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  • Mailing Address: 1215 Roselawn Ave. West | Roseville, MN 55113

 

 

Organ Task Force

 

 
Organ Intent to Give Email Organ Task Force

 

September 15, 2022

Have you ever wondered how a pipe organ works? Join us for 10 minutes around the organ after the 9 and 10:30 am services on Sunday September 25 to get an up close and personal look at our organ. We’ll talk about its various parts, demonstrate how it works and answer any questions you may have. All ages are welcome! This demonstration will be provided again in the upcoming weeks. Watch the eBlast for dates.

August 25, 2022 

The Organ Task Force continues to evaluate options to address RLC’s pipe organ. In August, our organ consultant, Greg Peterson, helped the Task Force understand how a pipe organ works, explained organ terminology, and arranged organ “listening” sessions at three local churches. The Task Force heard organs at:

  • Normandale Lutheran, Edina (a Schlicker organ moved from Florida and refurbished for their space)
  • Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran, Apple Valley (an Aeolian-Skinner organ moved from Macalaster College and refurbished)
  • Christ Church Lutheran, Minneapolis (a new Dobson organ built to accommodate their Historic Preservation Trust covenants).

June 23, 2022 Update

The Church Council approved the Organ Task Force recommendation to hold the $30,000 designated for organ repair in the Organ Fund until a long-term solution is developed. The Task Force determined the proposed repairs would not be cost-effective as they would not restore the organ to full functionality and similar issues would reoccur in the future. Please visit the Organ Task Force webpage for further information.

FAQS

What is the history of our organ?

RLC’s 22-rank pipe organ was installed in our previous worship center (now the Activity Center) in 1978 by the Möller Pipe Organ Company. At that time, Möller built stock-variety pipe organs using a “mass production” process. The technology built into their organs was largely unchanged from the 1920s. They are very complex and difficult instruments to keep working reliably over long periods of time. Möller remained in business until 1992 and produced over 12,000 instruments.

 To reduce the cost of the 1996 Worship Center project, the decision was made to move the Möller organ instead of purchasing a new organ designed for the new space, and to look at a new organ at a later time. The organ was moved into the current worship center and no accommodations were made for the very different physics of the two spaces (room size, room shape, building materials) which affect the acoustics and overall sound in the space. 

What is wrong with the current organ? It sounds fine to me.

Limited repairs have been done to the organ over many years and it has deteriorated significantly. A 2018 evaluation of the condition of the organ by Grandall & Engen Organ Builders of Maple Grove, MN found it in need of significant repair. Some of the many issues include:

  • Many high pitched “whistles” (or ciphers, as organists call them) when the wind to certain pipes plays continuously or intermittently, causing an annoying whistle.
  • A growing number of non-playing pipes, since the only way to stop the ciphers is to remove the offending pipes from the rack. This includes one entire rank of 61 pipes that do not play.
  • Massive acoustic holes in the two chambers and hundreds of deteriorating small leather bellows allow sound to escape.
  • The organ lacks significant mechanical and technical aspects that are currently available and expected by most organists.
  • The organ is severely undersized for the current space.

Our Director of Music and organist have created “work arounds” that maximize the limited capability of the current instrument, however as the deterioration continues, it is increasingly difficult and extremely frustrating to use the instrument. Problems change on a daily basis. This limits what and how music is played.

Can we just repair the organ?

Repairs were scheduled for this summer using $30,000 from the 2022 pRAISE campaign. However, Grandall & Engen recently advised they cannot perform the repairs until the summer of 2023 due to supply chain shortages and other circumstances. This gave the Organ Task Force time to evaluate the situation. In 2021, Grandall & Engen provided a repair estimate of $30,000 to fix many issues and restore the organ to “better, but not complete, functionality” until a long-term plan could be put in place. Grandall & Engen’s 2018 proposal to fully refurbish the organ stated that even if all the faults identified at that time could be repaired, the 1920s-era Möller mechanical system used in RLC’s organ was failing and “would doom the organ to deteriorate again.” If we spend the money to repair, we will face similar repair costs in the near future. A financially-wise decision requires that we also consider the fact that while our organ has served us well for many years, it is not a high-quality instrument and the cost to repair it now exceeds its $22,000 street value.

What are the implications of not addressing the needs of the organ?

The organ is integral to the quality and integrity of RLC’s worship and music ministry, the rich musical culture and tradition of the Lutheran Church and RLC’s community outreach ministry. The continued deterioration of the organ undermines our ability to: provide high-quality worship services and experiences, attract the most qualified music directors and organists, maintain a high-quality music ministry, and potentially grow our general membership. It is especially difficult for guest musicians to navigate the organ’s problems and that has tarnished RLC’s reputation of being a strong performance venue with ready access to a reliable instrument.

