Our Organ - DSM First Church

Our Organ

The first meticulously-crafted organ was installed in the sanctuary in 1908. It was purchased from the Austin Organ Company at a cost of $11,700. The organ was "composed of four distinct complete parts, the choir, the great, the swell, and the pedal organs." The dedication recital was held on July 11, 1908 featuring Dr. Louis Falk of Chicago.

In 1926, the music committee reported the need for organ repairs. The console was 26 years old and not the "latest style." In 1930, the choir loft needed enlarging to make it possible for the organ console to be moved from the front platform to the loft in the north-east corner of the sanctuary, with space for the director to stand behind the organ. One long pew had to be removed, and those in front of it moved back one space. New front panels were required, as well as some moving, carpentry work and new lumber, the cost of which was about $175. This may have seemed rather unnecessary to the average church goer, however, it was of great benefit to those in the choir.

In 1939, the entire interior was reconstructed. The organ was removed and rebuilt. In the space originally occupied by the organ, a new chancel was built with pulpit and lectern. A magnificent marble altar was added, above which was installed a beautiful new rose window. On the other side of the chancel were new choir stalls. The organ console was at the left. The pews were arranged to provide a center aisle. The sliding doors on either side were replaced by solid walls. The sanctuary and narthex were modernized by indirect lighting.

In 1946, another proposal was presented for future improvements of the church property. It included many necessary projects. The complete proposal amounted to $20,650. The completion of these projects was spread over more than a year. They obtained a grand piano for Fellowship Hall, children's choir robes, loud-speaker system and a new Allen electronic organ for the chapel.

In 1960, after three years with no major building needs to consider, some rehabilitation was in order. The list of needs included a new pipe organ and rebuilding the chancel to accommodate the new organ installation. In September 1963, the first of two trucks bringing the new organ arrived at the church from Lawrence, Kansas. The new Reuter organ took between four and six weeks to be completely installed. It was dedicated on Sunday, November 24. The new pipe organ had a total of 3,191 pipes, which ranged from a 16-foot, 300-pound pipe to several that were smaller than a lead pencil. The organ cost $68,000. The approximate cost of preparing the chambers for the instrument and rearranging the chancel was $22,000. This included moving the pulpit and lectern four feet forward, which doubled the altar railing space. The talents of three members were used in the process: Dick Utterback, architect; Fane F. Vawter, general construction; and Glenn Lull, interior decorating plans.

The organ console was a gift of Phyllis C. and A. Paul Thompson in memory of their parents, Grace R. and A. Roy Thompson and Nelle Z, and John B. Clark. A brass plate was placed on the console as a reminder of the gift.

In February 1964, there was a series of three programs to dedicate the new organ. Robert Burns, Director of Music at First Church, presented the first; Marie-Claire Alain, an internationally-acclaimed French organist, gave the second; five First Church choirs presented the final program.

A fanfare trumpet section was added to the organ in memory of Donald Burns, brother of former Music Director Robert Burns, and in recognition of Robert Burns' eleven years of dedicated service to the church. Members and friends made this gift possible.

The fanfare trumpet section also included a memorial gift by Barbara Ann Trindle and Martha Lou Lockwood in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank L. Lockwood, who loved this organ. While it was ordered in 1970, it was not installed and dedicated until October 1971. Since then, maintenance and repairs were performed regularly.

(Source: A Parade of Saints by Idabelle Forker, 1995).


For more fun facts about our organ specifications, click on the image below.

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