There is more to Ebenezer Lutheran Church than first meets the eye. It has a long history of embracing diversity in society and culture, while always remaining true to its Lutheran theology and core values. Among those core values is a strong belief in the importance of music and the visual arts in the worship of God. By embarking on this organ project, Ebenezer demonstrates that a commitment to real quality and depth in its worship life is not the sole province of large, wealthy congregations. Even though they already had a pipe organ, this modest-sized congregation deliberately chose a course of action that moves beyond the ordinary, not only improving the musical aspects of their worship, but enhancing the visual aesthetics as well.
Why a new organ? The church’s existing instrument possessed a specification reflecting good intent, but its execution fell short of the desired results. Pipework of dubious quality had been collected from a variety of sources with little regard for proper scaling and voicing. The Great and Pedal divisions were installed on large cantilevered chests directly over the heads of the choir, creating difficult sightlines and acoustical anomalies. The Swell was buried in a deep chamber, rendering most of the resources for choral accompaniment
Placing the organ in free-standing cases along the main axis of the room allows optimum tonal egress to encourage and lead congregational singing. This placement also gives the choir improved accompanimental support and allows the congregation to hear the choir in proper balance in front of rather than under the organ.
Every facet of a Parkey OrganBuilders project is custom made to meet the specific needs of our clients. Our design staff takes great care to match the visual elements to the architecture of the room, so that the organ case appears to have always been a part of the room. How does that concept play out at Ebenezer? The bricks in the front wall of the chancel on either side of the cross are set in a pattern that gives strong vertical interest. The new organ cases completely cover this feature, but recapture the essence of the vertical motion through a repeated pattern of columns and triple-pipe arrays. A second visual element is evident in the way the lower portion of the twin cases step back below the impost, showing respect for the altar that sits between them.
In the same way, the tonal design is tailored to meet the musical needs of the church and make the most of the acoustical properties of the building. The new tonal scheme is based on cohesive choruses designed to encourage congregational singing. A hallmark of a Parkey church organ of any size is the ability to address the full dynamic spectrum required in service playing. Moments of quiet contemplation are as important as the full splendor of Resurrection Day. The new organ at Ebenezer is able to fulfill both these roles and many others in between with ease. Some previously existing pipework has been rescaled and revoiced to blend seamlessly with the new pipework.
Once the tonal, visual, and engineering plans are complete, the staff works together to build the instrument in house. Although we enjoy a warm relationship with our suppliers and are grateful for the goods and services they provide, we are proud to be organbuilders, rather than assemblers of ready-made components.
The console, a special compact design, is made of red oak and features reverse color keys with ebony naturals and bone-capped maple sharps. The tilting tablets and marker plates were laser engraved in our shop. Our talented woodworkers produced the Blackinton-style slider chests, electro-pneumatic unit chests, and supporting structure. The red oak casework was also constructed in house and given an English chestnut stain as a complementary contrast to the pickled oak finish of the existing woodwork in the church. All parts of the organ were carefully fitted together in the erecting room first, streamlining the process of on-site installation.
We are grateful to the members, clergy, and staff of Ebenezer Lutheran Church for this opportunity to practice our art, and we laud them for their commitment to lasting quality in worship. William Carroll, professor emeritus and Dean of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is organist/choirmaster, and Jeff Perrier, a member of the choir, served as engineer consultant.
*From The Diapason April 2016 issue featuring Parkey OrganBuilders Opus 15. To read the article from The Diapason website, please click here.