Organ Update (8/9/2014)

  • Posted on: 9 August 2014
  • By: iduerr

The long-awaited restoration of Zion's pipe organ has been completed. Patrick J. Murphy Organbuilders of Stowe, PA delivered and installed the new organ in January. The organ dedication will be at 11:15 on September 21. A recital by Eric Plutz, Organist at Princeton University, will be at 4:00.

John Heizer, Zion's music director and organist, has already started playing the new organ during services. Here's a sample from a recent practice session:

Pipe Organ from ZionBaltimore on Vimeo.

It sounds beautiful here, but it sounds even better in person.

For further information on the arrival of the new organ, see Jacques Kelly's article from the Baltimore Sun.

Irene Duerr, Organ Restoration Committee Chairperson, has also described the restoration and delivery of the organ:

Dear Zion Members and Friends of Zion,

THE NEW ORGAN IS HERE! This is indeed a time for praise and rejoicing. After a decade of planning discussions and five years of intense fundraising, Zion Church’s vision of a newly restored pipe organ is now a reality.

A sense of excitement heralded the start of 2014 at Zion. The first truckload of organ components from Stowe, PA was delivered on Monday, January 13. Workers from Patrick J. Murphy Organbuilders, assisted by several Zion members, unloaded the new organ console, massive windchests, casework, and thousands of organ pipes and parts. Installation was underway the same day, with the lifting of the largest wood pipes, each weighing about 350 pounds, into the organ gallery. On January 23, Patrick Murphy made the final delivery of 43 crates of organ pipes. The complex process of assembly involved woodworkers, electricians, mechanical engineers, and craftsmen whose expertise in fitting together the puzzle of thousands of components was amazing to behold. Every pipe is positioned to its rank by hand to achieve a precise fit. Photos posted on Zion’s Facebook page documented the progress of installation on a daily basis.

Following the completion of physical assembly and mechanical work, the painstaking task of voicing and tuning began. Since mid-February, Murphy’s voicing expert, Frederick Bahr, has been making careful adjustments to each one of the 2,572 pipes to achieve the proper tonal quality and pitch for Zion’s acoustic space and musical tradition. Organist and music director, John Heizer, commented on the range of expression that is now possible with Zion’s new instrument, from the softest flute and string sounds to an impressive crescendo of the new tuba stop. He expects to play the first services on the newly restored organ in March. There will be a short organ preview at our next fundraiser dinner in April as well. The formal Dedication Service and Organ Recital to showcase Zion’s newly restored organ is planned on September 21, 2014. The guest artist will be Eric Plutz, Organist at Princeton University.

The beautiful polished oak casework and ornamental pipework are evidence of the craftsmanship that is largely concealed behind the facades. About 500,000 parts and 45,000 man hours were required for the construction of the organ. Of the 66 brass-toned façade pipes that are visible to the congregation, only 15 are non-speaking pipes. The rest are part of the 43 ranks which make up the new instrument. Approximately one-fourth of the 2,500 pipes (687 to be exact), are refurbishments from Zion’s old organ. While most of the materials used in Zion’s new instrument are from American suppliers, a few components are German-made. These include the slider motors that allow air into the pipes, made by the firm of Otto Heuss Orgelteile & Klaviaturen. Also notable are two stops, one of German origin: the wood choir Stopped Diapason by Laukhuff; and one from the Netherlands: the Great Mixture (75% tin) made by Stinkens.

Zion can truly rejoice and be thankful for the faithful support of all who contributed to this project over the past years. Organ Fund donations exceeding $350,000 are indeed a proud accomplishment. Prayerful planning and your overwhelming generosity enabled Zion to move forward with this $615,000 investment for the future. Upon making the final two payments to the organ builder firm, Zion has begun to withdraw from the Mission Investment Fund loan. Our financial obligation to the lender will now be the focus for future fundraising. Contributions and pledges to the Organ Fund will go towards re-payment of our loan. Your continued support is essential for Zion’s financial future.
With the grand sound of its new organ, Zion will continue to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” We rejoice and thank God for His blessings, with gratitude to all who have supported this effort.