There have been many exciting things happening for Milnar Organ Co. during this past year. We are currently in the process of re-wiring the beautiful Austin Pipe Organ, Opus 1206 in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. The 114 rank Austin is located in Chattanooga, Tenn., and has been restored with the funds from donations gathered by the Chattanooga Music Club. The rewiring of the organ is the final stage of the renovation. It includes a Peterson ICS-4000 control system. When this organ project is completed, the instrument will be the largest fully operational symphonic organ in the southeast.
In the summer of 2007, a crew of nine men from our shop met Darryl Miller at the cathedral Church of Christ the King in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The cathedral was closing its doors and Saint Andrews was the successful bidder on their famous Aeolian/Skinner organ opus 1511, 1970. We spent a 66 hour week dismantling the organ and transporting it to our storage facilities. We have been rebuilding the organ for the last year. The organ is scheduled to be installed this fall with all the necessary repairs, updates and additions. You can view the removal of the organ on www.youtube.com (Draft of Organ Removal). More on this great instrument in our next newsletter.
The Church of the Assumption purchased the 1895, 25-rank William Johnson pipe organ (Opus 819) in 1994. The organ was originally built for the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Milnar Organ Co. refurbished the organ and installed it in its new home in 1995.
Recently we did more renovations that were needed. We removed the Great and Swell primaries and stop actions. Brought them back to our shop and refurbished with new felt and leather. Albenia Ladieu, the organist of the Church of The Assumption in Nashville heard about a Johnson organ in Valparaiso, Indiana. A member of the church and a well-known restoration architect Michel Emrick, A.I.A., and I went to inspect the organ. It was in an old barn in the middle of a field with chest-high grass and weeds.
First impressions were poor. Vermin had eaten the exposed leather off the bellows and shades, etc. The tracker action had been converted to pneumatic pull-downs. These were stored in wood boxes, and were still in good condition, the slider wind chests were sealed well. All the sliders moved freely and the almost 100-year-old leather pallets were in good condition.
What sold us was the superior quality of the pipes. We brought the organ to our shop for re-working. It was originally in one room with a common wind chest support and at the Church of The Assumption it had to be in two rooms. We also made two pipe displays and Michel Emricks decorated the pipes. It looks great, and sounds even better. Mr. Peter Fyfe gave the dedicatory recital to a full house. Peter and the organ received rave reviews. Thanks, Albenia.
First United Methodist has a wonderful 1962 Reuter pipe organ. In 2006 Milnar Organ Co. Installed a new mixture wind chest with 111 pipes in the Great chamber. We also installed a new solid state relay system. Then in 2008 we removed the decorative organ screens and replaced them with painted steel grill panels. These new steel panels have a 47% opening which allows airflow to the chamber. Also, because of the open pattern in the screens, we were able to turn off a circulating fan (on 24 hours a day) that was installed in the 1960’s. The fan sent conditioned air from the Great (Lower Division) to the Swell (Upper Division). No one misses the noisy fan.
The addition to St. Joe McDonough by our firm was one that has become common. Adding real windchests and pipework to an existing electronic organ. We added 8 stops, including a full 16’ Principal with bellows and a new ventus blower. Needless to say, the “real” ranks are played more often.
Downtown Presbyterian Church has an Austin pipe organ that had been expanded by our firm in 1972, to a total of 48 ranks. In 2008 we did a major upgrade and refurbish to the organ. The console was taken out and upgraded to a solid state system, with new silver key contacts and stop controls. All leather actions were recovered.
First Presbyterian in Humbolt, Tenn. had outgrown their downtown building and decided to build a much larger facility just outside the core of the city. We were asked to split the organ, utilizing two elevated chambers on either side of the choir loft. This improved sound projection helped fill the larger room with the minimal addition of a swell 4’ Octave. We re-leathered the bellows and installed a new Peterson control system.
University of Campbellsville, KY
University of Campbellsville was fortunate to acquire a historic organ for the new chapel on campus. The organ was originally built in 1894 by Ferrand and Votey for Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, Tenn. Originally it was a modest fifteen ranks driven by a water pump for wind pressure and batteries providing D.C. electrical power. Many fine organ builders have made additions to the organ. Over the past 1/3 century we have had the organ under our care, and have added several ranks to its now 51 rank total. For its move to Campbellsville, we converted the console to solid state and refurbished much of the instrument.
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