The First English Evangelical Lutheran Church has emphasized the Lutheran musical tradition throughout its ministry in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our present organ, Cassavant Opus 3709, was heard publicly for the first time on Reformation Sunday, October 25, 1992 and was Blessed and Dedicated, November 8, 1992. It is a magnificent instrument. We Lutherans have valued the gift of music perhaps more than any other community of believers. Our tradition includes a vast treasury of music to enhance our proclamation and celebration of the Gospel.
The congregation of First Church has worshiped with several instruments since its founding in 1837. The first small organ was installed in 1867 in the Seventh Avenue building. Its purchase was supported by B. Frank Weyman whose father, George Weyman, a tobacco merchant, had been a leader in establishing the congregation and has supported the purchase of land for the first church building.
The congregation purchased land for the present Grant Street building in 1885 and, in 1886, decided to purchase a larger organ for the new building at a cost not to exceed $5000. A contract was signed with William A. Johnson & Son, Westfield Massachusetts. The organ was Johnson’s Opus 697, a 3 manual tracker action instrument of 32 stops that wind chest driven by a water motor. (The drive wheel for that motor can still be seen in the church.) It was installed in 1888 and played at the dedication of the building on November 4. The organ casework, newly refurbished, dates from this organ.
For reasons which are not clear, in 1889 the congregation began planning to rebuild and enlarge the organ. In 1900, Austin Organs, Hartford, Connecticut was chosen to perform the work. The changes included 12 new stops (2 in the Great, 3 in the Swell, 3 in the Choir, 4 in the Pedal) bringing the total to 44 stops. The new pipes were made by Philip Wirsching and all pipes, new and old, were voice by Austin. A new Austin air chest was installed and the organ was converted to pneumatic operation. The rebuilt organ was completed in the Fall of 1900 and was said to be “one of the finest in the city”. With several updates, it remained in operation until it was removed in the Spring of 1992 and sold to The Congregational Church, East Hampton, Connecticut.
The organ blower was converted from water to DC electric power in 1915 at a cost of about $500, half of which would be saved in unnecessary “water rent”. The 1900 organ was first updated in about 1925 with the installation of a new Tellers Kent console and new stops which included chimes and a vox humana. The work was done by Dahlstead Brothers, the church’s organ maintenance firm. In 1948, a second update was done by H.P. Moeller, Hagerstown, Maryland. A new console was installed and all reeds were revoiced at the Moeller factory. A third update done in 1978 by Austin included a new console which was played until the present organ was installed.
When repairs and replacements to the pipe organ grew in cost and failed to correct serious problems with pipes, valve operation and the wind chest, the congregation decided to install a new instrument. In 1991, it signed a contract with Casavant Frères Limitée, Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec, for installation of the 44 rank electropneumatic.
THE DESIGN OF THE CASAVANT FRÈRES, OPUS 3709
Designing an organ is a subject no two organists, no two organ builders, or no two listeners agree upon. Designing an organ is a subjective decision based on objective science: personal likes based on the history organ design.
The Organ Selection Committee of First Church decided to build an organ that was eclectic in voicing; i.e. an instrument that could accommodate all styles of music with few limitations in organ repertoire, choral and orchestral music, and congregational singing. Therefore the committee was not committed to one particular school of thought.
Our basic design and concept is that of the “French Classic Organ”. Casavant Frères has a direct link to the French Builder, Aristide Cavaille-Coll (1811-1899). The layout of the keyboards and voicing of the main Reeds and Principles accommodate the repertoire of the French Orchestral Organ. The Flutes and Principles of the Positif (middle keyboard) accommodate music of thinner quality. The organ can, thus, perform music of the Gernal Baroque and especially Bach Cantatas, Bach Sinfonias and Handel Organ Concertos.
