The First English Evangelical Lutheran Church has emphasized the Lutheran musical tradition throughout its ministry in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our present organ, Casavant Opus 3709, was heard publicly for the first time on Reformation Sunday, October 25, 1992 and was blessed and dedicated on November 8, 1992. 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.
SPECIFICATION OF CASAVANT OPUS 3709
|Grand Orgue (manual I)|
|16’||Trompette Royale (Positif)||n/a|
|8’||Trompette Royale (Positif)||n/a|
|4’||Trompette Royale (Positif)||n/a|
|Recit (manual III)|
|8’||Viole de Gambe||61|
|8’||Voix Celeste (TC)||49|
|2’||Quarte de Nazard||61|
|Positif (manual II)|
|4’||Flute a Fuseau||61|
|16’||Bourdon (Grand Orgue)||n/a|
|8’||Bourdon (Grand Orgue)||n/a|
|4’||Bourdon (Grand Orgue)||n/a|
|32’||Contre Bombarde (half-length)||12|
|16’||Contre Trompette (Recit)||n/a|
|8’||Trompette Royale (Positif)||n/a|
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 financed by B. Frank Weyman whose father, George Weyman, a tobacco merchant, had been a leader in establishing the congregation and 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. A contract was signed with William A. Johnson & Son of Westfield Massachusetts. The organ was Johnson’s Opus 697, a 3 manual tracker action instrument of 32 stops whose bellows were 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 present casework (now refurbished) dates from this instrument.
In 1889 the congregation began planning to rebuild and enlarge the organ. In 1900, Austin Organs of 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 the organ was revoiced by Austin. New windchests were installed and the organ was converted to pneumatic action. 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 of 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 organ was next updated in about 1925 with the installation of a new console by the Tellers-Kent company of Erie, Pennsylvania. Tellers-Kent also provided some new stops which included chimes and a vox humana. The installation was completed by Dahlstead Brothers, the church’s organ maintenance firm. In 1948, a second major rebuild was done by H.P. Moeller of Hagerstown, Maryland. A new console was installed and all reeds were revoiced at the Moeller factory. A third rebuild was done in 1978 by Austin included a new console which remained in use until the present organ was installed.
When the aging instrument began requiring more and more costly repairs, 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 new instrument of 3 manuals and 44 ranks.
TONAL DESIGN OF THE CASAVANT FRÈRES, OPUS 3709
The Organ Selection Committee of First Church decided to build an organ that was eclectic in voicing; i.e. an instrument that could accommodate many styles of organ and choral music as well as support congregational singing with as few limitations as possible. Therefore the committee was not committed to one particular school of thought.
The tonal design of Casavant Opus 3709 is French Classic. Casavant Frères has a direct link to the seminal French organ 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 Romantic period. The Flutes and Principles of the Positif division are thinner in scale and accommodate the repertoire of the Baroque period.
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