In March 2009, First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville, Georgia, contracted to build a 3-manual, 42-rank organ to replace the aging Möller organ located in the sanctuary. Opus 11 was completed in March of 2010 and was first used on March 28, 2010, for morning worship services and again that afternoon for the choral performance of “The Seven Last Words of Christ.” The organ dedication recital was performed by Dr. James Mellichamp on April 18, 2010. Dr. Mellichamp is Professor of Organ and President of Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. Dr. Mellichamp also served as the consultant for the project. Mike Henry is the Director of Music for First Presbyterian. Both were active in the design of the new specification.
Our initial contact with First Presbyterian Church was to consider the options for their 2-manual, 23-rank Möller organ. Due to project constraints and budgets, the project remained on hold for several years. In late 2008, the church received a substantial bequest from the estate of a long-time church member. Not only was the church able to consider the renovation of the Möller but a complete new vision for the instrument.
The Möller organ was a product of its time and actually did a satisfactory job of playing baroque literature, but it fell short in areas of choral accompaniment and congregational singing support. The tonal design of our organs continues to embrace the art of playing Baroque literature, but expands the tonal palette to accommodate many more options. This is an important item in consideration as builders design organs for current day needs.
The new organ provides a movable 3-manual console in solid walnut with burled walnut, maple and bone accents to complement the current architecture of the room. The organ is placed in a central configuration for better blend and balance. The new façade will house the 16′ and 8′ Principals from the Pedal Division and the 8′ Principals from the Great Division. The organ will have two expressive divisions located behind the Great.
The Great Division provides the backbone and focus for the ensemble of the instrument. Principals are warm and rich with a distinct clarity. The Great features a Cornet décomposé, which adds great flexibility for solo voices and color for the principals. We find German Trompetes provide an excellent blend for ensemble use while still allowing solo use or echo responses to the Swell Trompettes. The color of each is decidedly different.
The Swell Division is decidedly French in flavor, with harmonic flutes at 4′ and 2′ pitches and bright rich reed choruses. A large scaled chimney flute and viola provide the foundations for this Division. These stops, complete with Viola Celeste, are enclosed in our special swell box design for tremendous expressive potential.
The Choir Division was not to be overlooked. This answered the questions to a number of problems and shortfalls with the old organ. Mr. Henry has developed a strong choral program with the church but endured an organ with limited abilities. Dr. Mellichamp and Mr. Henry did not want to lose the Baroque influence or ability of the old organ, but desired to enhance the choral accompaniment capabilities. The Choir features an independent Principal chorus complemented with flutes and mutations. The 8′ Schalmei provides both an excellent solo voice and is perfectly suited as an ensemble reed for the choir. This division, like our Swell, utilizes the same swell box design for superb expressive control.
The Pedal Division features its own independent principal and flute chorus with independent reeds. This adds tremendous gravity and foundation to the organ in a manner not possible with a large number of borrowed manual or electronic stops.
We invite you to see and hear this exciting instrument as an example of our level of organ building.