GARLAND
PIPE ORGANS, INC.
 
Dan Garland, President & Tonal Director
 
   

PIPE ORGANS THAT EXCITE AND INSPIRE

Builder’s Notes on First United Methodist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas

First United Methodist Church was built in 1927. It is a large gothic structure with a Sanctuary that seats approximately one thousand. This church is well known as Nita Akin’s church. She was organist there for over fifty years. The original organ was a large instrument installed in chambers on the right side of the Nave speaking through tone openings the same shape and dimension of the Nave stained glass windows. The instrument was not near the choir. One wonders how the instrument worked accompanying the choir. It must have been difficult. In the mid 1950’s Aeolian-Skinner moved the instrument into chambers on both sides of the Chancel. The organ was behind screens with no exposed pipework. At this time the choir was divided on both sides of the Chancel. As part of the move Aeolian-Skinner installed a new four manual drawknob console, a new Great , and various additions to the remaining divisions. A majority of the instrument from 1927 was incorporated into the redesigned instrument. It was still known as Nita’s Skinner.

By 2003 the instrument was in need of much repair so the church engaged Dr. George Baker to serve as a consultant to improve the tonal resource and mechanical reliability of the instrument. Dr. Baker and I surveyed the instrument and found a variety of windchest styles and a significant amount of the 1927 instrument. The Aeolian-Skinner Mixtures were too large in scale and did not provide for a good Principal chorus. After much study and discussion it was determined that the only way to approach this project was to simply start over. A contract was awarded to our firm to complete this large project. We completely emptied both organ chambers and discarded all the 1927 mechanisms and much of the 1927 pipework. The only pitman windchests that remained were Aeolian-Skinner. With the exception of the Mixtures and a blazing hot solo French Trumpet all of the Aeolian-Skinner pipework was incorporated into the new instrument. The entire instrument was transported to our shop facility in Fort Worth.

Working closely with Dr. George Baker a new stop list was determined. The basic layout of the instrument would remain the same. On the left side the Swell chamber would be on the bottom with the Choir chamber above. The right chamber would contain the unenclosed Great and Pedal divisions. The primary Great Principal chorus, mutations, and flutes were placed in the lower Great on the same level as the Swell. The upper Great contained the Great and Pedal chorus reeds and several flutes. This large unenclosed chamber was also home for the 16’ Principal, 16’ Open Wood, the Great and Pedal reeds, and the 64’ and 32’ Contra Ophicleide. The Ophicleide was built by A.R. Schopp’s Sons Inc. and voiced by David Schopp. The 64’ goes down to AAAAA which is almost 40 feet long and 16 inches in diameter at the top. It plays on 15” wind pressure. The entire Ophicleide is full length.

Directly behind the unenclosed Great is the original Solo chamber. It now contains the Bombarde division which consists of a large scale Hooded Tuba becoming harmonic at C13 on 20” of wind, a large scale Diapason chorus, and a powerful VI Mixture. The depth of that chamber was decreased and the extra space behind the Bombarde (in a separate room) was used to house the control systems for this side of the organ and the step-up blower for the Tuba.

With Dr. Baker’s extensive knowledge of French romantic organs the new stop list reflects that of a French romantic instrument. The chorus reeds in the Choir, Great, Swell, and Pedal are all large scale French reeds in the style of Cavaille-Coll.

The abundance of mutations also leans toward the French romantic style. I was at ease with it having a French influence but felt when needed it should also be able to be an American eclectic instrument good for a West Texas town. We kept the Aeolian-Skinner Trumpet in the Swell (in addition to the new). The high pressure Tuba works well as an ensemble reed with the expression shutters partially closed. The Oboe, Clarinet, English Horn, and Vox Humana are pure American. By using these stops without all the French reeds the instrument takes on a completely different character. We are all pleased that it does both so well.

The action of the instrument is electro-pneumatic. The drop sill four manual and pedal drawknob console was built by Robert Turner. There is now extensive facade casework and exposed pipework. It is a thrilling instrument to play and to experience. It was a difficult instrument to build and install but has been well received by the congregation and visiting artists.

— Dan Garland
(also see stoplist)