Music Director Kathryn Welter’s review of organ committee’s search for a new organ
One of the goals identified in our recent values-survey was repair or replacement of our failing Austin organ. This 100-year-old instrument, moved to Peace from the home of Everett A. Greene in Newton Center and installed by Ron Riggert and members of the congregation, has served Peace well for over 40 years and has been carefully maintained by Ron Riggert throughout that time. However, what congregation members may not know is that for the last ten years and more, the organ has suffered from continued wear on all aspects of the inner workings of the console as well as the pipes, and at the present, we are only able to hear a fraction of what the instrument was originally intended to produce. A functioning organ is a centerpiece of liturgical worship, and can also serve as an educational tool, a community resource, and so much more. An organ task force, chaired by Ron Riggert, has been meeting since mid-January to assess the options available to the congregation. Members of the task force included Ron Riggert, Pastor Jeff, myself, Bob Holmgren, Kirsten Johnson, Libby Jonczyk, Jonathan Moretz, and Warren Green.
The task force reviewed earlier proposals to repair and update the Austin organ. First, John Bishop presented a proposal in 2004 to purchase an available Hutchings organ from Quincy, Massachusetts and move it to replace the one at Peace Lutheran for a cost of $75,000 to $80,000. In 2009, a proposal was made by the Austin Organ Company to repair and update the existing organ for the amount of $86,500. And as recently as 2016, organ builder Joe Sloane made a proposal to move the organ from Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Wayland to Peace Lutheran for a cost of $88,650. Our current task force began with the understanding that such amounts were beyond the reach of Peace Lutheran, and we began to consider other options, including electronic/digital organs. In February, the task force visited the Allen Organ Company in Worcester to explore their options for the space at Peace Lutheran. The features, technology, and versatility of those instruments were presented, and we were able to try out the keyboards and listen to examples of those instruments. The proposal made to us by Allen Organs included two options with base prices of $34,000 and $40,000, with additional options, such as antiphonal speakers and upgraded keyboards that would add at the minimum around another $10,000 to $15,000 to those prices for a total of $50,000+. These organs contain state-of-the art computers and would eventually presumably require an upgrade in software. The lifetime of these organs is typically 25-35 years.
The task force also wanted to reconsider the idea of repairing or replacing our pipe organ instead of purchasing an electronic organ. Jonathan Moretz introduced us to Tim Smith, an organ builder who has worked extensively on various organs in the area over the past 20 years. Tim worked with the task force to illustrate the qualities of pipe organs available for such a space as Peace Lutheran. As an illustration of his work in the area, the task force visited First Parish Church in Weston, which is a small chapel with a traditional pipe organ that was installed by Tim Smith. Several members of the task force were able to visit First Parish and try out the installed organ there, and Tim Smith’s work made a favorable impression on the task force. He made a proposal to purchase a Moller organ from Christ Church in Littlestown, Pennsylvania, which would then be installed at Peace Lutheran. The proposal is for an 11-rank, 678-pipe organ, which would provide significant variety and richness in its design. He would strip the current Austin organ case pipes, leaving the organ case in place, and replace with re-purposed pipes. The new console will fit on the same platform as the current Austin. This proposal comes in at $51, 180 and includes purchase of the organ, delivery, and labor to rebuild the instrument. The task force ultimately decided that given the similar price in the proposals between the electronic organ and the traditional pipe organ, the richness and longevity of a traditional pipe organ was preferred, and the task force determined that if the congregation were to support an organ project, it should be the project that Tim Smith presented.