Mary Pappert School of Music
Teaching Studio Organ
From mediocre to majestic: the transformation of a standard Moller into an artistic teaching instrument.
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When M.P. Moller installed their opus 10235 in the Mary Pappert School of Music in 1967, organ building in the United States was in a period of transition. The rebellion against Romantic tonal and mechanical aesthetics was in full swing, and emphasis was placed on building a "straight" organ for Duquesne. Only the Great 16' Quintaton was borrowed to the Pedal, while all other manual ranks were independent. In a "straight" organ there exists only one primary per note on the main wind chests, controlling all stops across the chest. This created a unique problem for rebuilding the instrument, as only the four existing pedal stops could be unitized to play in other divisions or at other pitches. Tonally the organ was brash and unpleasant, lacking a single complete chorus on any division. The Mixtures were placed on the very front speaking into the small studio, making them impractical for ensemble blending. For decades the best compliment a student playing the instrument could receive was "You actually made the organ sound pretty good." In 2014, after 47 years of reliable if not aesthetically pleasant service, the Sacred Music Department under the direction of Dr. Ann Labounsky decided that it was time to modernize and moderate the instrument. For this task they selected Luley & Associates.
All pipework, with the exception of the 8' Bourdon, 8' Rohrflote, and 4' Koppelflote, was revoiced and rescaled and, in some cases, replaced with more useful ranks. As fortune would have it, we were in possession of 25 ranks of 1968 Moller pipework of the same scale as that in the studio and in immaculate condition. Several of those ranks were incorporated seamlessly into the new specification. To overcome problems with ensemble blend it was decided to reverse the physical locations of the Great and Positiv divisions. As the old Positiv possessed more real estate for pipes it would serve perfectly for the Great division. The two existing mixture stops were broken up for filler pipes and used to rescale the upper ranges of several ranks on the Great and Positiv divisions, as well as to compose the replacement 2-2/3 Nasard in the Swell. The Great 4' Octave was relocated to the former home of the 4' Prestant on the Positiv, and in its place a 4' Spitzflote was added. The Swell 2' Octavin (really a Principal instead of a flute) was revoiced and rescaled as the Great 2' Fifteenth, and was replaced in the Swell by a 2' Blockflote. The former Positiv 8' Gedeckt was heavily revoiced as a Stopped Diapason, and the former Pedal 4' Nachthorn was revoiced and extended to serve as a treble-ascendant Romantic flute on the Great and Pedal divisions. The Great III Mixture, originally built by Aeolian-Skinner in 1968 as part of their opus 1508, was revoiced and recomposed for the space. Also from Aeolian-Skinner opus 1508 came the 16' Bombarde unit, which was thoroughly rebuilt and revoiced by Oyster Pipe Works for this project and installed in early 2016. The reed ranks were heavily regulated, and the Cromorne and new Bombarde-Trompette were placed on slightly higher pressure than the remainder of the instrument. The Swell 8' Viole was replaced from Tenor C up with vintage narrow-scaled pipes voiced in the French Romantic style. The 8' Voix Celeste, also vintage pipework, was placed on the former Sesquialtera actions.
Five new offset windchests were built and installed. The first is a flying chest in the Swell holding the two mutation ranks which, originally, drew on the same knob from the main chest. The second hosts the low 24 notes of the new Great/Pedal Bombarde-Trompette rank. The third holds the relocated Positiv Cromorne, and the new Great Trompette from 4' C up. The fourth holds the Great 8' Principal from Tenor C up, as well as the extension of the Nachthorn. The fifth chest circumvented the problem of straight wind chests for the 16' Quintadena. As notes 1-32 were previously unitized to play on the Great as well as the Pedal, notes 33-61 were placed on a new offset chest, along with an octave extension to allow the stop to be playable at 8' pitch on the Positiv.
The traditional Moller swell engines with one pneumatic per shutter were discarded and replaced with a single Organ Supply solenoid motor to open all shades simultanously, and a Syndyne solid state control and combination system was integrated.
The console has been completely rebuilt. The existing walnut interior woodwork was stripped and refinished in a natural dark stain. The name board and coupler rail were replaced entirely, and the stop jambs were rebuilt to support an expanded specification. New walnut slips were installed on the manuals to host the 22 new thumb pistons. The kick board was refinished, retrofitted with a Crescendo pedal, fitted with 9 General toe studs, a Great to Pedal toe stud, and a Great-Positiv manual transfer toe spoon. The latest generation of Syndyne combination action was installed, including a touch screen programming system with capacity for 60 different users possessing up to 100 memory levels each.
The end result of this work has been an instrument of uncompromising tonal and mechanical quality. Full organ is no longer an ear-splitting endurance test, but a full and pleasant chorus which is robust yet never overpowering.