Why is this issue being raised now?

The organ was included in the previous 2019 Worship Center Renewal Project, however other line items from that project were prioritized due to the pandemic and requirements to live-stream worship while we could not worship in person. Meanwhile, the problems with the organ have become more frequent, the cost of repair is significant but will not fix everything, and the repair price tag exceeds the organ’s current value. It is time to put a long-term plan in place. (From the 1996 building committee: Move the organ now, and put in a new organ later…’later’ has now come!)

What are the next steps?

The Organ Task Force has studied the current situation, reviewed the Grandall & Engen proposals and repair bid, has met with our organ consultant, Dr. Gregory Peterson, and talked with the co-chair of another congregation’s Organ Task Force that faced nearly identical Möller organ problems. 

The Task Force determined the proposed repairs were not cost-effective. They would not restore the organ to full functionality and similar issues would need to be addressed in the future. The Church Council approved the Task Force recommendation to hold the $30,000 designated for organ repair in the Organ Fund until a long-term solution is developed. 

The Task Force will move forward to investigate viable long-term options, determine the pros, cons and cost of each and make a recommendation to the council in the coming months. Options that will be considered are: refurbish our existing organ, digital/electronic organs, a better quality used pipe organ, a new pipe organ.

How will the task force evaluate the various options?

We are fortunate to have Dr. Greg Peterson as a consultant to the Task Force. Greg was Professor of Music and College Organist at Luther College for 17 years. He retired from that position in May 2022 and is now the Music Director at Normandale Lutheran Church, Edina. Greg is an internationally acclaimed recitalist and a respected leader in the field of church music for over 30 years.

Greg will guide the Task Force through the evaluation process, providing education and arranging several “listening” sessions for the Task Force to hear a variety of organs.

What makes a pipe organ so important to Lutheran Worship?

Pipe organs have provided the music for choirs and congregations in Lutheran churches since Martin Luther used organ music to enhance the meaning and delivery of the Word and Sacrament.

With its wide dynamic range and spectrum of sounds, the organ is reflective of the many ways God speaks to us.  Its majesty can remind us of God’s thunder, and its quietness of His still, calm voice.  No single instrument is better equipped to support the singing of the congregation. The depth and presence of the organ provides a foundation that people can not only hear, but “feel” – and that encourages them to sing! 

The tonal resources of the organ make it effective in accompanying traditional hymns, as well as supporting the singing of contemporary worship music. The organ is capable of blending well with almost any combination of electronic or acoustical instruments and has the ability to fill in the tonal “gaps”. In addition to their traditional sounds, organs of the 21st century are capable of MIDI interface to make full use of sounds in modern music.

The organ pays homage to the Lutheran tradition of worship, hymns that paraphrase scripture and singing. It enhances and transforms our worship experience and music program. The organ creates the collective song that nurtures and transforms us once the liturgy has ended and our service outside RLC’s doors begins.

How can I learn more about how the organ works?

Click on the links below for more information on the technical aspects of a pipe organ:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRqR9-akXEo

https://www.pipedreams.org/page/how-a-pipe-organ-works

How do I get more information?

The Task Force will provide updates in the Table, the RLC eBlast and on this webpage. There will also be various educational opportunities for people to see, hear and better understand the challenges of our organ. Watch for times and dates of these opportunities in the eBlast.

Click here to email the Organ Task Force or contact any of the members of the Task Force: KJ Bach, John Helgen, Julie and Scott Henry, Martha Mutch, Craig and Heidi Sneltjes.

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RLC Organ Task Force Charter - May 25, 2022

Background

Music ministry has been an important part of Roseville Lutheran’s history. Vocal choirs, bell choirs, praise and worship bands, RLC Brass, and RLC Jazz bring musicians and listeners of all ages together to sing, play and worship. At the heart of RLC’s music is the pipe organ. In the Lutheran Church, the pipe organ has provided the musical structure for worship for 500 years. It is an essential and integral part of worship, enriching the experience with liturgy and hymns. The organ inspires congregational singing, guides our choirs and accompanies our other musical ensembles. It is used for:

  • worship services
  • weddings
  • funerals
  • ordinations
  • other celebrations 
  • concerts by visiting vocal and instrumental groups as part of RLC’s community outreach and ministry.  

RLC’s 22-rank organ was designed for the 1969 Worship Center (now the Activity Center) and installed in 1978 by the Möller Pipe Organ Company, which built pipe organs in a ‘mass production’ type process during the 1970s and 1980s.  With the transition to the current 1996 Worship Center, the organ was simply moved into the new space. No enhancements or upgrades were made to re-size or voice the organ for the space, which is significantly larger and very different in shape and building materials.