SPECIFICATION CASAVANT OPUS 3709
|Grand Orgue (1)|
|1. Bourdon||(Extension of No. 3)||16||12|
|2. Montre||(70% tin)||8||61|
|4. Flute harmonique||(1-12 common with No. 3)||8||49|
|5. Prestant||(70% tin)||4||61|
|6. Doublette||(70% tin)||2||61|
|7. Fourniture||(1-1/3′, 70% tin)||IV||244|
|9. Trompette royale||(Positif)||16||—|
|10. Trompette royale||(Positif)||8||—|
|11. Trompette royale||(Positif)||4||—|
|12. Diapason||(50% tin)||8||61|
|13. Flute majeure||8||61|
|14. Viole de gambe||8||61|
|15. Voix céleste||(TC)||8||49|
|16. Principal||(50% tin)||4||61|
|17. Flûte douce||4||61|
|19. Quarte de nazard||2||61|
|21. Plein jeu||(1′, 50% tin)||IV||244|
|22. Contre trompette||(L/2, extension of No. 23)||16||12|
|26. Principal||(50% tin)||8||61|
|28. Octave||(50% tin)||4||61|
|29. Flûte à fuseau||4||61|
|30. Principal||(50% tin)||2||61|
|32. Cymbale||(2/3′, 50% tin)||III||183|
|34. Trompette royale||(Nos. 1-12 from No. 46, fron No. 35)||16||—|
|35. Trompette royale||(High pressure, hood)||8||61|
|36. Trompette royale||(Extension of No. 35)||4||12|
|37. Contre bourdon||(Electronic ext. of No. 39)||32||—|
|38. Montre||(Zinc, extension of No. 40)||16||12|
|39. Bourdon||(Grand Orgue)||16||—|
|40. Octavebasse||(70% tin)||8||32|
|41. Bourdon||(Grand Orgue)||8||—|
|42. Octave||(50% tin)||4||32|
|43. Bourdon||(Grand Orgue)||4||—|
|44. Mixture||(2-2/3′, 50% tin)||IV||128|
|45. Contre bombarde||(L/2, extension of No. 46)||32||—|
|47. Contre trompette||(Récit)||16||—|
|48. Trompette||(Extension of No. 46)||8||12|
|49. Trompette royale||(Positif)||8||—|
|50. Clarion||(Extension of No. 48)||4||12|
|Grand Orgue / Pédale||8|
|Récit / Pédale||8|
|Positif / Pédale||8|
|Récit / Grand Orgue||8|
|Positif / Grand Orgue||8|
|Récit / Positif||8|
Grand Orgue/Positif transfer
(Not affected by combinations or cancel
In 1837, Joseph Casavant rebuilt a pipe organ for the College of Ste. Thérèse near Montreal. A blacksmith by trade, he had decided at the age of twenty-seven to give up his business in St. Hyacinthe and go back to school. While a student at the College, he was asked by l’abbé Ducharme to restore an old organ to working condition. It is know that he used dom Bédos de Celles’ ‘L’Art du Facteur d’Orgues’ as a guide in this, his first organbuilding venture.
Three years later, Casavant received his first contract for an entirely new organ from the church of St. Martin de Laval, near Montreal. Then in 1850, he was commissioned by the Bishop of Bytown, now Ottawa, to build a three-manual instrument for the Cathedral there. Until his retirement in 1866, he produced seventeen organs in his St. Hyacinthe shop for churches and seminaries in what was then Lower and Upper Canada.
When Joseph Casavant died in 1874, his two sons, Claver and Samuel, had already shown a great interest in organbuilding. They often worked after school in the shop of Eusèbe Brodeur to whom the older Casavant had handed over his business. But it was soon apparent that if they wanted to follow their father’s career, they must acquire a wider experience. In 1875, Claver left St. Hyacinthe for Paris, followed later by his younger brother Samuel. Claver worked for F. and J. Abbey in Versailles, and both he and Samuel spent some time with Cavaillé-Coll. Samuel’s son, Aristide, was named after the French organbuilder.
The two brothers traveled widely in Europe, visiting builders and significant organs in France, Italy, and Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and England, and on their return to St. Hyacinthe in 1879 they established themselves as Casavant Frères on the site where the present workshops stand. In their first announcement to prospective clients they stated “we are capable of building instruments boasting the most recent innovations such as: concave pedalboards, balanced expression pedals, keyboard improvements, etc.”
The instrument which firmly established Casavant Frères as organbuilders of international repute was completed in 1891 for the Church of Notre-Dame in Montreal, a four-manual of eighty-two stops. This instrument, which celebrated its centennial in 1991, included adjustable combinations and speaking pipes of thirty-two foot length in the facade. In 1895, they built their first organ for the United States, — Notre-Dame Church in Holyoke, Massachusetts. 1899 marked the production of Opus 100. Opus 200 came in 1904, Opus 500 in 1912, and 1000 in 1923. Opus 3700, a contract for a four-manual mechanical action organ for the Temple Complex of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Independence, Missouri, was signed in early 1990.