The musical heritage of Central Congregational Church is a long and distinguished one. A cornerstone supporting much of this musical tradition has been the organ,which was built in 1911 – 1912 by Matthias Peter Moller of Hagerstown, Maryland. This instrument is his opus 1315. The organ is an eclectic instrument for its time. It blended much of the theory and principles set forth by George Ashdown Audsley for the Romantic style of organ building while incorporating some color of the newly emerging style of the Orchestral organ. This blending of styles reflected Moller ‘s known style of development and refinement within his organ building rather than leading the industry in uncharted directions of tonal design. Audsley vehemently protested the emerging Orchestral style of organ building that was taking place in the early 1900s. He sought to promote and refine the style of the great Romantic organ builders. The enclosure of the Choir and Solo divisions of this instrument is reflective of his writings, as is the inclusion of the one high wind pressure reed stop, the Solo Organ Tuba Mirabilis. Enclosing four of the Great Organ ranks, (the 8′ Gamba, the 8′ Doppel Floete, the 8′ Gemshorn and the 4’ Flute Harmonique,) also exhibits Audsley’s influence. The internal layout of the organ with the Great and Choir divisions residing on the same level below the Solo and Swell divisions surrounded by the Pedal division on either side of manual chests in a wide, shallow case is exactly as Audsley prescribed. A contemporary ofMoeller ‘s who was a solid follower of the Audsley style of organ building, E. M. Skinner, seems to have had influence in the Moller construction as well. This is exhibited by the use of the so-called “augmented pedal” in which several voices were derived by extension from a lesser number of ranks.Keeping with the emerging Orchestral movement, however, the organ was originally built heavily favoring varying timbres of the foundation 8′ pitch while omitting any Principal voices above the 4′ octave. Additionally, the entire organ was voiced on slightly higher than normal wind pressure; 4″ for the Great and Choir divisions, 5″ for the Swell division with the exception of the 8’ Cornopean that was on 8″, 6″ for the Pedal division and 8″ for the Solo division, excluding the Tuba Mirabilis that was on 15″.Moller was also apparently familiar with the writings of Cavaill�-Coll, the famous European organ builder. This was evidenced by the decision to use heavy, fine-grained wood throughout the organ. The belief was that fine voicing was augmented by the blending of the timbres within a given ensemble. Thus, the use of heavy materials allowed for the reflection of the individual sounds within the case resulting in the full beauty of the sound being developed prior to its egress into the room. This is recorded to have been carried perhaps to an extreme by the use of heavy oak panels placed directly in front of the Great Organ and Choir Organ chests. Later writings regarding the sound of the organ reported the sound to be “muffled and stifled by the wood paneling.” The true nature of this original sound is left to debate since there is evidence that there were significant problems with the wind pressure as early as 1949, which may have caused the original sound to be greatly diminished.
The Predecessors of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
Prior to the merging of The First Church of Galesburg (“Old First”) and First Congregational Church, each respective congregation had a strong musical heritage of its own. Consequently, both buildings contained fine organs. First Congregational Church was the proud owner of opus 517 of Johnson & Son built in 1878. The organ was a 21 rank, 25-stop two manual tracker. This organ remained until 1912 in First Congregational Church, which later became known as Beecher Chapel when purchased by Knox College. At that time, it was used for $1,000.00 trade against the cost of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ.
“Old First” Church boasted having the first pipe organ in any of the churches of Galesburg. Unfortunately, very little is known regarding this first instrument. It was a two manual tracker that had been meticulously renovated sometime before 1885 (see below) There are varied unconfirmed reports regarding its stature and its ultimate fate.
In 1890, Professor John Winter Thompson, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, accepted the tandem position of organist for “Old First” Church and Professor of Music at the Knox Conservatory (see below). Shortly after his installation as organist, Professor Thompson and the choral director at the church, Professor William Frederick Bentley, introduced an item of new business to a weekly mid-week meeting. They stated “Where as the need of a new organ in the First Church has long been felt and whereas Professors Bentley and Thompson have submitted specification for a Three Manual Organ to be placed in the church on or before May 1st, 1891 at a cost of $4,500.00 and the old organ; and whereas they offer if they may be allowed to use the organ for students in the Knox Conservatory of Music to pay $400.00 when the organ shall be put in place and $150.00 more in one year thereafter and $150.00 more in two years; therefore we whose names are hereunto affixed promise to pay the sums opposite our names as soon as the organ shall be put in place and pronounced built according to specifications; and this shall be a free-will offering and shall not interfere with regular church dues and expenses.”
This created a somewhat negative backlash from many within the church who had just given generously for the restoration and enlargement of the existing instrument a few years previous. They were, however, silenced in fairly short order when it became apparent that the majority of the cost of the new instrument had already been secured and the remainder was committed by the Women’s Association of the church. The organ purchased was opus 313 of J. W. Steere & Sons (formerly Steere & Turner) built and delivered in April of 1891. The instrument was a 29 rank, 36-stop three manual tracker with a concave radiating pedalboard and pneumatic pallet assists. The old organ, contrary to the proposal submitted by Thompson and Bentley, was reported to have been removed and taken to a church in Lorain, Ohio where the former choral director, Mr. C. N. Rand, had settled. Records from J. W. Steere & Sons state that an organ was taken in trade against the purchase of the new instrument.
According to a letter from J. W. Steere dated March 17, 1891, the church in Loraine had been contacted regarding the availability of the old organ, but they had yet to reply. It is entirely possible that, since the organ needed to be removed before the new one could be installed, Steere took the instrument in trade. After securing appropriate funding, the church employing the former choral director later contacted Steere for its installation in Loraine. A stop list written by Professor John Winter Thompson was found dating from the approximate time period of the Steere negotiations. It is thought to be the specification of the original organ in Old First Church that had been forwarded to the Steere firm for evaluation regarding trade value against the price of the new instrument.
