First United Methodist Church of Dalton Georgia has been a long time client of Parkey OrganBuilders. In the years leading up to the sanctuary renovation, we had the privilege of working with Peter Infanger, the church’s Music Director and Organist, in the care of the church’s pipe organ. Dalton First United Methodist has a long-standing reputation of excellent music, and many years were spent planning the renovation of the sanctuary to support this fine music program.
In early 90s the church increased the facility to add a new fellowship hall, kitchen, and a new chapel. During that growth phase, the church added an additional extension to the main sanctuary with plans to expand the choir space. The choir programs have grown over the years, and the choir loft space, which was located between the two organ chambers at the time, drastically hindered growth and expansion of the choir. Peter Infanger worked with the committees to highlight the need and benefits of expanding the choir loft. The space limitations, coupled with the very dated appearance of the 1950s sanctuary, lead to the renovation that began in 2014. Many ideas were discussed and other organ builders were interviewed. Ultimately the organ committee unanimously voted to award the contract for the organ to our firm.
With the need to enlarge the choir space, we recommended moving the organ from side chambers and an exposed division to a much more traditional chambered installation with case and facades. The committee agreed with our recommendations. The renovation committee also responded favorably to the recommendation of improved acoustics aided by reflective surfaces and hardwood and tile floors where possible.
Just before the renovation began, Peter Infanger announced his retirement. Much of the groundwork had been carefully put in place by Mr. Infanger. During the interim period, Mr. John Wigal of Chattanooga Tennessee, was selected as the organ consultant to guide the organ committee through remaining planning process. In mid 2015, Mr. Jeff Harbin was selected at the new Music Director/Organist.
Mr. Harbin has worked closely with our firm to bring this project to completion. His input has been valuable and very helpful.
The organ contains pipework from the previous organ with new pipework for additions and changes. The final instrument is 50 ranks over 48 speaking stops. The new instrument has been designed as a support for service playing and hymns under Mr. Harbin’s guidance.
The configuration of the instrument places the organ on the central axis of the room to provide direct egress to the sanctuary. The organ contains to freestanding expression enclosures of our standard design for the Choir and Swell Division. The Pedal Division is behind the left façade, with the Swell Division located immediately behind it. The unenclosed Great is located behind the right façade, and the Choir is placed behind the Great. The façade is composed of the Pedal 16’ Principal, Pedal 8’ Octave and Great 8’ Principal basses.
The new organ was placed on electro-pnuematic slider windchests with limited unified and duplex stops on electro-pneumatic unit windchests. Winding was provided via single rise reservoirs with tunable concussion winkers. The new windchests have greatly improved wind supply for the organ pipes, allowing our staff to voice for a warm rich chorus. The stratospheric mixture complement was revised. The Scharf originally located in the Swell was relocated to the Choir. A new IV Plein Jeu was installed in the Swell.
Our choice and design for slider windchests and single-rise reservoirs impart a clarity, promptness and gently wind flex in the organ. These attributes provide the personality of the instrument to instill a musical sense to the sound. Wind, expression boxes, and accurate well-terraced voicing become the palette for the musician to lead services and congregational singing.
The Swell flute chorus was finished out with a 4’ Flute to complete the option of a flute based Cornet. The Swell strings were broadened to compliment a larger 8’ Bourdon installed in the Swell Division, improving the foundation of the Swell. The 4’ Principal was rescaled to accommodate the increased foundation of the Swell. An 8’ Hautbois was added to the Swell.
The Great Division was revised with several changes. The 16’ Gemshorn was extended to provide an 8’ Gemshorn. The original installation had relied heavily on Haskelled bass pipes due to limited chamber space. This coupled with limited chamber openings had always hampered the original organ for an adequate bass line. The Great Principal was also rescaled and re-voiced for the changes and improvements to the room. Additional changes included replacing the Great 8’ flute with a Rohrflote and adding a 4’ Spitzflote.
The Choir Division in the previous organ resembled more of an enclosed Positiv, as was common in the 70s and 80s. Changes here included an 8’ Geigen Prinzipal, revoicing the remaining 4’ and 2’ and balancing the III Scharf for a functional enclosed Principal chorus for Choir accompaniment. The 8’ Holzgedeckt was rescaled and revoiced to provide a more fulfilling tone. Some articulation was retained for character, but it was still greatly refined.
The Pedal Division was complete in the original organ. Though the Pedal actually provided a nice complement of independent stops, it too was compromised by providing the original 16’ Principal as Haskelled pipes in the low octave and very period voicing of the remaining pipework. The new installation included full-length pipes with the low 5 notes of the Principal and Gemshorn residing on the back wall for maximum bass reflection.
The chamber construction was provided in the design details we provided. Attention was given to the density of wall structures to provide the best reflective surfaces possible. We worked with the architect to design the ceiling of the chamber to match the sanctuary ceiling in an effort to avoid the “arch” effect often encountered with organ chambers. By eliminating the overhang and wall extensions around the tone opening often found with chambers, egress is greatly improved.
The additional enhancements included a smooth reflective ceiling replacing the 1950s “fuzzy” acoustical surface. The choir loft is floored in ceramic tile with carpet limited to just the walkways beside the pews.
The results have provided a great improvement to the egress and balance of the organ. Mr. Harbin noted that stops previously unusable on the old organ were now functional and great enhancements to the organ. Congregation and choir singing saw an immediate improvement. The room has a warm, clean, and exciting presence matching the new visual look of the space.
The organ was first heard for the Smiley Gregg concert in late August. The Smiley Gregg concerts have been a long-standing tradition for Dalton First United Methodist as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Gregg was a long time member of First United Methodist and instrumental in the promoting the music program of the church. I have personally attended several of these over the years and remain impressed with their impact on the local community.
We are pleased to have been part of this renovation project and provide the organ for the sanctuary. Our thanks to Peter Infanger, John Wigal, and Jeff Harbin for their cooperation and support for this project. I also thank our own staff for their efforts in creating a fine instrument for future generations.
Phillip K. Parkey
President and Tonal Director