About Our Organ

From Our Archives:

A Short History of the Organ at Immanuel Lutheran Church on the occasion of the Dedication of the Organ June 4, 1989 [by Charles Schramm, Jr.]

The Organ at Immanuel ~ Past and Present

The first pipe organ mentioned in our church records was built by the ODELL ORGAN COMPANY of New York City. However, this instrument was not originally intended for Immanuel. The organ was Odell’s opus 330 built in 1895 for the Presbyterian Church at a cost of $12,000 and installed in the 500 seat Chapel of the Presbyterian Building, 156 Fifth Avenue (20th Street), New York City. Immanuel purchased this organ in 1907, and it was installed in our church by the Hutchings Votey Organ Company. This was an instrument of 34 registers, played from a 3 manual console. J.H. & C.S. Odell & Company was one of the best American organ builders of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Among other fine organs they built was one for St. Paul’s Chapel Trinity Parish, in Lower Manhattan in the year 1870.

In the early 1950’s the Odell organ was rebuilt by the WICKS ORGAN COMPANY of Highland, Illinois. As this was their first large installation in Manhattan they included a window and light in the side of the Great wind chest so that their patented Direct-Electric-Action could be viewed. Many of their prospective clients were brought to Immanuel to hear the organ and see its mechanism in action. A new 3 manual console was installed and provision was made for additional ranks to be added at a future date. A set of Maryland Chimes, given as a memorial to Maximilian Hollenberg by his wife Martha, was installed. The dedicatory recital was given on November 22nd, 1953 by Pastor George Wehmeyer and the choirs of Immanuel.

During the major renovation of the church in 1969-1970 the rear balcony was enlarged and the console was moved from the front of the organ to its present location.

Over the years, age and urban air-pollution had made portions of the mechanical works of the organ increasingly unreliable. Thus recommendation was made to the church council to remedy the problem by the installation of solid-state switching and combination actions. Also recommended was extensive tonal work and the addition of the ranks provided for in the 1953 rebuilding of the organ. The congregation agreed to carry out this plan and work was begun in July 1988 by JOHN L. RANDOLPH ORGANS, Brooklyn, New York.

Pipes and chests were cleaned of the dust and grime of 35 years. It was during this phase of the work that some of the original Odell pipework was discovered to have been signed by the voicer who had incised his initials into the pipes with a turn-of-the-century Spenserian flourish. The Choir division was raised 3 feet to permit its pipes to speak properly through the openings of its chamber. Oboe, Bassoon, Cornopean, Clarion and Clarinet ranks (234 pipes, ranging from 16′ tall to pinky-size) were removed, carefully packaged and sent to be revoiced. The expression-shade motors were removed, rebuilt and reinstalled. Pipework was revoiced and rescaled. The console was stripped of its innards and the new solid-state memory system and new stop-tabs were installed. The solid-state switching boards, new D.C. power supply and new cables were installed. Then began the wire-wrap and soldering of thousands of individual connections. While this electrical work was in progress the organ was inoperable. Mr. Randolph graciously supplied us with a one manual Chamber Organ for use in our worship until our console was again in operation. Chests and rack boards were constructed for the new ranks of pipes. Installation of the revoiced reeds and the new Great Trompete and Mixture completed the organ as per contract.

My thanks to John Randolph for our new, glorious sounding organ which takes its place as one of the best instruments in New York City.

Charles Schramm, Jr.
Organist and Choirmaster

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