The new organ was apparently most satisfactory and filled all of the shortcomings of its predecessor (see below.) This instrument served the church until the time of the closure of the building. In October of 1895, it was removed and stored in the factory of G. W. Brown & Co. Upon the completion of the new building, the Steere organ was reinstalled in the new edifice.
The Acquisition of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
When the first services were held in the new Central Congregational Church in December of 1898, the J. W.Steere & Sons organ from “Old First” Church was already in place. There is some indication that extensive reworking of the organ was done at this time as well as an “enlarging” of the instrument. The only logical enlarging would have been the addition of the Swell 8′ Cornopean as was provided for during its original construction. In spite of the work done on the Steere organ, Drs. Bentley and Thompson quickly surmised that the instrument from the former building was inadequate for the new space. They chose, however, to wait until a majority of the debt for the construction of the new building had been retired before undertaking another organ project. They managed to deal with the inadequacy the existing instrument while planning and gathering support for a new instrument over the next thirteen years. Drs. Bentley and Thompson developed a plan, similar to the previous organ project, whereupon the announcement of the endeavor a majority of the funding would have already been secured. To achieve this, the new instrument was decided to be a memorial for three Knox professors, Milton L. Comstock, George Churchill and Albert S. Hurd. The three, known as the Knox Triumvirate (meaning an influential commission of three,) were beloved and visibly active members of the church and community (see below.) A pleasing feature of this plan was that it called for the memorial to come as a tribute from the alumni and friends of the college and former pupils of the beloved instructors. The target date for installation was announced as June 1912 which was in conjunction with the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the church, the college and the town. The plan was accepted and quickly gained support based upon the memorial.
The Knox Triumvirate
Three Knox College professors with 50 year, concurrent tenures were called the Knox Triumvirate. They were Milton L. Comstock, George Churchill and Albert S. Hurd. Milton Comstock was born in Ohio in 1824. His family moved to Iowa in 1839 where Milton stayed until 1844 when he enrolled in the Knox Academy. After one year in the Academy, he left to teach school in Iowa for two years. He then returned to Knox College where he graduated in 1851. Following graduation, he was the Principal of the Academy for three years. He then left teaching and was engaged in horticultural pursuits, which led to the editorship of the Iowa Farmer. In 1857 he returned to teaching and spent one year at Yellow Springs in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1858, he returned to Knox College as an assistant professor of Mathematics where he was named to the position of professor in 1861. George Churchill was born in New York state in 1829. His family came to Galesburg in 1839. George attended the local schools and Knox College from which he graduated in 1851. He was the Principal of the high school in Farmington, Illinois for two years and then moved back to teach in Galesburg schools for the subsequent two years. After taking a year to travel through Europe, he again returned to Galesburg where he was named Principal of the Knox Academy. He was the chairman of the committee that organized the Galesburg Public Schools. He also served the city of Galesburg in the capacities of Alderman, City Engineer, Board of Park Commissioners member, Library Board member and Board of Education member. Albert S. Hurd was born in the province of Ontario, Canada in 1823. He graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1850 and came to Knox College the following year to teach Science and Latin. He founded the Young Men’s Literary and Library Association from which emerged the Galesburg Public Library. The Triumvirate were active members of Old First Church. George Churchill joined in 1847. He was a long time Sunday School Superintendent and Deacon. Milton Comstock joined in 1851 and held the offices of Elder and Clerk. Albert Hurd also joined in 1851. He held the office of Deacon and Clerk. He withdrew in 1872 and joined First Congregational Church. Churchill and Comstock were choir and orchestra directors and were on the committee for the semi-centennial celebration of the church. Hurd was an organist.
The church Women’s Association, which included John Winter Thompson’s wife in a leadership role, led much of the charge in gaining support for and committing its own funds to the organ project. In one effort, a letter writing campaign was mounted to influence alumni, friends and community members to give generously. A letter dated April 25, 1911 read in part “�To place in Central Church an organ of such completeness, grandeur and refinement as shall be in keeping with the characters which it is to commemorate; to make the dedication of this instrument a notable and impressive feature of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration in June, 1912.” This effort, in conjunction with the many others centered on the memorial, apparently showed enough progress to allow John Winter Thompson to contact prospective organ builders.
It is not known exactly how Dr. Thompson and the Organ Committee came to decide upon the M.P. M�ller Organbuilder company. What is known is that while Dr. Thompson studied at Oberlin, George Ashdown Audsley was writing fondly of the organ building style of Philip Wirsching in Salem, Ohio. Since this builder was situated so close to Oberlin, it is logical to deduce that the students at Oberlin were well versed in qualities of the instruments being built there. It is believed that John Winter Thompson carried these tonal ideals with him to Galesburg. He searched for an organ builder that could deliver the quality that he had grown to embrace as the ideal and that could compete with the standards of modern instruments. The result of his search led him to correspond with Matthias Peter Moller in Hagerstown, Maryland. He found that the work of Moller and the ideals espoused in Moller’s correspondence were in keeping with the workmanship sought by Dr. Thompson. Consequently, a contract was signed on September 19, 1911 for a four manual, 42 rank, 53-stop organ to be installed by June 1, 1912. The total price, according to the original contract, was $11,400.00.
The contract drawn up by Moller was obviously negotiated through interaction with the church and Dr. Thompson as evidenced by notations and modifications in M. P. Moller ‘s own hand on the contract document. The original specifications were customized based upon the amount of funding available at the time. Obvious provisions were made for future additions to the instrument as money became available.
