Magazine article The Tracker

Mechanical-Action Organs on the Move

Magazine article The Tracker

Mechanical-Action Organs on the Move

Article excerpt

IN THE HALF-CENTURY OF ITS EXISTENCE, THE ORGAN Historical Society has moved from an emphasis on American-built tracker organs to a broader concept of the historical organ. Outstanding examples of the organbuilder's art from all periods and in various styles are now routinely recognized through the Historic Organ Citations program, as well as through presentations in recital at both local and national meetings. Despite this broader view, however, tracker-action organs still hold a particularly important place in our hearts. Recent changes to and relocations of these instruments serve only to support the importance of their place in the history of American organbuilding.

Those who attended the Indianapolis Convention heard several examples that serve to underscore the endurance of these instruments. The most-traveled of those instruments is the 1883 organ Thomas Prentice Sanborn originally built for the First Church Evangelical Association in Indianapolis, where Sanborn installed it in chambers.1 The organ has been moved twice since, and is now owned by Indiana University and housed in St. Mark's United Methodist Church, Bloomington. It was installed there by Michael Rathke as his Opus 3 in 2006, and it speaks from a case provided by Goulding & Wood when they installed the organ in St. Francis-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Zionsville, Indiana, in 1987. Goulding & Wood also provided new pipes for the first twenty-one notes of the Open Diapason, the façade Sanborn built for the original chamber installation not having made the move with the rest of the organ.2

In Ohio, the Leek Pipe Organ Company is engaged in several restoration and refurbishing projects. In something of a family tradition, James Leek is restoring his father's rebuild of E.L. Holbrook's 1865 organ originally installed in Grace Episcopal Church, Sandusky, Ohio. The elder Leek rebuilt the organ and installed it in Calvary Episcopal in Sandusky in 1968.' James Leek will continue to work on this instrument in 2008. The reservoirs will be rebuilt, the tracker action cleaned, the keys refurbished, the tremolo restored, and all of the pipes will be cleaned. The company is also refurbishing the 1964 Friedrich-Weissenborn tracker in Immanuel Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio.4

Leek also completed more involved work on the 1904 Votteler-Hettche organ in Berea, Ohio's St. Adalbert Roman Catholic Church. In 2006 Leek rebuilt the Great, Swell, and Pedal slider chests, pallets, and pull-down wires, installing removable slider seals to ensure tuning stability and reversibility, should the need arise. The company also repaired cracks in wooden pedal pipes and revoiced pipes that had been altered from their original character.5

In October 2007 Scot Huntington of S.L. Huntington & Co. acquired a very early Alvinza Andrews organ that had been installed second-hand in the Presbyterian Church of Vernon Center, New York, in 1853. According to Huntington, internal markings identify this as Andrews's "No. i," originally built for Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, Vernon, New York in 1837. The organ was relocated to the Presbyterian Church in nearby Vernon Center in 1853, when the Mount Vernon church purchased a new, larger instrument from Andrews. The Vernon Center church closed on Christmas Day 2005, and the building is for sale. According to Huntington, the organ, unused since the 19505, is, "except for the especially crude post-i93o installation of swell shades, a spurious bass GGG' pipe, and the blower,... remarkably preserved and otherwise unaltered." Huntington further reports that, after careful conservation, "the organ will be placed in St. Timothy's Episcopal Church (1838) in Westford, New York, the ancestral parish of Huntington's family, on permanent loan."6

Unfortunately, not all tracker-action organs have received careful treatment or new homes. Two other Alvinza Andrews organs were recently acquired by S.L. Huntington & Co. …

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