Limited repairs have been done to the organ over many years and it has deteriorated significantly. A 2018 evaluation of the condition of the organ by Grandall & Engen Organ Builders (Maple Grove, MN) found it severely undersized for the space and in need of significant repair. Some of the issues include:

  • dead keys
  • pipes that do not play – including 1 entire rank of 61 pipes
  • pipes that play even when no key is pushed
  • pipes that continue to play after the key is released
  • massive acoustic holes in the two chambers and deteriorating leather bellows allow sound to escape
  • tonal and bass issues

Grandall & Engen provided two proposals with initial rough estimates to refurbish the organ and address the issues at that time. Both proposals included replacing the leaking windchests, replacing the console system, adding additional pipes and rescaling and revoicing all pipes.

  • Proposal 1 (large): $625,000 - Add 20 new/used ranks of pipes to existing 22 ranks (42 ranks total) plus 3 ancillary ranks 
  • Proposal 2 (smaller): $375,000 – Add 14 new/used ranks to 19 existing ranks (33 ranks total)

No action was taken on either proposal. In 2021, Grandall & Engen provided a repair estimate of $30,000 to fix many issues and restore the organ to better, but not complete, functionality until a long-term plan could be put in place. Repairs were scheduled for this summer using $30,000 from the 2022 pRAISE campaign; however Grandall & Engen recently advised they cannot do the repairs until the summer of 2023 due to supply chain shortages and other circumstances. It is important to note that Grandall & Engen’s 2018 proposal stated that even if all the faults identified at that time could be repaired, the 1920s-era Möller mechanical system used in RLC’s organ was failing and “would doom the organ to deteriorate again.” Their 2018 proposal estimated the street value of RLC’s organ, if sold as is, at $22,000 or less.

To most, the organ sounds just fine because our Director of Music Ministry and our organist have become very skillful in knowing which parts of the instrument cannot be used and what to do when it acts up. However, even with this experience it is impossible to know what stops/pipes work on a given day as problems become more frequent. Sometimes the issues are obvious to all, such as when a pipe starts or continues to sound and disrupts the service. It is especially difficult for guest musicians to navigate the problems and that has tarnished RLC’s reputation of being a strong performance venue with ready access to a reliable instrument.

The organ is integral to supporting the quality and integrity of RLC’s worship and music ministry. A good instrument enhances worship, attracts the most qualified music directors, organists, guest musicians and clinicians. It can be a built‐in recruitment asset because a church with an excellent music program attracts members. In summary, RLC’s organ continues to deteriorate, is not designed or optimized for the current space and the repair price tag is substantial compared to the organ’s current value.

Purpose

The purpose of the task force is to investigate viable options and costs, determine the pros and cons of each and make a recommendation to the council. The task force will leverage the work already done by the 2019 Worship Center Renewal Project working group and look at the following options:

  • Repair the organ ($30,000)
  • Repair the organ and move forward with plans to replace it with a new or used instrument
  • Forgo the $30,000 repairs and put the money toward a new or used instrument knowing that the amount of time the organ will continue to function is limited

The recommendation on whether to repair or not repair the organ should be made relatively quickly so we can advise Grandall & Engen on how we want to proceed.

Roles and Responsibilities 

The RLC Organ Taskforce will serve in an advisory capacity to the Church Council and work collaboratively with staff, volunteers and committees/teams. The task force will:

  • Assess current and future needs for the organ and associated costs
  • Present recommendations to the Church Council 
  • Help educate the congregation on the current state and recommended solution(s); answer questions
  • Provide a strategic plan and timeline to move forward

The task force asks that the Church Council respond in a timely fashion to task force recommendations and be flexible to respond quickly, and possibly outside of a regularly scheduled meeting. For example, if the Church Council approved looking for a used instrument, we may have to move quickly if the right instrument becomes available.  

Areas of Focus 

The recommendation would dictate next steps for the task force. If the recommendation includes replacing the current instrument, the task force would move forward to:

1) Recommend a replacement instrument option (new or used) with consideration for:

a) musical tone and style

b) size and allotted physical space

c) visual effect in the church

d) the organ's life span

e) creative ways to leverage the best of what we have (i.e. re-use the console shell, some pipes, etc.)

f) cost

2) Identify the best vendor/installer for the project

3) Develop marketing materials for congregational communication and education

4) Deliver congregational education

5) Establish a list of possible donors to jump start a formal fundraising campaign

Key Deliverables

  • Develop a recommendation for the organ that supports our current and future needs, mission and vision. 
  • An initial recommendation to address repair would be provided to the Church Council no later than 60 days from the task force’s first meeting.

Members

The Taskforce will consist of the following members:

  • KJ Bach
  • John Helgen, RLC Director of Music Ministry
  • Julie Henry
  • Scott Henry
  • Martha Mutch, RLC Organist
  • Craig Sneltjes
  • Heidi Sneltjes