The original purchase price was augmented by $150.00 for a detached console and $40.00 for the addition of a 16′ extension to the Swell Organ Oboe. This brought the total contract cost to $11,590.00. The terms of the contract mandated that $5,000.00 was to be paid upon acceptance of the instrument. The balance was to be paid in two subsequent installments, one and two years after the date of acceptance, at a rate of 6% interest on the deferred payment. The payment for the new instrument incorporated the “trade-in” value deduction of $1,000.00 for the two manual Johnson & Sons tracker that was in Beecher Chapel. This negotiation allowed for the removal of the three manual J. W. Steere & Sons organ that had been serving the church and for its relocation to Beecher Chapel in place of the Johnson. This arrangement had been approved by the Knox College Board of Trustees following a proposal presented by Dr. Bentley on June 14, 1911. The Steere organ remained in Beecher Chapel until the summer of 1959 when, because the instrument was in such disrepair, it was replaced by a Reuter organ. The Reuter had been a demonstration instrument at the 1958 American Guild of Organists National Convention in Houston, Texas.
Evidently, the contract was also modified allowing the balance to be paid in monthly installments rather than two lump sums. Receipts in the church records reflect these payments beginning in August 1912. The organ fund appears to have been administered by the Central Congregational Church Society. In August 1914, Moller financed the $3,000.00 balance of the organ through the Peoples Trust and Savings Bank in Galesburg with two promissory notes. The first, for one year, was in the amount of $1,500.00 at a rate of 6% and the second, for two years, was in the amount of $1,500.00 at a rate of 6% for two years. The first note was paid in full in May 1916. On August 19, 1916, the balance of the two year note was paid in full. Since high praise was given to the church Women’s Association for their efforts in securing the organ, it is believed that it played an important role in raising the amount for the final payment.
The contract shows that the original specifications. The document further exhibits some debate regarding some of the appointments within the available financial range. Notes regarding the enclosure of the four ranks of the Great Organ indicate that the Solo Organ may have originally been quoted with independent expression rather than being coupled with the Choir Organ. There is also indication that the 2′ Flautina was almost sacrificed for the inclusion of an 8′ English Horn on the Swell. Though this did not come to reality, the addition of an extension at the 16′ pitch to the Swell Oboe was added. On the Choir, there is a question mark next to the Unda Maris indicating that it may have been considered for omission. At the same time, the 4′ Violin was added to the Choir Organ. The Chimes, as originally specified in the contract, were removed during the negotiation, although a stop was provided for their future addition. The Solo to Great 4′ and 16’ couplers were added as were the four Special General Organ Combinations. It is also noted that provisions were made for a large Echo Organ division, which would be mounted in the Sunday School overflow seating area behind the movable wall. All of these changes were noted on the original contract in Moller ‘s own hand. What is not stated in the contract is that three ranks of reed pipes, the Swell 8′ Oboe, the Choir 8′ Orchestral Oboe and the Choir 8’ Clarinet, were to be Steere pipes
Also of note are the requests signed by Dr. John Winter Thompson on the last page of the contract. He indicated that there was to be a compound coupler cancel. Additionally, he requested that the console keyboard layout be customized. He requested that the Great manual was to be level, the Swell to be slightly tilted downward, the Solo tilted downward somewhat more and that the Choir was to be tilted upward.
All agreed upon provisions and funding fell into place. As was specified in the plan set forth to memorialize the Knox Triumvirate, M. P. Moller began installation of his opus 1315 during the second week of May, 1912. The organ was fully installed and dedicated on June 9, 1912 by Dr. John Winter Thompson. The complete instrument was impressive in its overall stature; a stature believed to truly embody the impressive character of the Knox Triumvirate (see below.) The casework was made out of solid quarter sawn oak with a hard oil finish. It extended thirty feet in breadth and stood nine feet tall. The facade was made of annealed zinc pipes with inserted lips that were gold bronze in color. The casework and the facade filled the entire expanse of the opening for the organ from floor to ceiling. There is no doubt that the organ was the focal point of the entire room.
The Evolution of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
As time passed, the organ lived up to its namesake. It quickly became revered as a monument to the musical tradition of the church, Knox College andthe community of Galesburg. Many major works, recitals and church functions incorporated the use of the magnificent instrument. No major repairs or renovation took place for the next thirty-seven years. On May 4, 1933, the building and its contentswere appraised by the Lloyd Thomas Company, appraisal engineers from Chicago. The organwas evaluated as being worth $21,800.00 at that time; a 53% increase over its installation cost. Dr. John Winter Thompson continued as organist until his retirement in 1926. At that time, Dr. James MacConnell Weddell (see above) who had been a student of Dr. Thompson, assumed the duties of organist and Professor of Music at the Knox Conservatory. Dr. Weddell carried on the strong tradition of musical excellence and employed the instrument’s capabilities in every facet of worship and concert performance (see below.)
Austin Organs, Inc. Renovation of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
In April of 1949, Austin Organs, Inc. of Hartford, Connecticutwas awarded a contract for rebuilding the Triumvirate Memorial Organ. The organ was beginning to have some difficulties with its pneumatics and winding. Additionally, Dr. Weddell wished to update the instrument to make it more eclectic for use in a wider variety of music. Letters preceding the signing of a contract mention an interest forthe separation of the Solo and Choir division expression. This was a feature thathad been removed from the original Moller contract. The expression separation was later dropped from this contract as well. The issue of blower pressurewas addressed whereupon the Austin representative stated that the wind trunks and connection to the blower were leaking badly. This issue wasto be dealt with in the rebuildin conjunction withthe installation of a remote control start buttonrather than leaving the start switch on the blower itself, whichwas located in the basement. The formal contract was signed September 18, 1949. The total price for the rebuilding, according to the contract, was $15,955.00. The terms of the contract mandated that 15% of the amount due was to be paid at the signing of the contract followed by 50% upon the delivery of the principal parts for the rebuild at the Austin factory. The 35% balance was to be paid upon completion of the rebuild with all outstanding amounts due accruing 5% interest from the completion date.
