The Organs of First Evangelical Presbyterian Church
In 1928 First Presbyterian Church relocated from the corner of Church & 3rd Streets (now Channel 10 TV) to 2101 South Jefferson Streets, a few months before the great stock Market crash. Members celebrated their first service on June 23, 1929 and sang with a new organ of 36 ranks built by the Pilcher Company.
Following the stock market “crash”, the organ was maintained as funds allowed, but by 1959, it had need of serious repairs. A gift from the estate of Blanche Sprinkle afforded an opportunity for the Möller Organ Company of Hagerstown, Maryland to repair, rebuild, make tonal changes and supply a new console.
By 1978 the organ once again needed serious work. Much of the organ dated from 1929. While new ranks and windchests from the 1958 rebuild were in fair condition, most of the organ needed major, costly repairs.
With a growing Ministry of Music needing more space and flexibility, a committee was formed to discuss the direction to take in either rebuilding again or replacing the instrument with a new organ and changing the front of the pulpit area.
Four years later, it was determined that the cost to rebuild was nearly the same as a new instrument. After seeking out the advice of several major organ companies, the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio, was chosen to build a new organ of three manuals and pedal of 56 ranks of pipes.
The choir loft was lowered and organ chambers behind the facade pipes were rebuilt and reduced in size for the new instrument, to permit better tonal egress into the sanctuary.
In July 1982, the organ arrived and was completely installed in a week and later voiced over a period of three weeks. The new instrument was dedicated in a recital by Minister of Music A. Robert Chapman on Sunday, September 19, 1982.
In the design of this new instrument were preparations for future additional ranks of pipes. Over the years, memorial gifts and a final contribution from endowment funds were made available to make additions and changes to the organ. On Election Day, November 1999 a contract was signed with the John Dower Organ of Lincolnton, North Carolina to make major additions to the existing organ.
The console was refitted for additional stop knobs, multi-level combination action and MIDI. Through the use of MIDI the organ can draw upon 8 external voices from other MIDI sources. One rank of flute pipes was added to the Pedal organ. Eighteen digital voices by the John Walker Technologies Company of Zionsville, Pennsylvania were added to the 4 divisions.
The organ possess a well-rounded specification of choruses allowing for the ultimate accompaniment of congregational hymn singing, choral anthem support as well as a major recital instrument. The installation was completed in September 2001.
The existing organ of 57 ranks of pipes and 18 digital voices are located in four rooms immediately behind the 1928 Pilcher pipe facade of 72 non-speaking pipes. An Antiphonal organ was considered at the beginning and each rebuilding, however, the existing console lacked sufficient room for the addition of a complete, new division. The organ console, connected by a fiber optic cable, rests on a hydraulic lift to allow moveability for concerts and other programs.