Builder’s Notes on First Presbyterian Church, Monroe, Louisiana
First Presbyterian Church built a new building in the mid 60’s with no space in the Sanctuary for a pipe organ. The Gallery was designed for the Sanctuary choir and electronic organ. In the late 80’s the decision was made to renovate the Chancel area and move the choir and organ out of the Gallery and into the Chancel. A decision was also made to purchase a new pipe organ. This was going to be a difficult task given the fact that there were no organ chambers or space for a free standing instrument. I went to the church and discovered that there was space in the form of a partial triangle on each side of the Chancel window above the air conditioning air handler rooms. At that time this was simply dead space the only floor being 2X6 joists to attach ceiling tiles for the air handler rooms. In the Chancel this appeared as simply blank walls made up of random length tongue and groove walnut 1×6’s. The interior unused space floor plan was not large but the space was extremely high going all the way to the ceiling of the Sanctuary. Other builders the Organ Committee talked with indicated that the only way to install an organ would be to use two “planter box” chests on the exterior of the chamber walls and the remaining divisions in this unused space. I am not a fan of such arrangements due to the fact that the Mixtures and upperwork always end up on the front of the chest where it does not belong. This arrangement gives too much prominence for the exposed upperwork and makes it difficult to achieve a good tonal ensemble.
The Organ Committee also desired that the instrument have both a 16’ Principal in the Pedal and a 16’ Violone in the Great. I decided that we could put these pipes in the facade soon to become the tone opening with the remaining pipes in the space behind the facades. We did not have a large floor plan but we did have an abundance of height. The church removed the existing ceiling structure and replaced it with floors that would support the significant weight of a sixty rank organ. I decided to place the Great division on the left side in the lower level and the majority of the Pedal division above the Great including the Pedal 16’ Bourdon and 32’ Bombarde (1-12 half length). Fortunately there was room on the Sanctuary floor level in the air handler rooms for the blower and relay systems. On the right side I placed the entire Swell division on the lower level and the Choir on the upper. My theory being that if there was going to be tuning issues due to temperature difference in the lower and upper divisions the Swell and Great would be on the same level. As it turns out this is not a problem except on very hot days in the summer.
When we arrived with the instrument our first task was to cut the openings in the walnut walls that would be directly behind the facade cases. The back walls of the chambers were raw concrete block which we painted with Blockfill before starting the installation. We worked quickly to install the large components in the chambers and displaced the Congregation to the fellowship hall for only one Sunday. The casework was built in our shop and is constructed of walnut. The dropsill drawknob console was assembled in our shop. The action is electro-mechanical with the exception of large Pedal stops which are electro pneumatic. The instrument was built entirely in our shop and set up in the assembly room and then dismantled for shipment to Monroe.
The instrument has a high pressure Hooded Tuba in the Choir division that will play above full organ or with the Choir expression shutters closed work as an ensemble stop. Each division has a complete Principal chorus. There are numerous flute and string colors throughout the organ.
The instrument contains three “vintage” stops built by the Estey Organ Company. I consider Estey wood pipework to be extraordinary. In this instrument the Pedal 16’ Bourdon, Swell 8’ Holz Gedeckt, and Choir 8’ Flute Ouverte are Estey. This was done with the committee’s approval and was indicated in the Contract. The Flute Ouverte is a large scale open flute with amazing presence in the room. With the Tremulant this stop sounds much like an orchestral flute.
The engineering and design of this instrument was completed in such a manner as to allow a tuner to reach every pipe in the instrument, even the facade, without additional ladders or equipment. The acoustic of the room is excellent as is the tonal projection into the room. The instrument was dedicated by Fred Swann in January, 1993.
– Dan Garland
(also see stoplist)