The project included the construction of a new four manual console. The new roll top console was entirely hand crafted (inclusive of the shaping of the steel bracing) with a cabinet constructed from quarter-sawn white oak. The stops were tab keyed rather than draw knob as the old console had been.
In addition to the console, two ranks of pipes were added and two were replaced. A 22/3′ Twelfth and a 2′ Fifteenth were added to the Great Organ ensemble. The old Swell Cornopean, which had been voiced on 8″ of wind, was replaced with new pipes including a 4′ Clarion extension voiced on 5″ of wind. The large scale Solo Organ Tuba Mirabilis voiced on 15″ of wind was replaced by a unit Tuba of smaller scale voiced on 10″ of wind. The swell engines for the Choir/Solo and the Swell divisions were also replaced including all of the respective linkages. A rectifier was added and the old D.C. generator attached to the blower was removed. Additionally, all manual and pedal pneumatics were releathered and all magnets in borrowed stops were replaced.
Aside from the afore mentioned work, the organ was left intact and in its original configuration. Austin succeeded in breathing new life into the magnificent instrument that continued to be a symbol of the musical heritage of Galesburg.
Building, Remodeling and the Near Demise of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
In 1962, a major remodelingwas done to the Sanctuary of Central Congregational at a cost of $250,000.00. During this renovation, the front of the Chancelwas lowered four feet to its current level.In conjunction with this change, the choir loftwas reconfigured so the choir pewswere faced toward the center andwere placed on the same level. The facade and paneled casework was covered with a decorative table,grille work and a heavy dossal curtain in front of which was hung a brass cross. During this project, GustavFabry, who was at that time a representative for M. P. Moller, was contracted to reattach the Austin console after it had been moved for the renovation. From the correspondence at that time, it isevident thatFabry, of Lake Villa, Illinois, was responsible for the maintenance on the organ. The church maintained an active contract with theFabry firm at least through February of 1962. Dr. Charles Farley assumed the dual role of organist at Central Congregational and Knox College Professor of Music in 1959 (see above.) In April of 1967, the Watson Hovind Pipe Organ firm of Galesburg, formerly a Wicks Organ representative, was secured to service the organ. In 1971, Dr. Farley reported significant problems with dead notes throughout the Pedal and Swell divisions as well as sporadic notes on other manuals. Watson noted that these were due to rotted leather that needed to be replaced. At the time, it was not known whether some of the original Austin project had been scaled back or whether some atmospheric condition within the church had caused the leather to be in a state of such disrepair. Regardless of the cause, twenty-two years from the Austin work was an unusually short life span for the leather. By January of 1973, Watson was recommending a full releathering of the Swell chest and reworking of the three sets of corresponding relays. His estimated price for the work was to be $7,200.00. The church did not act on this quote and was quoted a price one year later by Watson for $9,994.00 including the replacement of the Swell chest with a direct electric action chest. This quote was also not acted upon by the church.
In the spring of 1974, Don Diestelmeier of the Freeport Organ Company of Freeport, Illinois, a representative of the Reuter Organ Company, was contacted to evaluate the condition of the organ. In a letter dated May 20, 1974, Diestelmeier noted his findings following his evaluatory visit. He stated that the leather in the main chests was in good shape although the primary valves in all of the chests had not been releathered. Only the secondary valves had new leather and it was mentioned that the lead tubing between the two was prone to leakage. The reservoirs were stated to be in need of new leather as there were already cracks evident in the gussets. The offset chests were also said to need new leather although it was difficult to check them since most were difficult to access without removing sections of the organ. Diestelmeier gave a clean bill of health to the Austin console and to the blower. The Tremolos and the Swell engines, however, were evaluated to be in need of releathering. Regarding the pipework, he wrote that even though a number of ranks were in relatively good condition, a number of pipes had shown signs of abuse and mutilation. He noted that there were pipes bent over, with their tuning scrolls torn down and others that were “just plain mangled.”
Diestelmeier’s ultimate assessment was that the organ had not had proper maintenance and care for some time. He recommended using a limited amount of funds to keep the organ playable until a fund had been established of enough substance to either replace or rebuild the organ. If the rebuild option was chosen, Diestelmeier recommended that all of the chests be replaced. He gave an approximation of $40-$50,000.00 for a complete rebuild which was, in his words, 80-85% of the cost of a brand new instrument.
During the same period, the James M. McEvers Company of Herrin, Illinois had been contacted to come evaluate the instrument. In a letter dated September 2, 1975, McEvers offered his evaluation of the organ. He prefaced his comments by stating that he wanted in no way to alter the original tonal design of the organ and stressed that the church should value the instrument as an exemplary example of the style of organ building popular during the time of its construction. He continued by concurring with Diestelmeier’s assessment of the condition of the leather in the main chests. He noted that none of the primary action leather had been replaced and that only the secondaries had new leather. He went on to speculate that perhaps some of the secondaries may have also been skipped since many of the bottom boards had the word “done” scratched in them while several others did not. The Swell division exhibited the most significant signs of this. McEvers raised concern over the Austin addition of a redundant primary that was tubed to the original Moller primary action. He found this to be one more mechanism with the potential to fail and stated that it interfered with the responsiveness of the organ. The reservoirs were also a point of concern to McEvers. Although not mentioning the state of the leather, he brought up the problem of unsteady wind and the presence of excessive concussion in the sound of the organ. He stated that the original reservoirs were inadequate and that there were no concussion bellows to steady the wind. Regarding the pipework, McEvers justified some of the condition of the pipework by noting that there were no tuning slides on at least 320 of the trebles throughout the organ. Thus, these pipes had essentially been cone tuned, a rarely used method of affecting pitch by manipulating the shape/flare of a pipe top, over the years. This had caused significant damage to at least 54 pipes that needed to be replaced. He also noted that all of the leather packing for the stoppers in the wooden pipes was badly in need of replacement.
