Originally published in the 2017 Summer Quarterly Explorer
Updates provided by RC Moore, Seth Roberts, Bill Rusher, & Bob Gallagher
Sound System Update
Since the last report, there have been many technical adjustments and refinements to the sound system. One of the most visible was the installation of temporary scaffolding for testing a new placement of the speakers. The survey forms during the early weeks of usage in this location proved that this move was very valuable in further enhancing the performance of the system. In their new location, the speakers are showing substantial improvement in speech intelligibility. Unexpected hardware and technical issues arose that frustrated all several Sundays, but at present, the known issues have been identified and either have been or are being corrected. The Building and Property Council will shortly review options for permanent installation so the metal towers can be removed.
Modifications and final installation in the choir area, balcony, and pews in the first seven rows are currently underway. There are several punch list items identified for improvement to add to the overall system usage and performance. The staff at VIcom continues to be responsive to our concerns and have willingly assisted with each identified item at issue.
Our main focus on the project is to complete the system for final testing on an expedited basis, and a schedule is being refined to accomplish the open tasks as quickly as possible. Your input and patience through this installation is acknowledged. Please know there are diligent efforts ongoing to complete this phase of the sanctuary upgrade.
The sanctuary lighting project is essentially complete. New lighting utilizing LED technology has been installed throughout the sanctuary. These systems use less energy, generate less heat, and free us from 40-year-old, rheostat-based technologies that were becoming unmaintainable. As the project nears completion, there are a few tedious, behind-the-scenes tasks that remain to be finished.
Since its installation in 1970 and the addition of the Positiv division in 1980, River Road’s Möller pipe organ has been a source of inspiration for both our church and the Richmond community. Combined with River Road’s magnificent architecture and acoustics, this organ has communicated to thousands of worshipers and concertgoers a sense of the poetry and the majesty of God’s glorious creation. Despite some initial concerns about the cost of a well-crafted pipe organ, River Road Church chose to offer its best for the sake of the worship of God in its newly-built sanctuary. We should be thankful that this organ had such an auspicious beginning under the guidance and supervision of my predecessor, Carl Freeman.
As the Möller organ began to show signs of age, many organists, including myself, considered the possibility of replacing the whole instrument with a pipe organ that reflected certain present-day (or, at least, different) tastes in organ building. With the encouragement of Dr. Clingenpeel and members of the music committee, I recommended that we engage an objective and independent consultant to not only evaluate the Möller organ but also to aid us in making crucial decisions about its future. Jonathan Ambrosino was an obvious choice. The broad scope of his expertise in the field of pipe organ building and restoration has made him the most sought-after expert in the United States. As an outcome of Mr. Ambrosino’s detailed report on the state (and style) of our organ in 2013, we decided that a new organ was not necessary. Rather, the entire organ deserved to be restored and renovated. We chose Emery Bros. of Allentown, Pennsylvania for the project – this firm had lovingly and competently maintained the instrument for many years. We decided to have a new console built by Richard Houghten of Milan, Michigan and Joseph Zamberlan of Wintersville, Ohio, retaining and restoring the keyboards and keycheeks of the original console. Only 61 pipes (out of more that 3000) were discarded and replaced – and this decision was made unanimously by the Ministers of Music (present and emeritus), Mr. Ambrosino, and Emery Bros. The final result will be a superb instrument which will excel at leading hymns, accompanying anthems, and performing the vast organ repertoire for many years to come.
As part of the project, much of the pipework has been brought into better balance in terms of the overall tonal scheme, and the four added ranks (set of pipes) have given warmth and variety to the sound. The console is beautifully crafted, and it serves as the perfect musical “interface” with the pipework. Much to my relief, colleagues have expressed unanimous approval of the work that has been done on the instrument. River Road – and the Richmond community – can look forward to many years of service from a monumental instrument that will be reliable and inspiring.
It is with heartfelt gratitude that I express my thanks to all those who so generously shared their financial and artistic resources with our church in order to make this organ project possible. I would like to thank the organ committee and Dr. Seth Roberts, who served as its chair. His love of music and his gently-expressed wisdom were instrumental in shepherding us through a difficult and complicated process. I am also deeply grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Hilton Almond, along with the Roberts family, for their unflagging leadership of the highly successful Rejoice and Give Thanks capital campaign. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Michael Clingenpeel and Dr. Daniel Glaze not only for their enthusiastic support for this project but also for their commitment to a vision of beautiful and meaningful music in worship at River Road Church.
Organ Renovation Committee:
Robert Gallagher, Minister of Music