I recall the winter morning in January 2006 when I received a call that would begin one of the most unique experiences in my career. At the time, we were giving some assistance to the Schoenstein Organ Company with their installation of a new organ in the Laura Turner Concert Hall in the new Schemerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. The caller that January day three years ago was Cal Turner, Jr., a whose support of the fine arts was well known, including his contributions to the Schemerhorn concert hall named in his mother’s honor.
Mr. Turner asked if we could build a pipe organ for his new home that was well under construction. The home site is on the tallest hill in Franklin, Tennessee, about one half hour from our shop. Soon after that call, my eldest son Derek, and I met with Mr. Turner, and the architect, Brad Norris to explore the possibility of building a new organ for the multi-leveled great room.
Our most limiting factor was space. The super-structure of this room was made up of very large wooden beams. Two of these beams supported the staircase landing on the second floor. They were about eight feet apart, and projected about four feet into the room, a perfect spot for the main Great division. We wanted to keep the profile of the Great wind chest and case as low as possible. Using a Schwimmer helped but there was no room for a blower of adequate size. The .75hp Ventus blower located in the Swell was more than adequate for the entire organ. We had the contractor cut a trough in one of the support beams for our air line and cables. The wood and cast iron railing behind the main Great organ, in the walkway, was made removable for tuning and servicing.
To the left of where the main Great division was to be was a room that was planned as a large closet. With some redesigning and a little give and take, it became our tight Swell chamber. Between the two main chests we built our walk board in three removable sections. This gave us access to all the wind chests for service. Special low heat lighting in the ceiling keeps the temperature down while tuning. Temperature and humidity control is exceptional in the home, and it keeps the organ in very good tune.
The inside walls were well insulated which kept the Swell sound egress confined to the shades. We constructed the Swell shades of oak and stained them to match the beams in the room. To keep the shades from being so noticeable, we placed the Great 8’ Erzhaler and 4’ Koppel Flute in front. Because of the space restriction, it was necessary to place the low pipes of the 16’ Bourdon on the outside of the Swell chamber in an open hallway over the sitting room. There were no wall obstructions so with a little higher wind pressure, the bass pipes fill their need. Above the Great room is a small observation room that looks over the county; it’s accessible by a staircase or elevator. During the installation of the organ, some of our men witnessed a large crane lifting the roof off the observation tower, and place one of the home’s three Bosendorfer grand pianos in the room, and replace the roof.
Below the Great room is a large, ornately decorated oriental-styled theatre modeled after a traditional Chinese Siheyuan or courtyard. The lowest level has parking for many cars and an interior full sized car wash. The walls are painted with characters from Mrs. Margaret Turner’s book “I the Fly”, by Denas Davis the original illustrator of her children’s book. The area is so well appointed it serves as a banquet room as well.
From the console on the main floor, while you are surrounded by the majestic hand hewn timber structure of the living room, you can look through one of the numerous kitchens and see the indoor water park equipped with waterfalls and several water slides. Working in this unique 23,600 sq.ft. home was almost surreal.
For a modest sized organ, as you can see by the stop list, it can successfully play a variety of organ literature. The organ was primarily built for entertainment, but quite a bit of classical music has been recorded on the instrument. With the use of the Chimes and a Midi module, a lot of interesting and amusing music is heard, especially when Cal Turner is performing for his grandchildren.
We all enjoyed building this instrument for this very fine, generous, good man.
Cal Turner, Jr. received his B.A., cum laude, from Vanderbilt University in 1962. Following his graduation from Vanderbilt, Mr. Turner served for more than three years as an officer in the United States Navy. In December 1965, he began his career at Dollar General, the company founded by his father and grandfather in 1939. He succeeded his father as president in 1977 and as chairman in 1988. At the time of his retirement in 2003, Dollar General had grown into a New York Stock Exchange retailer with more than 6,000 stores in 27 states and annual sales in excess of $6 billion.
Cal Turner Jr. has served on the board of numerous civic and charitable organizations throughout Tennessee and Kentucky. He personally received the Presidential Award for Private Sector Initiatives from Ronald Reagan at a White House ceremony. I believe one his greatest achievements was to learn to play the pipe organ from his mother, Laura Turner. Cal served many years as organist at the Methodist Church in Scottsville, Kentucky. Mr. Turner has joined the Nashville AGO and is planning a Christmas program for the chapter this year.
It’s not often an organ builder has the opportunity to build an organ for a modern mansion. Mr. Cal Turner Jr. gave us a free hand in the visual and tonal design. His enthusiasm for the project was infectious to everyone in our shop. We will always be grateful to Mr. Turner for his faith in our firm and the great working relationship we shared.
Turner Residence Stop List
16’ Gedeckt 12 pipes
8’ Principal GT
8’ Rohr Flute GT
8’ Gedeckt SW
5’ 1/3 Quint (SW 8 Gedeckt)
4’ Principal (Principal GT)
4’ Chimney Flute (GT 8’ Rohr Flute)
8’ Oboe SW
4’ Oboe SW
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
MIDI to Pedal
8’ Gedeckt 61 pipes
8’ Viola 61 pipes
8’ Viola Celeste TC 49 pipes
4’ Harmonic Flute 61 pipes
4’ Violetta Ext. 12 pipes
2’ 2/3 Nazard 61 pipes
2’ Piccolo Ext. 12 pipes
1’ 3/5 Tierce TC 37 pipes
1’ 1/3 Quint Ext.
8’ Oboe 61 pipes
Swell to Swell 4’
MIDI to Swell
8’ Principal 61 pipes
8’ Rohr Flute 61 pipes
8’ Harmonic Flute (SW) 1-12 from 8’ Gedeckt
8’ Erzähler 61 pipes
8’ Erzähler Celeste TC 49 pipes
4’ Octave 61 pipes
4’ Kopple Flute 61 pipes
2’ Principal Ext. 24 pipes (from 8’ Principal)
1’ 1/3 III Mixture 183 pipes
Chimes 21 Bars
Swell to Great 16’
Swell to Great 8’
Swell to Great 4’
MIDI to Great
Turner Residence Pipe Organ Specifications
The Mahogany II Manual Console includes:
Mahogany pedal board with Rosewood sharps
Keyboards with Pearwood naturals and Rosewood sharps
Burlwood name board and drawknob jambs
Mahogany adjustable bench
Six Rosewood coupler rockers
Twenty-seven custom Rosewood turned drawknob heads with engraved inserts
Twenty thumb pistons
Six toe studs
Adjustable fluorescent music rack and pedal light
General MIDI Module SD-20 with JBL Eon G2-15 self-powered speaker
ICS-4000 control system
The organ also includes:
Peterson 16-stage shade machine
Motor driven Tremolo
Great 8’ Principal and,
4’ Octave of 75% polished tin
The center Façade pipe is diamond faceted and signed by the pipe maker and dedicated to Mr. Turner.