McEvers’ recommended an immediate need to implement a plan for at least an incremental rebuilding of the organ. Of immediate concern, he stated that the Swell chest should be rebuilt, new reservoirs and concussion bellows for all of the manual chests should be installed (totaling five each) and the pipework should be repaired/replaced including repacking of the stoppers. He also highly recommended immediate installation of a four rank mixture on the Great Organ. Items for future consideration were the rebuilding of each of the other divisions’ chests. The total estimate for the immediate concerns came to $20,083.00. The cost including the rebuilding of all of the chests was $34,356.00.
After receiving the evaluations from the Freeport Organ Company and the James M. McEvers Company, the church evaluated its position. Its first course of action was the termination of the Watson Hovind service contract via a letter dated September 22, 1975. Apparently, the church continued to consider its options until the spring of 1976.
In an April, 1976 draft of a letter to the Board of Trustees from the Organ Committee, formed as a sub-committee of the standing Music Committee, the issues of the organ and possible options were addressed. They reported that the average life expectancy of an organ in the existing climate was approximately 30 years before major work was required. It was not noted what research that figure was based upon. They wrote that although the bids from the Freeport Organ Company and the James M. McEvers Company were options, problems of funding and future service were points of real concern. They stated that one firm consulted went so far as to advise that a large sum of money should not be spent on a hopeless cause. The Committee went on to note that Dr. Farley had stated that the magnificent sanctuary space allows the organ to sound good even though it has significant deficiencies, particularly in the upper registers. It was also cited that none of the quotes received addressed any of the problems Dr. Farley had reported in the console.
Building upon the 30-year life expectancy figure, the Organ Committee further wrote that if the McEvers bid was accepted, it would not be unreasonable to anticipate at least $300.00 annually in ongoing repairs. Thus an additional $10,000.00 in repairs could be expected during the next 30 years bringing the total cost of the work on the organ for that time period up to nearly $50,000.00.
The committee explored three options. The repair of the existing instrument, the replacement of the existing instrument with a new pipe organ and the replacement of the existing instrument with a digital electronic organ were the avenues explored. They stated their strong reservations for repairing the existing instrument for the reasons stated previously. Further, for funding reasons, the replacement of the existing instrument with a new pipe organ was also dismissed. The committee chose to further explore the third option regarding the digital electronic organ. They found the digital organ to be highly satisfactory for several reasons. It had very few moving parts since it utilized digital technology and therefore had fewer potential mechanical problems. This was viewed as a great savings in repair costs. Dr. Farley demonstrated three lines of the digital Allen organ for the committee. They reported that the sound of all of the organs was very pleasing with, of course, the most expensive exhibiting the highest quality. They reported that the digital organ would offer far greater flexibility than the existing instrument and that they had received strong recommendations from churches that had purchased the instruments.
The Organ Committee letter approximated the price range of the digital organs that they heard as being between $33,280.00 and $53,560.00. Again, the most expensive range of instruments was found to be the most satisfactory. In conclusion, the committee stated “…we would like to admit that we could not tell the difference in sound between the pipe and the computer organ. We are impressed that Dr. Farley finds the Allens a very acceptable alternative to a pipe organ.”
Attached to the Organ Committee draft was a letter dated April 28, 1976 from Dr. Charles Farley. He addressed each of the three options explored by the Organ Committee from his perspective as the organist and as a trained musician. He began by stating that his preference would be the replacement of the existing instrument with a new pipe organ. Dr. Farley dismissed this option, however, due to his cost estimation of $120,000.00 to $130,000.00 for an instrument of similar size to the existing organ.
Regarding the proposed work as defined in the McEvers quote, he noted that the quote did not encompass all of the work that could be done. A total rebuild, he defined, would consist of the replacement/renewal of all parts of the organ excluding the pipes. Further, all of the pipework would then have to be cleaned and adjusted. Dr. Farley advised that the cost of this would be at least twice the bid submitted by the McEvers firm. Of further concern, he noted that McEvers was not interested in establishing a service contract with the church due to the great distance between the location of his firm and Galesburg. Local service firms expressed reservation in accepting a subsequent service contract since they would be taking on responsibility for another company’s work. Dr. Farley wrote that repairing the existing organ would not significantly change the sound of the instrument which he viewed as a strong disadvantage. From a musical standpoint, he stated that the least desirable instruments, tonally and musically, were built in the first half of the twentieth century. Dr. Farley did not attempt to explain why he felt the organ was tonally inferior, but rather expressed hope that the Trustees would accept his professional judgment based upon a great deal of study and listening to great organs domestically and abroad.
Dr. Farley recommended the third option, the purchase of a digital electronic Allen organ. Although admitting that the critical ear could differentiate between a pipe organ and the Allen, he found it to be a viable alternative to a pipe organ. He stated that the sounds produced by the Allen were consistent with the making of good music and that its quality did not interfere with musicality. Dr. Farley had ample opportunity to form a clear opinion of the Allen line. He had been employed by Griggs Music in Davenport, Iowa, the area Allen retailer, to demonstrate various Allens for other church committees. Ultimately, he was engaged to record a promotional album for Griggs on two Allen installations in the Moline, Illinois area.
