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R.A. Daffer Church Organs employee Jim Gautsch, who is on a ladder, installs some of the 613 pipes for the 11-rank pipe organ at Hartselle United Methodist Church. Through a gift, the church was able to purchase the organ, which members have been talking about since the ’80s.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
R.A. Daffer Church Organs employee Jim Gautsch, who is on a ladder, installs some of the 613 pipes for the 11-rank pipe organ at Hartselle United Methodist Church. Through a gift, the church was able to purchase the organ, which members have been talking about since the ’80s.

Pipe dream
come true

New organ to fill Hartselle First Methodist sanctuary with music

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com · 340-2468

Pipes gleamed from their new location lining the back of Hartselle First United Methodist Church’s sanctuary. Workers from R.A. Daffer Church Organs in Jessup, Md., spent a week at the church in August installing a musical masterpiece — a $150,000 pipe organ.

As installers added the last few pipes, some only inches tall, they tested one for sound. From atop a ladder, Jim Gautsch created a vibrating note that filled the church.

Church music minister Ron Bean and a few members of the congregation who were watching the installation smiled when they heard the music. It had been a long wait.

Bean said the church minutes mentioned a desire for a pipe organ back in the 1920s. Architects designing the current sanctuary, completed in 1965, put in space for the instrument, including pipe chambers and a blower room.

Active discussion about adding a pipe organ began in the late 1980s, Bean said. The church appointed a committee in the early 1990s, but other projects took precedence, he said.

“Through a very generous gift, it’s now a reality,” he said.

Pipes from Italy

The Daffer company was an easy choice because of its reputation, Bean said. Daffer is curator of the pipe organs at the Washington National Cathedral, where it has rebuilt wind chests, installed a computer system to control the pipe works and rebuilt the console.

A vice president from Daffer visited Hartselle First Methodist and designed the layout. He oversaw the 2004 installation of a $40,000 Rodgers console organ, which the church has been using, leaders said.

Bean said the church placed the order for the pipes almost two years ago. An Italian company that works with Daffer, Fratelli Ruffatti Organ Co. of Padua, designed and crafted the 613 pipes on 11 ranks, or sets. The largest one is 8 feet tall and the smallest is 1 inch, installers said.

According to the Ruffatti Web site, the company handcrafts the entire pipe-creation process, from pouring hot metal into molds to voicing, which is the adjustment of parts to get a desired sound.

R.A. Daffer Church Organ employee Bob Rupprecht unwraps some of the smallest pipes, made in Padua, Italy, before they are installed at Hartselle First Methodist Church. The church had been discussing adding a pipe organ since the late 1980s.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
R.A. Daffer Church Organ employee Bob Rupprecht unwraps some of the smallest pipes, made in Padua, Italy, before they are installed at Hartselle First Methodist Church. The church had been discussing adding a pipe organ since the late 1980s.
Bob Rupprecht of Daffer said the largest pipes are made of pure tin, which is needed for strength. Others are formed from alloys of tin and lead. The mixture depends on the tone needed, he said. Ruffatti uses some equipment that is centuries old, while other tools are state-of-the-art, Rupprecht said.

The pipe chest at First Methodist is made of Sipo mahogany, imported by Ruffatti from Africa. The chest, crafted like a piece of furniture, is 8 feet long, 40 inches deep and 8 inches tall. It is mounted in a larger casework and contains blown air to allow constant air pressure for the pipes, Bean said.

Notes and tones

Blake Tanner of the committee, who has a minor in church organ, said the organ is a combination of pipes and electronics. That means some sounds are produced electronically, but the organist can play only the pipes if desired, he said.

The two installers used a schematic print as they worked to place each pipe in its special spot. Rupprecht unwrapped pipes from newspapers printed in Italian.

On Aug. 23 after the physical pipe installation was done, Rupprecht sat at the console to try the pipes. The sounds ranged from a low drum-like rumble to a tweet like a penny whistle.

Gautsch, down from the ladder, said the notes range two octaves above and below a piano keyboard. The organ can imitate orchestra instruments such as flute, brass and reed, he said. But the organ has something unique, too.

“A set of stops called the principal sounds, that no other orchestral instrument sounds like, make the organ what it is,” Gautsch said.

Sunday debut

First Methodist’s new pipe organ will get its first tryout Sunday.

“This is just going to be wonderful for our church,” said Ellen Bean, organist for 21 years.

She learned to play a pipe organ at Jacksonville State University, where she earned a music degree.

The church’s instrument, which is the first pipe organ in Hartselle, will be a legacy for future generations of worshippers, she said.

Ron Bean said the church provides a variety of music styles, and the pipe organ will help provide the best of traditional worship.

A dedication service is tentatively set for Nov. 4, he said.

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