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The St. Matthew Organ

St. Matthew Lutheran congregation has had a continuous history since its organization on April 14, 1743.  The present church edifice was completed in 1924, and is the fifth structure in which the congreagation has worshiped during its long, continuous history.  The organ for this fifth church was conceived and planned by J. Herbert Springer, organist of the church and given by Mrs. Clara Glatfelter Moul.  The original instrument had a scope of 87 speaking stops, and nearly 5,000 pipes, and was constructed by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford Connecticut.  It was dedicated on January 13, 1925.  The divisions of the organ were placed in chambers on both sides of the chancel, and on both sides of the gallery.  Over the years it has been enlarged to the extent that it ranks high among the largest organs in the world.

In 1929, brighter mixtures were added to the Great and Swell divisions: there were additional reeds, and many ranks of soft flutes and strings.  The Echo organ was increased from 10 to 21 ranks.  In all, about 2,800 pipes were added.  A new console was necessary at the time.  While this work was in progress, the solution for a long-time problem was found.  The Solo organ of 6 ranks had been placed, because of lack of space, in a chamber above the rear gallery, away from the main organ in the front of the nave.  It was discovered that above the ceiling of the chancel was an unused loft where an ideal Solo chamber could be built.  Mrs. Moul was again enthusiastic in her cooperation.  A grill ceiling was built over the chancel, a large organ chamber constructed, the Solo Organ moved and increased to 31 ranks.  In this chamber were also placed the new Pedal Bombardes, the Contra Bourdon, and a Pedal Mixture of five ranks.  Another new chamber was built above the roof of the church to house a new String organ of 18 ranks, with tonal egress through the grills of the chancel ceiling.  In the old Solo chamber above the gallery, a new Celestial organ of 18 ranks was installed.  These additions totaled about 5,000 pipes.  The organ was rededicated on December 1, 1931.

By this time, the fine old German organ music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was being re-discovered, appreciated and played.  This intricate polyphonic music sounded well only on an organ of bright clear tone.  The need was felt for still more brilliance in the higher pitched ranks of the organ.  In 1934, the Great Diapason chorus, new mixtures in both Great and Swell organs, and a brilliant new trumpet for the Swell were installed and artistically finished in the church.

Several decades passed without further change to the instrument, although there remained a bequest from the original donor for the completion of Mr. Springer’s plans.  In 1959 it became possible to proceed with this final stage, i.e., namely a proper, independent Pedal division.  This involved the construction of a new chamber behind the Swell Organ, which would permit an independent tone opening into a future transept provided for in the original building plans and structurally prepared for in the north wall of the nave.  This new section comprised of 14 ranks was completed and dedicated in 1964.  Until the realization of an independent transept opening, the tonal egress of this division continues through the swell openings.

During the intervening period from 1934, the renaissance in organ building in America continued to gain momentum, and so it was decided that further tonal changes in other sections of the organ would be essential for compatibility with the new Pedal division.  Therefore in the Choir Organ, 18 ranks were replaced by new pipes to provide some Baroque registers and to create a foil to the Great; in the Great Organ, the mixtures were reworked and augmented and three new ranks of flutes were added; in the Swell organ, strings were replaced and revoiced, selected reeds were revoiced; in the Solo Organ the old Tuba Magna was replaced by a grand Trompette Royale on 20-inch pressure.  Other minor changes were made in other divisions.  To accommodate extensive additions and alterations, the console required factory rebuilding.  Since 1964 a few special ranks have been added, along with a Cymbelstern of 4 bells.  Also the tower belltones have been made playable from the console.  Wind is supplied by four blowers which have a total of 37 horse power.  The main blower is located in the basement.  The remaining three are located in the bell tower above the Echo chamber supplying pressures varying from 7” to 20”.  Key Current is supplied by an Orgelectra 50-amp. rectifier.

This instrument was built and dedicated that its music might resound to the Glory of God and to the uplifting of God’s people in worship.  It was also the desire of the donor and the earnest hope of the designer-organist that its beautiful and glorious tones might give inspiration and pleasure to many beyond the membership of the St. Matthew congregation.

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