The most expensive model of the digital organs he demonstrated was the model Dr. Farley recommended for purchase. He noted that although the initial purchase price was imposing, the new instrument would offer a great deal of versatility, would require practically no maintenance and would continue to provide Central Congregational Church with a high quality organ sound.
The Board of Trustees took these recommendations under advisement. They continued to explore the three options proposed by the Organ Committee and options for funding. Ultimately, after much discourse, the church decided to retain the existing instrument. In 1977, Dr. Charles Farley resigned his position bringing to a close the longstanding relationship between the positions of organist at Central Congregational Church and Professor of Music at Knox College.
John M. McEvers Company Renovation of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
A contract was signed with the John M.McEvers Company of Makanda, Illinois on June 20, 1977 for a comprehensive rebuilding of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ. The total price for the rebuilding, according to the contract, was $42,396.00. The terms of the contract mandated that 20% of the amount due, $8,479.20, was to be paid at the signing of the contract followed by an additional 20%at the time McEvers actually began working on the rebuild in the church. Thirty percent, $12,718.80, of the remaining balance was to be paid upon completion of the rebuild based on the acceptance of the quality and scope of the work. The outstanding amount due, $12,718.80 plus additional expenses incurred inthe replacement of lead tubing and the addition of tuning slides, was to be paid in full sixty days after the completion of the specified work. The contract called for the replacement of all manual reservoirs with those of a greater capacity fitted with concussion bellows. Tuning slides were provided for those pipes not accommodated during the work by Austin in 1949. Additionally, the contract specified for the replacement of the top seventeen pipes of the Swell 2′ Flautina, the top 25 pipes of the Choir 4′ Flute D’Amour and the top 12 pipes of the Choir 2′ Flageolet that had been irreparably damaged. The leather packing for stopped wooden pipes was refitted with new leather. All remaining pipework was examined for defects with the discovery of additional problems resulting in the notification of the church and provision for separate repair agreements and/or additional charges. All pipework was removed and cleaned with the reeds being fully dismantled and regulated.
The contract specified that new tremulants of the eccentrically weighted wheel type were installed in the Choir, Solo and Swell Organs. The enclosed swell boxes were resurfaced with a reflective surface of three coats of hard, high gloss enamel paint. All wind leaks in chests and wind conductors including the restoration of the air-tightness of the chests was performed. The lead tubing was also examined and replaced at a rate of $.75 per foot upon the discovery of leaks. Adjustments to the Austin console and the swell engines were made. The contract stated that the primary actions of the manual chests were fitted with new electro-magnets, after the removal of the Austin primaries, and the original Moller primaries were releathered. The pipe valve pneumatics were releathered as were the primary and stop action pneumatics for the entire organ. At the conclusion of all of the mechanical work, a complete cleaning and tonal regulation was done.
A four rank Mixture was added to the Great Organ with a 50% lead content. A new chest was constructed upon which was mounted the Great Organ 22/3′ Twelfth and the 2′ Fifteenth. This chest was also provided with its own reservoir and concussion bellow. The new pipework was voiced in tonal harmony to the rest of the organ.
The work began in September of 1977. After the work was underway, a new contract was signed with McEvers for the replacement of the Swell Organ 8′ Aeoline with a 4′ Principal. The total cost for this replacement was $2,726.00, $908.66 to be paid upon the signing of the contract and $908.66 to be paid when the pipework arrived at the church. The contract specified that the Aeoline became the property of McEvers upon its removal. Again, the new pipework was voiced in tonal harmony to the rest of the organ.
All work was completed by the beginning of March, 1978. It was celebrated by a rededication concert performed on June 8, 1978 by Sandra Watters, the organist and music director for First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls, New York. Miss Watters had taken lessons on the Triumvirate Memorial Organ throughout her years as a student in the Galesburg public schools.
At the time of the dedication, the Board of Trustees requested that a post-restoration evaluation be submitted by McEvers for insurance purposes. In a letter dated August 1, 1978, James McEvers submitted his appraisal. He stated that the organ was in excellent mechanical and tonal condition. The tonal cohesion and responsiveness had been restored to its original state encompassing the new pipework added in 1949 and 1977-78. The leather used in the restoration was said to be superior to that originally used and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, to be of high enough quality to last for sixty to seventy years. He mentioned that the Austin console installed in 1949 would likely be the cause of any dead notes experienced in the near future and that it should be monitored closely.
Regarding the valuation of the organ, McEvers tentatively affixed a figure of $126,000.00 citing the instruments increasing historical value. The figure was derived by taking 75% of the replacement value of $168,000.00 calculated by multiplying the market rate of $4,000.00 per stop by forty-two stops.
Post-Renovation Work on the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
By April of 1982, the membrane stop actions that had not actually been replaced in any of the restorative work began to fail. This problem first surfaced when the Swell 4′ Flauto Traverso became unusable. In October, the problem was also reported in the Great division affecting the First Open Diapason. The James M.McEvers Company was contracted to perform the necessary repairs. The new problems regarding pneumatics brought forth questions from the Board of Trustees since they had financed a major renovation less than five years previous. McEvers attempted to explain through two letters and a detailed drawing of the stop action how the failures were occurring and that the failing areas were separate from the releathering set forth in his 1977 contract. In his second letter,McEvers submitted that there was $1,853.60 worth of work to be done on the remaining stop actions. The ultimate result was the termination of the service contract with the McEvers firm in August of 1983. Also in August of 1983, Carroll Hanson, a Casavant Fr�res representative from Iowa City, Iowa, was consulted regarding the condition of the organ. The major problem noted by Mr. Hanson was that the Solo division reservoir was in dire need of releathering. He removed the reservoir and made repair. It is not clear whether there was ever a service contract with Hanson beyond the reservoir repair and various other small adjustments made during his initial contact with the church.
