On February 26, 2017 a dedication service was held to celebrate the refurbishment of our congregation's pipe organ. Jackie Bozarth, Church Organist, was joined by Grant Mech and Timothy Shaw in providing a stirring concert highlighting the improved sound and versatility of our sanctuary organ. The organ restoration project was undertaken by C. M. Walsh Pipe Organs, who have written a brief history of the organ, as well as a description of the restoration project below.
The pipe organ at First Presbyterian Church in Mount Holly began its life as a small two-manual instrument built by the Schantz Organ Company of Orville Ohio in 1949. The original instrument served the congregation of First Presbyterian until the early 1990’s when a major organ renovation and expansion project was carried out by Mangam Organ Company of Philadelphia. The work entailed combining the original Schantz instrument with a Moller pipe organ that was removed from the acquired First Baptist Church, of Mount Holly. The combination of these two instruments was intended to greatly expand the limited tonal resources of the diminutive Schantz organ, and create an instrument that was large enough to support the congregational hymnody and also be capable of some concertizing.
The project involved considerable physical changes to the organ gallery, requiring new casework to be built to enclose the much larger footprint of the new organ. The chests and pipes of both organs were combined to form a new larger, two manual instrument. The original Schantz console was retained and modified to suit the new specification.
Our work on the instrument began in the mid 1990’s when we were asked to come and make repairs to the instrument. It was clear to us from the offset that the organ project was ill conceived and poorly carried out. For the next two decades we worked diligently to keep the instrument functioning, often requiring weekly visits to make repairs. Over the past two decades, many changes and repairs were required to keep the instrument in reasonable working order.
The design of the installation was such that the instrument was impossible to tune and maintain properly. The physical limitations of the space made it very difficult to reach many pipes and actions without contortion. Added to this was the proximity of the chests to each other, chorus’s were separated between chests and in different locations, greatly detracting from the instruments tuning stability. Excessive wind leaks meant that the instrument’s more subtle tones were easily overcome by the ambient noise, robbing the organ of these important tonal facets.
In 2012, we were asked to submit a proposal to rebuild the instrument, and find permanent solutions to the ongoing problems that were frustrating the church music program. Given the necessary repair work of the previous decades, it was clear to us that any successful proposal would require a serious reconsideration of the instrument as a whole. There were no acceptable short measures that could be taken. Our proposal included complete reconfiguration of the organ and the design including manufacture of new chests. It was determined that most of the original pipework could be retained and expanded upon to create a more cohesive instrument occupying considerably less space. The new design allowed for a more serviceable instrument with greatly improved tuning stability and tonal egress. The new instrument is fitted with a new state-of-the-art control system that includes all of the modern playing aids to assist the organist in her work.
In 2015 we were commissioned to begin the rebuilding project. Although with many changes from the original more comprehensive proposal and working with a limited budget, we were able to carry out this work. The fortune availability of a two manual draw-knob console greatly enhances the playability of the instrument. The console, which was originally built by the Schantz Organ Company in the mid 1980’s was rebuilt and fitted with new stop controls and control system. The inclusion of this fine console adds greatly to the instrument as all stops and controls are easily at hand, making the instrument more competent and more comfortable to play.
New chests were built for the instrument. The chests are electro-pneumatic and unit in design, meaning that each pipe in the instrument is individually addressable by the control system, and the pneumatic action delivers a natural breath to the pipes making the speak cleanly and evenly.
Although we had originally planned to reuse the existing Pedal chests, once examined more closely we found that they were in such poor condition that they could not be reused. In order to achieve our professional goals for the organ, it was necessary that new Pedal chests be designed and built. Unfortunately, these were outside the limited budget, but were none the less absolutely required to achieve a successful project outcome.
The new organ design made it possible to raise the chests and pipes into the tonal openings, allowing them to speak freely and clearly into the room. Previously the chests were set low in the chambers, far below the tonal openings.
All chests and building work was custom built in our workshops and studios in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. The only outsourced parts were the Draw-knob solenoids and control system. The resulting instrument will faithfully serve the congregation of First Presbyterian Church for generations hence, and will require only a minimum of maintenance.
We have been very pleased and honored to work with the church organist and music director throughout this process. Mrs. Bozarth was of great assistance to us as we dealt with the unforeseen additions and modifications that were required to complete our work. Sharing our vision and commitment to the project she saw everyone through the frustrations and difficulties that often accompany the undoing of a less than successful work, and the tasks involved in returning an instrument to its proper state.
C.M. Walsh Pipe Organs