The organ plays an important role in a South Carolina United Methodist Church’s music ministry. Their experiences below, first with a pipe organ and later a digital organ, are examples of problems churches can face when choosing an organ.
- In 2005 a committee studied the need to repair and finish the existing Schantz 17-rank pipe organ installed less than 20 years earlier. It was determined that serious rebuilding was required since windchests were failing, leathers needed to be replaced, and humidity in the building caused deterioration throughout the instrument.
- The Director of Music and Organist at that time enlisted a friend to bid on the project who proposed a 3-manual Xxxx organ (imported from Holland), as well as the addition of several ranks of pipes and rebuilding the pipework.
- A contract was awarded and in 2006 and the pipe organ company began dismantling the pipe organ. After several months, the builder defaulted on the contract and later admitted that the project was grossly underbid. The Church Council terminated the contract and the Church was left with an unplayable instrument.
- A Xxxx organ company dealer in New Orleans, LA was enlisted to get the then 4-manual digital organ up and running and voiced. The dealer spent 2 or 3 days voicing the 88-stop instrument and pronounced it “as good as it can ever be”.
- In August of 2016, ten years after the purchase of the digital organ, the church determined that its current four-manual digital organ was in “terrible condition” and had become unreliable.
- In 2017, the church ordered a new four-manual replacement organ from Allen Organ Company.
In searching for a new organ, given the challenges the church previously faced with the pipe organ and then the digital organ, they did significant due diligence on various companies and products. They shared the following as reasons for their choice to replace their current instrument with an Allen Organ:
Sound Quality– Concerning their current digital organ from Holland, the church published: “The church had a vision for the new organ to be a showpiece of an instrument that would attract a variety of world-class organists to perform at Xxxx Church; this NEVER happened.” As a result, the church’s leadership authorized a committee to travel to visit nearby Allen installations in Charleston and heard instruments that ranged in age from 25 years to just a few months. “We were also quite impressed by the fact that the OLDEST Allen we heard, an MDS-55 installed in 1993 at Fort Johnson Baptist Church (5 channel organ) was one of the most impressive because of the Antiphonal Organ.”
Construction Quality – “We were convinced that this Xxxx (current organ from Holland) was a very substandard organ.”
Rebuilding and/or adding to a pipe organ are complex and expensive endeavors. Customers should be very cautious when given a low-cost proposal from an organ builder for such work.
It is possible to determine the quality and longevity potential of an organ before it is purchased. Below are photographs showing the build-quality of the 11-year old four-manual instrument now being replaced in the South Carolina church.