On Saturday, February 18, 2017, Barry Wenger welcomed members and friends to the organ loft of First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest for a presentation on organ building and maintenance. Kurt Roderer, retired organ builder, and Steve Hoover, of Berghaus Organ Company and current curator of the Casavant tracker organ led the lecture and demonstration.
Examples were shown of an electro-pneumatic organ mechanism, with leather pouches, as well as the magnet system used in a direct electric organ. The pros and cons of these organs were explored, and compared to tracker organs, generating many questions and interesting comments from the group. Kurt and Steve also showed examples of pipes, such as principals, flutes, and reeds, along with different ways of tuning them. They addressed the various methods and materials used in pipe-making, including types of wood and metal. Everyone learned how the shape of a pipe can affect the color and tone of its sound.
A high level of interest was shown by participants as they asked questions and discussed various situations and organs they have played. Practical considerations, such as how temperature affects tuning and the possible causes of ciphers and dead notes were offered, with the admonition that trying to “do it yourself” can sometimes lead to additional problems! The session ended with everyone having an opportunity to explore the inside of the organ and see the way the trackers work up close, as Barry beautifully demonstrated the wide variety of colors and types of sounds this lovely instrument can produce.
Everyone left with a renewed appreciation for the organ as an instrument. Regardless of the type of organ, it’s amazing to consider what is happening inside the organ as we play!
Kathy Roderer, board member