Magazine article The American Organist

Cover Feature St. John's Lutheran Church Sacramento, California Bedient Pipe Organ Company

Magazine article The American Organist

Cover Feature St. John's Lutheran Church Sacramento, California Bedient Pipe Organ Company

Article excerpt

From the Organ Committee

St. John's Lutheran Church has its roots in the Gold Rush days of the 19th century. In 1867, a German Lutheran pastor, riding through the town on horseback each week, founded the then-German speaking congregation. The year 1873 saw the construction of their first permanent building, which included a used pipe organ sold to them hy the church organist for $690. In February 1894, a new pipe organ was installed in this sanctuary, which was fast becoming too small for the growing congregation.

In 1912, a new sanctuary was dedicated at the present site of 17th and L Streets. Included in the building costs was a new $6,200 Murray Harris organ of 18 ranks and about 1,100 pipes, which was voiced by a local theater organ company. This instrument was installed on either side of the chancel, with the choir seated in the middle.

In 1967, St. John's Centennial Year, the interior of the sanctuary was extensively remodeled, complete with a new 70-rank pipe organ designed and built by Swain & Kates of San Francisco. It contained 3,577 pipes disposed over six divisions: Great, Swell, Chou·, Rückpositiv, Antiphonal, and Pedal. Most of the pipes from the 1912 instrument were incorporated into this organ. However, the massive size of the instrument necessitated its location in the rear gallery, which had been used for congregational seating. Many pipes were located in areas that were not optimal for their sound; pipes and vital working mechanisms of this organ were not accessible for adequate maintenance. As time passed, the instrument gradually deteriorated.

Capital campaigns in 2004 and 2007 were conducted to finance a complete renovation of the nave and its adjoining structures and rooms. The failing pipe organ had to be removed to facilitate the building renovation. In 2004, an organ committee was formed and soon began a search for an organbuilder who could build a new instrument utilizing what remained serviceable from the former organs. After interviews with nine builders from three different countries, St. John's selected the Bethent Pipe Organ Company in Lincoln, Nebraska, and signed a contract with them in May 2006. The new pipe organ would be built in separate stages, as money became available. In February 2007, the sanctuary was officially closed for remodeling, and the craftsmen from Bethent removed all organ pipes to their workshop. On May 8, 2008, the refurbished pipes and a completely new organ were returned to us! We relied on the Bethent Company's many years of experience to meet the exceptional challenge of incorporating the historic pipes of St. John's into a newly configured instrument, and they far exceeded our expectations. The organ master plan includes two stages to be completed in the future: a chancel organ and a Rückpositiv. The organ was dedicated on June 15, 2008, and after a settle-in period and additional tonal finishing, the inaugural concert was performed on November 8, 2008, by David Higgs, chair of the Organ Department of the Eastman School of Music.

This new organ was commissioned by the congregation of St. John's to glorify God in worship and praise within our holy sanctuary. It is truly a legacy instrument for the generations to come and, most importantly, is a testament to the power of faith.


for the Organ Committee

Gwenn Raschefsky, Chair

From the Organist

Over the years, St. John's has been blessed with truly wonderful music. The organs that have graced the sanctuaries have each been unique to a particular period of organbuilding and have had their high place among the better organs of the greater Sacramento community. After having heard and played two of their wonderful instruments in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, I knew our new Bedient pipe organ would continue in this tradition and be a fine addition to the Sacramento community. The entire crew of the Bethent Company was wonderful to work with and worked hard and diligently to get our new organ built and installed. …

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