Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Lancaster, Pennsylvania Dobson Pipe Organ Builders

The American Organist, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Lancaster, Pennsylvania Dobson Pipe Organ Builders


From the Builder

Everybody builds two-manual church organs-it's the still life of the organbuilder's art. A principal chorus, a jeu de tierce, and an oboe are our grapes, pear, and bottle of wine. Each sanctuary is a different cloth-covered table, with architecture, acoustic, and music program all contributing to a unique setting. Though it has been done a thousand times before, there's always something new and fresh that can be explored and expressed.

From our first meeting with the organ committee at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, we knew that this was going to be a delightful collaborative project. The church has long been known for its strong grounding in fine music and a living Lutheran liturgy. The creative and enlightened church staff along with the eager and committed congregation offered a wonderful opportunity to explore the many options that present themselves as an organ project develops.

The church building, dedicated in 1973, required updating of its HVAC systems as well as minor changes to the gallery to accommodate the organ. The project then expanded, as projects so often do, to include not only that work but also new lighting and sound systems, an elevator to the choir room and gallery, and other architectural changes to improve liturgical functions and make the nave completely handicapped accessible. In the end, the result was a major renovation of the entire worship space.

Donald Main of M&M Architects was the principal architect for the project and injected many creative ideas into the planning. Scott Riedel served as organ consultant and acoustical adviser to the project, and the Rev. Marilyn Witte, cantor, and the Rev. Mark Russell, senior pastor, guided the liturgical considerations. With the removal of an antiquated sound booth at one side and a large room for the old HVAC equipment on the other, the balcony's floor space was nearly doubled, making much more room for the choir, organ, and the other instruments that are regularly a part of the worship experience. With the new (and completely silent) HVAC system, there is now a stable climate in the room. A new color scheme for the walls and an enlarged chancel area with dramatic new lighting have resulted in a wonderful space for worship. The extent of the work meant that the whole congregation was involved in the project, so there was great expectation and excitement as it proceeded.

Given the flattened hexagonal plan of the room, the organ case takes on an angled shape in plan to fit closely to the back wall of the gallery. The case is very wide and shallow in order to provide room for singers and other musicians. The console is detached in front of the case, both of which are made of hard maple with a clear finish.

The visual design of the organ takes its inspiration from medieval musical manuscripts. The horizontal beams under and behind the facade pipes represent the lines of the musical staff. Since the lower ones each step out a little farther as they descend, the facade pipes move in or out depending upon which level they stand. The supporting elements behind the pipes are painted blue and plainly show between the widely spaced pipes, thereby connecting the pipes as in musical notation. The regular placement of the 16' Bourdon pipes that are painted burgundy act as bar lines or punctuation between the metal pipes. While in plan the organ looks like an old manuscript, it takes on a very unique and fresh appearance in real life while still retaining the time-honored tradition of being a freestanding encased organ.

When the design was conceived, we were concerned that the organ committee wouldn't appreciate the beauty of this unique design, since it is difficult to show the full effect in a drawing. We were wrong-they were immediately intrigued. Most importantly, the congregation really loves the organ's appearance in the newly refurbished room.

Opus 83 was designed to be a worthy servant of Lutheran worship, supporting Good Shepherd's music ministry with creativity and breadth. …

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