Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Bel Air, Maryland
Bel Air, Maryland is a beautiful town to the north of Baltimore. Emmanuel Episcopal Church has sat in the heart of the town since 1896. The church originally possessed an organ crafted by Henry Niemann, a builder in Baltimore who apprenticed with the great Parisian organ builder, Aristide Cavaille-Côll. This organ was replaced in 1945 by a small unit organ built by M.P. Moller of Hagerstown, placed behind the Niemann facade. Originally situated in the transept of the church with the console built into the case, it was well suited to accompany the choir in the chancel, but did not fill the room with sound effectively. An attempt was made in the late 1980s by a local firm to remedy this by moving the pipes to a newly constructed gallery above the foot of the nave. The blower was placed in the bell tower, which caused severe seasonal tuning issues. The console was flimsily rebuilt to be freestanding in the transept. The organ limped along in this configuration for another 25 years until the original 1945 console pneumatics were barely functional. The church, with guidance from their longtime organist and choir director Brent Pertusio, sought multiple proposals for a phased rebuilding of the organ. In 2017 they contacted us to execute the first phase of the project, which was the replacement of the console and blower.
Mr. Pertusio had acquired a console from a church in his home town of Palmyra, PA, which had been replaced when that organ was rebuilt and expanded. Built in 1947 by Aeolian-Skinner, it had been stored in barns and garages for many years and was significantly distressed. It was decided to rehabilitate as much material from the original cabinet to become part of a new one. The console was made of white oak, but had been painted white. Everything was stripped down to bare wood, which included the painstaking removal of paint from the wood grain in the insert panels. The remaining lumber was re-milled to spec and paired with new wood with a matching grain. The pedalboard, kick board, and bench were repaired and refinished as well. It was crowned with an inlaid music rack featuring the distinctive gothic hinge design from the church doors. The console possesses the latest Syndyne solid state combination memory system, and stop preparations were made for the eventual rebuilding of the gallery organ.