The River Road Church Möller Opus 10590 organ was built in 1970, traditionally constructed then as it would have been 50 years earlier.  The existing organ console is connected by a set of relays, switches, and an electro-pneumatic memory system in the organ chambers to the organ mechanism.

The Issues

Although it has been well maintained, the electrical control system that connects the keyboard console with the rest of the organ is mechanical and wearing out. Approximately 10,000 tiny silver contacts under the keys, in relays, and on electro-pneumatic switches both in the console and in the organ chambers are sparking and failing due to mechanical wear and tear.

The large electro-pneumatic memory system that provides for the setting of stops is also mechanical, limited in memory storage, and at the end of its life.  The existing console’s thumb and toe pistons allow the organist to preset various combinations of stops. Currently, leather-covered bellows in the organ chambers operate silver-contact switches to record which stops are set on each piston. Each piston can remember only one combination of stops, limiting the pieces that can be performed without a time-consuming mechanical resetting of stops. Currently, organists are utilizing certain “workarounds” to play through existing mechanical issues.

Several large zinc pipes have crumpled, bent, or bowed. Tuning scrolls are worn and rattling from fatigue. Split soldered joints are sealed with duct tape. Integral leather materials, including bellows, are worn and weak. The seal of one failing leather stopper is stuffed tight with a plastic garbage bag!  Forty-five years of dust soon will affect pipe speech and tuning ability.

Quite simply, to continue to ensure the beautiful music so integral to our worship experience, our organ must be restored.

The Solution

A new, moveable, mahogany organ console, including modern solid-state mechanisms for setting combinations, will be constructed and installed. Installation will include a lift and related modifications to the left of the chancel allowing the console to be raised from the organ pit and moved to the center of the chancel for occasions such as concerts.

With the solid-state control systems of modern consoles, thousands of combinations of stops can be stored by the organist. Only a few dozen can be stored with our existing instrument, so the new console will greatly expand the works that can be performed in one service or concert.

A comprehensive mechanical overhaul of the organ will be completed, requiring all pipework to be removed to the repair facility for restoration. All wiring will be replaced and new leather pouches and tremolos installed. Restored pipes will then be reinstalled. Minor tonal modifications are under consideration as well.

For more on the issues and the proposed solution, you may wish to read the Organ Renovation Committee Complete Report, available as a PDF.

Timeframe

Originally, the plan was to be without any organ only about three weeks — the time needed to install the new console. Once adequate funds were raised and the console design approved, console construction would take seven or eight months.  As construction commenced, it was decided to use the ivory keyboards from the old console and install them in the new, removing the old console much earlier and necessitating the procurement of an electric organ to use for several months.

Although plans could again change, we anticipate console installation sometime in the first half of 2015. Once the console is installed, we will begin the restoration of the pipes and other internal mechanisms, removing all pipes and relying once again on a rental instrument. Restoration will take around a year. Depending on when restoration begins, we would anticipate completion sometime in the second half of 2016 or early 2017.