


Bartlett United Methodist Church began looking for a pipe organ in 2001 after deciding to build a new sanctuary.  They purchased the 1928 Kimball, opus 7035, pipe organ from the Cook Convention Center in Memphis, TN.  This is the smaller of the two Kimball organs, which sat in the South Hall of the 12,000 seat Ellis Auditorium. For a full capacity gathering, both organs could be played from the V manual console. It must have been very exciting considering the smaller organ we rebuilt has a 16’ Tuba Mirabilis on 25” of wind. The historic forty-one rank organ was dismantled several years ago and stored in a portion of the convention center.  We made several trips to Memphis to gather the organ and transport it to our shop facility. It took us over a year to rebuild the organ; adding five more ranks of pipes for a total of forty-six ranks, totaling 3,029 pipes.  We made major changes to the console; for example, refinishing the shell and adding all new electrical systems including a Peterson MSP-1000 and MIDI.


The organ was in need of re-leathering. Last summer, we started the project in the Swell division. The air supply to the two main chests in the Swell was blocked off. This way the organist, Karen Strawhecker, could still play the rest of the organ for Sunday service while we did our work.


Woodmont Christian Church has a III manual 1971 Reuter  opus 1714, which needed major re-leathering. Our firm was contracted to re-leather the organ in two stages. The first stage was to remove  the pouchboards in the Great and Pedal divisions. Combined there were 354 note pouches and 61 primary pouches. We used chrome tanned, African hairsheep leather with new felt and leather valves.

The second stage was re-leathering the Swell division, including the 8 stage swell machine. The reed pipes in the Swell needed attention as well, so we removed them and brought them to our shop facility. The reed sets were cleaned and the tongues were polished and tightened. The caps on the Bourdon pipes were tightened as well. We were able to shim the caps in place without removing them from the division. The project was a success. By doing the work in 2 stages, organist, Michael Graham, had some organ to play each Sunday throughout the process.


First Presbyterian Church has a beautiful Casavant organ, opus 3862. The organ has 65 ranks with 3,896 pipes. Unfortunately, the church had a roof leak last summer and water leaked onto the chests in the Swell division. Our firm was called to help with the water damage. We re-leathered over 50 pouches on the main chest and off notes. The mitered low notes on the 16’ Trumpet still had water trapped in the miters. The roofing company made several attempts at repairing the roof, but a secondary ceiling was installed over the Swell as a safeguard. Dr. Bill Wymond was very patient throughout the process.


The creation of Galloway’s Casavant organ, opus 3735, took ten months to complete. After a major renovation of the sanctuary, the organ was installed. The new organ has 65 ranks, is comprised of 3,709 pipes and is organized into five divisions. Last year our firm was contracted to protect the organ during another renovation project in the sanctuary. The pipes of the organ’s exposed Great division were removed and stored in trays, and the console was moved to a safe room. During the construction, a pipe burst in the blower room causing major damage. The blower room itself needed to be rebuilt. Gaps in the wall to the furnace room were sealed to block the natural gas fumes from entering the blower room and the organ’s wind system.


During the reconstruction of the stage area, we had the electricians install new floor boxes in key locations so the placement of the console was flexible. New D.C. connectors and cables were also installed. The blower bellows was damaged beyond repair by the water. We replaced the bellows and uncovered the organ after the construction was finished, leaving the entire organ clean and in fine tune. It was very nice working with Ms. Reagan Lord, Worship Arts Director.


Forest Lake United Methodist has a 1968, 34 rank Moller Organ, opus 11724. It was a transplant that our firm made in 2003. The organ was transported by us in two trucks and trailers from Kenilworth Union Church in Kenilworth, IL. It was the farthest relocation and rebuilding project that Milnar Organ had to date. This past summer, we made a bid to revoice the Great high pressure 8’ Festival Trumpet. The trumpet was having problems staying in tune and was too loud. We removed and shipped the Trumpet to Oyster Pipe Works in Louisville, OH. Oyster was contracted to revoice the Trumpet to 4.5” wind pressure, it was originally on 6”. The Festival Trumpet can now be played with the rest of the organ without overpowering the instrument.


First Baptist was organized in 1866 under the leadership of Chaplain Van Horne and a small group of Federal Army soldiers who had served during the Civil War. Rev. Alan Nickerson was the first pastor and was ordained by Chaplain Van Horne. He served for 19 years during a period of great growth before his resignation. Currently, Mr. Bryant Lowery is the Director of Music and Organist. It is a pleasure to see him during our tuning visits. We have serviced the pipe organ since 2008.

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