In May of 1984, Philip Fabry, a M. P. M�ller representative of Gustav Fabry & Sons, Inc. from Lindenhurst, Illinois, was contacted to perform an inspection of the organ. He was provided with a copy of the 1977 rebuilding contract of the James M. McEvers Company and charged with assessing whether the work had actually been completed. Fabry found that not all of the reservoir work had been done for the manuals and he noted that the pedal division reservoirs were in dire need of attention. Fabry agreed that, according to the contract, the stop action rail membranes should have been included but they were not replaced during the 1977 rebuild. He noted thirty-four ranks still in need of stop action repair. With regard to wind leaks and air-tightness of chests, Fabry did not find the work to be satisfactory. Some of the wooden pipe stoppers were reported to be loose and not positioned or refitted properly. Fabry bid $9,492.00 to repair the shortcomings of the 1977 contracted work. After consulting once again with McEvers, the contract was awarded to Fabry June 9, 1986. During this work, the original music rack was replaced by the present Plexiglas music rack that rendered the roll top of the console useless.
Over the next three years, the Fabry firm continued to service the organ. They submitted several bids during this time for major work proposed by the organist at the time, David M. Kinyon. Among these bids were the replacement of the 1949 console and the replacement of the existing relay with a solid state relay action. The addition of four new ranks of pipes, the replacement of all manual chestwork with slider chests and the re-regulation of the voicing were also quoted during this period. When the Trustees raised questions regarding the reliability and workmanship of the Fabry firm, the service contract was terminated.
In January of 1991, Stuart Biza of Stuart Biza Pipe Organ Service located in Bradenton, Florida was contracted to rebuild the Austin console. Biza had been an Austin employee in 1949 and was the craftsman that originally constructed the console for Central Congregational Church. He noted that at the time of the original construction, he was just twenty years old and that the Central Church console was the first console that he had built for the Austin firm. The 1991 work on the console constituted the first major overhaul since its original construction. Biza stated that aside from minor malfunctions, the console appeared to be in mint condition. He refelted the pedalboard and manuals, replaced all of the stop tabs and cleaned all of the contacts. Several other unspecified parts were replaced with materials that had not been available at the time of construction. At a time when other firms were quoting $40,000.00 replacements for the console, Biza completed the work for $14,125.00. He noted that the console would perform as if it were new and that it should serve well for another forty years.
Also in 1991, the James M. McEvers Company was again contracted to service the organ. Between 1991 and 1994 only typical service calls were recorded. It was noted, however, that there were some difficulties with the stop actions in the Choir and Solo divisions. McEvers stated that, although these were to have been repaired according to the 1986 contract with Fabry, the problems indicated defects in the stop action membranes. In June 1994, McEvers submitted a quote for a Peterson solid state switching system for $14,633.00. Interestingly, there was no mention in the quote for retrofitting the existing console or for the replacement of the existing console, which would not have functioned with the solid state relay.
Milliman Organ Company Renovation of the Triumvirate Memorial Organ
In November of 1995, after having seen some questionable quotations in the files, M. Sean Riedel, the new organist, contactedRobertMilliman oftheMilliman Organ Company from Des Moines, Iowa.Millimanwas asked to give a thorough evaluation of the organ andtoevaluate the proposal made bytheMcEvers firm. He found that much of the work that had been previously contracted, such as afullreleathering of the instrument, had never been performed. Fortunately, he noted, much of the original leather was still in good shape. He also noted that the new reservoir work did not have proper springs to allow for the required wind pressure resulting in the use of brick weights on the reservoirs and wires binding the reservoir springs to a tighter tension. The old reservoir had onlypatchworkreleathering done on the visible corners while allowing the old leathertoremain on the unseen side.Milliman found diodes throughout the organ that had no use for an organ with the existing relay. In a formal evaluation, he set forth three courses of action based upon his findings. He notedthata majority of the problems with dead notes could be traced to the electric action relay with some centered inswitcheslocated in the console. The first method was toproceed with theMcEvers proposal and to install a solid state relay system.Milliman quoted a total price of $13,732.00 for this work. His quote included labor and the proper retrofitting of the existing console to work with the new relay. The second method was to replace 312 relay magnets in the existing relay, replace the Solo Organ Tuba switches with all new electric switches and to clean/repair all switches and contacts in the console. This method, unlike the first, would not result in any down time of the organ. The total quoted cost for this proposal was $9,962.00 including labor. The third proposed method would replace only the relay magnets that weremaladjusted/broken in the existing relay. Further, new switches would be installed for the Solo Tuba and all console switches and contacts would be fixed and cleaned. The cost for this methodwas quoted at $6,220.00 inclusive of labor. All quoted prices excluded meals and lodging that would be charged during the time theMilliman firm was on site.Regardless of the choice made by the church, Milliman recommended that the six ranks of reeds should be removed, repaired and cleaned. He noted that the tongues of the reeds had likely not been properly polished or re-regulated since the installation of the organ. Due to the delicate balance of the relationship between the tongue and the shallot, he stated that it was natural that the reeds should need some attention after such a long period of time. For this work, Milliman quoted a price of $1,860.00 including the labor. After a meeting to discuss the various courses of action with the Board of Trustees, the church understood that each of the methods had its merits and drawbacks. None of the solutions were presented to be infallible or superior to any other. It was the immediate decision of the Trustees to proceed with the third option that would allow them to upgrade to the second option in the future if funding became available.In July of 1996, Milliman and his “helper,” his wife Twila, arrived at Central to begin the work agreed upon by the Board of Trustees. During the work, Milliman discovered that less work needed to be done than what was originally quoted. Rather than replacing the Solo Organ Tuba switches, he was able to clean up the maze of wiring and to resolder the existing switch, restoring full functionality to the stop. The relay switchboard did not require as many replacements as had been quoted either. The console was thoroughly cleaned and the Sforzando pedal was fixed. General maintenance was also performed to smooth out the remainder of the organ and to continue the analysis of the condition of the organ. The total cost for the work performed was $2,121.25.At the conclusion of the work, M. Sean Riedel requested that Milliman submit a follow-up report regarding his recommendations for future work on the organ. In a response submitted in October of 1996, Milliman outlined these suggestions. He found that a majority of the problems associated with the relay were that the armatures had become magnetized over the years as the small leather insulators on the relay magnets had worn away. He suggested that the leather insulators, which he had not replaced in the first round of work, should be replaced throughout the remainder of the relay. He also recommended the removal of the Great Organ Mixture to give access to the bottom boards of the Swell Organ Oboe that had chest related dead notes. Upon completion of the repair, the Mixture would be put back and comprehensively tuned, of which it was in dire need. He further suggested that a similar action should be done to the Choir Organ Contra Dolce for the repair of dead notes. Finally, Milliman suggested that the expression doors for the Choir division be repaired since they had been rendered non-functional. He reiterated his original suggestion for the removal of the six ranks of reeds for cleaning, repair and regulation. The total quoted cost for these recommendations came to $2,312.00.
