Our Organ: Its History
One of the earliest purchases made by the congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church was a reed organ in the year 1907. Thus, church music for worship and hymn singing, so much a part of Christian worship for many centuries, was seen as an important investment by the early church fathers. This first organ was probably one of the two organs still in use in the old church up until the move to 18th and Potter in 1949.
Before that move came, however, plans for an organ in the new church were underway, and a bequest from the will of Rikka Ness Johnson, provided funds for a portable Moller pipe organ to be installed in the parish hall, where services were held for several years. When plans for the sanctuary were being made, two large organ chambers were planned for the space behind the choir balcony to hold a full size pipe organ, but financial difficulties which caused some changes and deletions in the plans, made the purchase of the organ at that time impossible. Therefore, the smaller Moller organ was put into use in the balcony when the sanctuary was completed in 1954.
The hopes of many who continued to dream of an organ befitting the beautiful church lived on, and after a number of efforts, in 1973, the organ committee chose John Brombaugh and Co. of Ohio to build a Baroque style organ for Central to cost around $75,000. The year 1974 was dubbed "The Year of the Organ", or "YOO", and with Lyle Jacobson as chairman, individuals and organizations joined together "holy hilarity" to raise funds for the largest single project in the history of the congregation. Talent shows, Lutefisk dinners and others, together with many cash donations brought the organ to a successful conclusion. In the fall of 1976 the new organ was installed and dedicated.
The instrument made by John Brombaugh was strongly influenced by the organs found in northwestern Europe of the 16th through 18th centuries. The design of the case as well as the scaling and building principles used for the pipes was inspired by close study of the work of Audreas de Mare and Arp Schnitger, builders from 1560 and 1700. There are three manuals and pedal, with tracker action and mechanical stop action. The organ contains 2,828 pipes in 64 ranks with 38 stops. The metal pipes were made in Brombaugh's shop of 98% lead, alloyed with tin, antimony, copper, and bismuth, following ideas of Hendrik Nichof in 1540 in Holland. The final cost of the organ and remodeling of the balcony was around $91,000.
Central Lutheran concerts have been an outgrowth of the new organ, and many people have come to Central to hear well-known organists in recitals on the instrument. Most of these people are not members of the church, and thus the organ provides an avenue to reach out to others who may not otherwise have a connection with the church.
The guiding theme of the organ committee was always, as the words carved on the organ say, "Te Deum Laudamus". Lyle Jacobson had this sentence as a part of the "YOO" literature: "We live in a world of man-made strife, of man-caused chaos and conflicts. Let us pause and build something beautiful."
In Central's early years, organists were paid with a semi-annual free-will processional offering. A brass plate was placed on the organ or piano top with parishioners contributing as they wished. The demands of the organist's job and the complexity of the later instruments have led this church (and most others) to hire professional, college-trained musicians. Central has been fortunate in securing musicians of skill as well as Christian commitment. Their contributions in music have greatly enriched the worship experience at Central Lutheran over the years.
This text was taken from the booklet "Central Lutheran: 75 Years..." as compiled by the Anniversary Committee. Contributors include Joseph Kelsey, editor, Mary Just, K. Hoiland, Dan French, and Thelma Thomas. Historical research was done by Ingrid Carmichael, Janet Walsh, Joe Kelsey, and Arlene Axtell.
Visit the John Brombaugh organ site.