Organ Demonstrations by Andy Peters
Thou Art the Rock – Henri Mulet
Plaint- Robert Elmore
Over fifty years have passed since Schantz organ #699 was installed in Second Presbyterian Church – Saint Louis. During the intervening decades, much has happened in the course of American organ building. The halcyon days of the post-war church building boom in the United States provided an unprecedented opportunity for organ builders to ply their craft.
It was in the midst of those fertile days when then-Director of Music, Charles Huddleston Heaton, commissioned Schantz Organ Company to craft the four-manual (keyboard) and pedal, fifty-nine rank pipe organ for Second Presbyterian Church.
Located in the gallery of the church, the organ enjoys an ideal placement for projection of sound into the nave. Like many examples of its time, the organ features functionally exposed pipework. Portions of the Great, Pedal, and Rück positiv divisions are visible as one looks toward the gallery. While clearly designed and crafted especially for this place, it is interesting to note the similarities of tonal design between this instrument and that of Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) also in Saint Louis. Built by the vaunted Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, the Christ Church instrument predates the organ of Second Presbyterian by a mere three months.
During the intervening years, the organ of Second Presbyterian Church has been updated on several occasions. In 1986, portions of the organ console’s controls were rebuilt, and the original 8’ English Horn of the Choir organ was replaced by the 8’ Trompette Harmonique. Saint Louis-based organ builder Martin Ott added twelve pipes to the organ’s 16’ Pedal Posaune – extending that stop into the 32’ register with half-length pipes.
Beginning in 2012, the church embarked on a renewal project which coincided with the remodeling/re-painting of the church sanctuary. The initial project saw the instrument’s pipework returned to the Orrville, Ohio workshop for refurbishment and regulation, while the mechanism was protected during the church renovation. Careful regulation and selective re-voicing allowed the existing pipework to ‘blossom’ to its full potential. Without negating or refuting its original tonal design, the organ now speaks with authority, conviction, and fully realizes the pipework’s potential. As part of this project, an 8’ Oboe was in-stalled in the Choir Organ – replacing the original 4’ Rohrschalmei (whose pipes were crated and saved in the organ).
In early 2015, the second portion of the renewal project was undertaken. In this project, all of the organ’s internal chest mechanisms were returned to Ohio for ‘re-leathering.’ The Schantz system for internal windchest components allows these mechanisms to be removed for renewal, without disassembling the entire instrument. Concurrently, the reservoirs or ‘bellows’ of the organ were also returned for refurbishment. Taking advantage of the time in which the organ would be out of service, the console (keydesk) was also returned for a complete refurbishment and control system upgrade.
An important addition was made to the organ during this portion of the project. Curiously missing from the 1965 tonal scheme was an undulating or ‘Celeste’ rank for the 8’ Viola da Gamba of the Swell Organ. This staple of organ building – dating back to the 18th century – was strangely missing. Attempts in the intervening years tuned the 8’ Gamba ‘sharp’ of the 8’ Geigen Princi-pal – thereby creating the ‘celeste’ effect, however also eliminating the very useful string tonality at ‘unison’ pitch. The 8’ Viola Celeste (GG) and its new windchest make an important – and long-overdue – addition to the organ.
Much has been developed in the way of pipe organ control systems, console components, and organ relays since the original installation in 1965. What was electro-mechanical switches and pneumatically operated systems originally, is now software-controlled, solid-state equipment which provides the organist with far greater resources in terms of combination action storage, playing aids, and even the ability for record/playback (think player piano – rather than cassette tape!).
Many persons have contributed to the success of these most recent projects – not the least of whom is Andrew Peters, Pastoral Musician from 2007-2021. Andy’s diligence and dedication to this effort are most laudable, and he is a worthy steward in a line of distinguished musicians since the 1965 installation. Paul Lohman, Area Representative with Schantz Organ Company, completed negotiations and details of these projects. The Schantz organ of Second Presbyterian Church now finds itself completely refurbished, and poised to fulfill its second half-century of faithful service in the life of the church. The men and women who are the Schantz Organ Company join in extending their very best wishes to all at Second Presbyterian Church – and look forward to the many ways in which this instrument will lead, encourage, comfort, and cajole in the generations ahead.
JEFFREY D. DEXTER, Vice President and Tonal Director
Schantz Organ Company