The challenge for any pipe organ project is to provide the congregation with an instrument that is well balanced, musically enticing and reliable in its tuning and mechanical stability. The result at the United Church is an organ with principal choruses that are bold yet blending, flutes that are varied in construction and colorful, strings that are evocative and rich, and reeds that are powerful when needed, yet distinctive.
Parsons’ Opus 41 consists of 35 registers, 51 stops and 40 ranks for a total of 2,467 pipes distributed over Great, Swell, Choir and Pedal divisions. While a small number of registers are from the original M.P. Moller, Opus 3107 at the Eastman School of Music practice room, refurbished and revoiced, the majority of the organ’s voices were painstakingly selected from vintage sources, or are of new construction.
The three-manual and pedal console features a low-profile, terraced drawknob design. The exterior is constructed of black walnut, with console interior and accents of bloodwood. The music rack is a book-matched walnut burl with bloodwood accents. The Virtuoso solid-state switching system provides unlimited levels of memory, an integrated record/playback system and a plethora of advanced features too numerous to mention.
The twin pipe facades provide a striking addition to the visual components in the sanctuary. The facades incorporate architectural elements that are featured prominently throughout the room, with the stencil design on the casework mimicking the stenciled sanctuary ceiling, both in design and color. During the design process, every effort was made to respect the visual character of the sanctuary while creating a visual statement proclaiming the existence of the organ.
This is an eclectic instrument that is meant to play “church” first, but an instrument that can also easily render literature from many musical periods with convincing results.