Printed in the Quarterly Explorer Summer 2014
There are many traditions of excellence within River Road Church. One of the foremost is our music program. We are blessed to have our worship lifted, Sunday after Sunday, by music of some of the world’s greatest composers.
At the heart of our music program is the sanctuary organ. This “king of instruments” has been an integral part of almost every worship service since it was originally dedicated in 1970. In that time, it has moved us to joy, awe, contemplation, contrition, confession, forgiveness, renewal, and hope.
Every 40-50 years, all pipe organs require a generational rehabilitation, which involves a thorough cleaning of the instrument, repair or replacement of failing materials, and updating of old technologies. Although River Road Church’s pipe organ has been meticulously maintained over the years, the time for a comprehensive overhaul of our instrument is now upon us. Without such an overhaul, the instrument will eventually cease to function. With such an overhaul, we can ensure that the instrument will continue to inspire and uplift us for decades to come. Broadly speaking, the work we hope to complete on our organ includes three components.
- Mechanical Work / Restoration. This work entails a comprehensive mechanical overhaul of the inner workings of the instrument and will be undertaken by the firm of Emery and Sons, Inc. Steve Emery has decades of experience with our sanctuary organ and has repeatedly demonstrated work of the highest caliber through his care and maintenance of our instrument. The proposed project includes removal of all pipework for cleaning and regulation, removal and restoration of other mechanisms including reservoirs and tremolos, repair of collapsing zinc pipes (excluding a few pipes, which may require replacement), installation of new leather pouches, replacement of old wiring with plastic insulated wire, re-racking of pipework, and tonal finishing.
- New Console. This work entails the replacement of the existing organ console (i.e., keyboard where the organist sits) with a new console, to be constructed by the firm of Richard Houghton. The new console would include modern solid-state mechanisms for setting combinations; this would allow organists to pre-set literally thousands of combinations of stops. The new console would also be movable, by means of internal casters. This would enable the console to be positioned differently within the sanctuary, depending on the requirements of the worship service or performance. For example, the console could be rolled into the middle of the chancel during an organ concert.
- Tonal Modifications. The artistic design of the sanctuary organ as it currently exists is excellent. There is no perceived need for any major overhaul of the tonal plan or “sound character” of the instrument (i.e., no need to significantly alter the existing stops). However, certain minor modifications that would enhance the instrument are under consideration. Given the scope of the work planned, now is the most natural time to include such minor modifications.
The time has also come that we address our sanctuary’s lighting and sound systems. These systems support our worship in an essential way, but it is easy to take them for granted. As with the organ, time has brought significant improvements in available technologies. These improved technologies would greatly enhance the reliability, efficiency, and effectiveness of our sanctuary lighting and sound. An investment is now required to bring these systems up to date, to ensure a meaningful worship experience for ourselves and for those who come after us.
Our sanctuary is God’s house. It belongs to God, and it is where we come to worship God. Here we are formed and transformed as God’s people. We are blessed to have such a beautiful space in which to gather, blessed by the vision and dedication of church members decades ago. Now it is our time to ensure that the sanctuary continues to serve its vital functions for decades to come, to take our place alongside the many visionary church members of generations past. We invite you to a journey of reflection, prayer, celebration, and thanksgiving, as you consider what part you and your family may play in the Rejoice & Give Thanks campaign.