Garland Pipe Organs



Dan Garland, President & Tonal Director


Builder’s Notes on First Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth, Texas

This instrument is very important to me in that it is in my home church and it is the first pipe organ I played at the age of ten. My family has been active in this church since approximately 1920. My immediate family became active in 1941 when my parents were married. Our lives always revolved around the activities in this church. My mother was on staff for 25 years. If I had not grown up in this church and had my mother not been on staff it is unlikely that I would be in the profession of organbuilding. My grandfather was a Presbyterian minister as were my three uncles on my mother’s side of the family. I think me being an organbuilder was meant to be.

This instrument has an interesting history. It began in 1919 when the church signed a Contract with the Kimball Organ Company for a new instrument of 31 ranks. The instrument was installed in 1921 in the church then located in the middle of downtown Fort Worth. The building was built in 1873. William J. Marsh was the organist a position he held from the early 1900’s until his retirement in 1941. He composed the Texas state song, Texas our Texas. He held dual positions. He was also the organist at St. Patick’s Cathedral (Catholic) in downtown. Uncle Billy, as he was known, never owned an automobile. The service schedules were arranged so he could first play for the Catholics and then walk briskly to the Presbyterian Church to play the 11:00 service. This was long before I was born but my mother told me that on several occasions Uncle Billy was running late and she would slide on the bench of the Kimball and start the service until he arrived.

The 1921 Kimball was typical of their (and many other builders) work from this time period.

If it had a horseshoe console it would have been at home in movie house. It was three manual with leathered upper lip Diapasons, large scale flutes, keen strings, and little upperwork. I believe the only stop above a 4’ was a 2’ borrowed from the Choir string. My uncle (on my father’s side) told me that as a child remembers seeing many yellow colored ducts placed in the floor of the Sanctuary. He was correct. Kimball painted their windlines with a yellowish orange color.

In 1941 William Barclay became the new organist. He later married Dora Potette. She studied with Marcel Dupre and was organist at St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Fort Worth and was head of the organ department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. William Barclay died in 1969 at the age of 62. Even though I was only 17 when he died he was definitely my mentor in that he allowed me to play the organ at an early age and also allowed me to assist him at the console during services and even complete minor tuning. It is due to his encouragement that I am in the profession of organbuilding.

In 1956 the church relocated to a new facility slightly west of downtown. It was designed by Harold Wagner from Philadelphia. Even to this day fifty two years later it remains an architectural gem within the city of Fort Worth.

When the announcement of the new building was made naturally William Barclay hoped for a new organ. Funds were not available for a new instrument so the Kimball was moved from the old building to the new with no changes or additions. It was installed in organ chambers on both sides of the chancel with no exposed pipework. In 1959 a donor gave the church $50,000 for a new instrument. Even in 1959 this amount would not have been enough for an instrument large enough for this new building. The decision was made to keep much of the Kimball and add significant new pipework and components to the existing instrument.

A contract was made with a major builder to install a new Great division exposed on either side of the Chancel, a new three manual drawknob console, a new Positiv division, and partial additions to the Swell and Pedal divisions. The entire Choir and much of the Pedal and Swell remained Kimball. The instrument was now approximately 60 ranks. It was a successful project. Barclay was a master at registration and knew how to use this organ representing two different eras of organbuilding.

Between 1969 and 1980 there were many additions and changes made to the instrument. It was no longer cohesive tonally or mechanically. It was in much need of major rebuilding. In 1983 the church entered into a Contract with my newly formed company (1982) to enlarge and renovate the instrument. The main chamber opposite the console housed the Choir, partial Great, and Pedal divisions along with the main relay system for the entire instrument. I decided that the only way to approach this project was to remove all pipework and components from the large chamber and literally start over. We filled two classrooms with organ parts, painted the floor, and redesigned the layout and began reinstalling the instrument. I often worked evenings to speed up progress due to the fact that the only portion of the instrument that was in working order was the Swell. To play for a large service on Sunday morning with these limited resources was a significant challenge for the organist. I had become good friends with our new Senior Minister and one evening while he was working after hours he entered the mostly empty organ chamber and said “do you really know how to put all or this back together?” At the time I took his statement and thought that it could be interpreted two ways, one of awe and the other sheer terror. I assured him that yes, we did know how to put it back together.

We reorganized all the windchests and winding, rewired the entire chamber and revoiced all the existing pipework. A new enclosed Great division was added (8,4,2,IV), a new 4’ Blockflute in the Choir, a rebuilt Hook and Hastings full length 32’ Contra Bombarde,a new VI Mixture for the unenclosed Great, several new stops in the Pedal and a new English Trumpet en Chamade.

At the conclusion of this project the instrument was approximately 82 ranks. The rebuilt organ was opened by Nancianne Parrella and the Fort Worth Symphony playing the Poulenc Organ Concerto and the Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (the Organ Symphony). The Sanctuary was completely full. It was an extraordinary evening.

In 1989 Mr. Robert MacDonald became Director of Music and Organist at First Presbyterian. Mr. MacDonald having served as associate to Fred Swann at The Riverside Church in New York City and Director of Music and Organist at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey brought with him much experience and wisdom about large organs in large rooms. Under his encouragement a new Great, Swell, and Celestial were installed in the rear of the Sanctuary.

A new Solo/Bombarde was added to the main organ. The Swell division was completely rebuilt and enlarged. A new five manual Harris console replaced the 1959 console. The new console is on an elevator and can be raised up to the chancel rail or to floor level and rolled to the center of the chancel for recitals. A new English full compass Trumpet en Chamade was installed exposed high in the rear of the Sanctuary and a similar Tuba was installed in the Bombarde division. There were other additions throughout the instrument. Now completed the instrument has six expressive divisions and 133 ranks. The most recent addition was a three manual stop key console in the Gallery. All three Gallery divisions can be played by this console. Also indluded are all stop controls for the Solo division in the Chancel organ. The entire organ, Chancel and Gallery, can be played from the Gallery console. All 20 of the General Pistons on the Chancel console are also on the Gallery console with a digital readout indicating the current piston in use. The acoustic in the room is excellent. The instrument is enjoyable both for the performer and the listener. And of most importance it serves in the weekly services at First Presbyterian Church.

— Dan Garland
(also see stoplist)