Project Description for the Renovation of Morningside’s Organ

Beyond periodic tunings, maintenance of Morningside's organ since the 1970's has been sketchy. An extensive reworking of the Swell division took place following the collapse of the plaster ceiling in the organ chamber. Age and water intrusion made the rebuilding of the organ necessary. Internal wiring and failure of older technology have rendered parts of the chancel organ unusable and the entire Antiphonal division unplayable. In addition to water and plaster damage to the windchests, there was extensive damage to many of the organs wood pipes and the reed pipes showed signs of improper tuning techniques.

In the fall of 2006, the congregation contracted with Robert I. Coulter - Organbuilder to rebuild and enlarge the 1956 Wicks organ. Upon inspection, it was found that the organ had suffered from extensive water damage in all three chambers (Great/Choir, Swell, and Antiphonal). Additionally, the physical configuration in the Great/Choir chamber was crowded to the point of making proper tuning and service extremely difficult. In the 2006 project (in addition to updating the console with modern playing aids and systems), installation of all new electro-pneumatic wind chests in the Great/Choir chamber were planned to both allow for better use of space and to provide the opportunity for tonal additions.

In rebuilding the console, the shell, pedal board and keys were ultimately saved. The shell was stripped and totally refinished to match the furnishings of the sanctuary. The pedal board was extensively repaired and refinished as were the keys. All new stop jambs were constructed of a beautiful African Cherry (Makore) and fitted with new Syndyne drawknob units that allow for a graceful feel.

The organ is best described as being Classic American, but not American-Classic! Scales and voicing of ranks is inspired by the work of E.M. Skinner, Kimball and Roosevelt. The Great Diapason chorus based on the First Open has grandness and richness found in large Skinner organs from the 1930's, but with the added clarity and brilliance found in E. & G. G. Hook organs, and rediscovered by later generations. The Second Open is set outside the shades and voiced in a delicate manner to offset the more robust First Open. While the First Open is bold, it speaks with a singing manner and follows a concept of pipes that are properly scaled on proper wind pressure and allowed to produce a graceful, relaxed tone. The nine ranks of the principal chorus speak with a refined tone that is still commanding enough to properly lead congregational singing. The 8' wood Gedeckt is a rich, noble stopped diapason voice that when combined with the hybrid tone of the 8' Gemshorn provides an additional 8' Jeu de fonds. The 8' Trumpet, which is extended to 16' and 32' in the pedal, is at once bold and dark. In the manual range it is dark enough to properly blend with the principal chorus, while as pedal voices it retains power sufficient to support the full organ.

The Swell organ provides a wealth of varied color to the organ. A refined but present Violin Diapason provides the backbone for the Swell Principal Chorus which extends to the Plein Jeu mixture. The slotted Gamba and Gamba Celeste are reminiscent of the excellent examples of string voicing found in Kimball organs, with a richness rarely heard in modern organs of the last 40 years. A Rohr Flute and superb wooden Harmonic Flute provide colorful flutes and Jeu de Tierce in this division. The tapered 2' Flautino serves as a wonderful dual purpose stop, blending perfectly with the other flutes and Jeu de Tierce, as well as being able to function as a 2' voice to the Violin Diapason and Principal. There is also an excellent Hautbois and minor reed chorus based around a zesty Cornopean. The three unison 8' flues in this division (8' Violin Diapason, 8' Gamba, 8' Rohr Flute) follow the French Jeu de fonds concept and bind together to create a rich beautiful sound that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

While there is little on paper exceptional to the Choir organ, in performance little could be further from the truth. The delicate Dolcan & Dolcan Celeste are among the softest voices in the organ. The 8' Chimney Flute is the softest 8' flute voice in the organ, and also functions at 2' pitch in the Choir and 4' in the Great. Through judicious unification such as this, a player can draw the 8' & 2' in the choir and never know the two voices are from the same rank. A robust 4' Koppel flute provides a binding voice to the division. Of note are the excellent 8' English Horn built to Willis standards, and the rich 8' Clarinet which was constructed by the Kimball organ company in the 1930's.

As Morningside's sanctuary is of the acoustically perfect ‘shoebox' shape, the importance of an Antiphonal organ was realized early by the designers of the Wicks organ in 1955. This renovation has expanded that division by adding a 4' Octave, Unda Maris, Doppel Flute, Trompete and high pressure Tuba. The Grand Diapason, Octave and Trompete provide the perfect reinforcement of the Great organ's Principal Chorus to aid singing throughout the sanctuary. After the first morning the Antiphonal organ had played in 20 years, a congregant was heard to remark, "Finally, music for those of us who like to sit in the balcony!" With the addition of the Doppel Flute, a soaring solo voice is now available for the organist. An Austin Tuba from 1912 was located and restored to serve as the commanding solo voice to this organ. In addition to having the organ's loudest voices, the Antiphonal also has the softest in the 8' Dulciana and Unda Maris

The Pedal organ provides the organist with an unlimited choice for underpinning the organ with a rich, solid foundation. The large scale open wood 16' Diapason serves as the backbone for the organ, with added power being found in the 32'/16' Trombone unit. Of singular note is the fact that all of the pedal voices are enclosed throughout the organ, including the real 32' Bourdon in the Antiphonal and real 32' reed in the Great/Choir.

All of the pipes in the organ have been either voiced from new or revoiced to ensure the concept of graceful organ tone. Coulter-Organbuilders strived to allow each pipe to play with a relaxed singing tone that is never forced.