The church agreed to proceed with the suggested work in stages as funding and Milliman’s schedule would allow. In July of 1998, Milliman and his wife returned to Central Congregational Church to begin the work. All of the insulating leathers, responsible for a majority of the ciphers in the organ, were replaced in the relay. The dead notes in the Swell Organ Oboe were also repaired. It was at this time that Milliman discovered that the original Swell Oboe chest Pitman action had been replaced with direct electric action, a replacement that was not authorized in any of the contracted work of the past. The dead notes were traced to problems in the wiring exposed in the channels of the chests that were not properly insulated from the flow of the wind. During this work, Milliman noted problems with many of the chest bottom boards. Rather than being secured with appropriate wood screws, washers and compression springs, he found metal screws bored deep into the surfaces of the bottom boards. Many of the screws were stripped completely. Thus, several of the chests were leaking air. Some of the leaks had even been sealed by duct tape. The repairs made in this phase of the work totaled $1,488.36.
The problems discovered during the work in August were brought to the attention of the Board of Trustees in December of 1998 by Milliman in a personal visit. He suggested that all of the screws in the bottom boards should be replaced with proper wood screws, washers and compression springs, which would keep the bottom boards tight through the climate changes. He also pointed out that the reservoir work would need attention in the near future. The Trustees authorized Milliman to proceed with the work originally proposed, repairing the Choir Organ Contra Dolce, and cleaning and regulation of the reed ranks. Additionally, tentative permission was given for the replacement of the bottom board screws. The reservoir work was tabled until a written quote could be secured. All of the authorized work was again subject to funding and Milliman’s work schedule. The reeds were carefully cleaned, the tongues burnished, the resonators repaired and meticulously regulated in the end of May, 1999.
The Milliman firm is currently working with the church to develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the organ as it nears its 90th anniversary. The hope is to have the organ fully restored/repaired prior to June, 2012 when the organ is 100 years old.
The Triumvirate Memorial Organ was built as an exemplary instrument in its time. Although the organ did not originally agree with the tonal configuration extolled by George Ashdown Audsley for a church organ, the modifications made in 1949 and 1977 helped to fill in the missing portions of the Principal Chorus. The organ has evolved into an eclectic instrument with a multifaceted character and presence. As was the vision of Dr. John Winter Thompson, this organ continues to serve in its leadership role in the music of the church while maintaining the ability to be utilized for concert performance. The organ today carries forth its memorial namesake capably and faithfully with each note it sings into the magnificent edifice of Central Congregational Church.
Stoplist from The Diapason November 1911
Galesburg, Illinois Central Congregational Church Möller Op. 1315 1912 4/41 ____________________________________________________ GREAT (* enc w/CH) CHOIR 16' Bourdon 16' Dulciana 8' 1st Open Diapason 8' Geigen Principal 8' 2nd Open Diapason 8' Melodia * 8' Gamba 8' Dulciana 12 * 8' Doppel Flute 8' Unda Maris * 8' Gemshorn 4' Violina 4' Octave 4' Flute d'Amour * 4' Flute Harmonique 2' Flageolet 16' Tuba Magna SO 8' Clarinet 8' Tuba Mirabilis SO 8' Orchestral Oboe 4' Tuba Clarion SO Tremulant Sub Sub Unison Off Unison Off Super Super SWELL SOLO 16' Bourdon 8' Stentorphone 8' Open Diapason 8' Grossflöte 8' Stopped Diapason 8' Viole d'Orchestre II 8' Salicional 16' Tuba Magna 8' Voix Celeste 8' Tuba Mirabilis 12 8' Quintadena 4' Tuba Clarion 12 8' Aeoline Sub 4' Fugara Unison Off 4' Flute Traverso Super 2' Flautina III Dolce Cornet PEDAL 16' Contra Oboe 32' Sub Bourdon 8' Cornopean 16' Open Diapason 8' Oboe 12 16' Bourdon 12 8' Vox Humana 16' Violone Tremulant 16' Lieblich Gedackt SW Sub 16' Dulciana CH Unison Off 8' Octave 12 Super 8' Flauto Dolce 12 8' Violoncello 12 ECHO 16' Ophicleide 32 9 blank knobs 8' Tuba SO 4' Clarion SO