Grant Wareham • Director of Music Ministries

First look at Derry’s new organ console under construction

I realize the organ project has been “in progress” for quite some time, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide you a detailed update on what’s been done, as well as the remaining steps before the organ is complete. 

Due to the winter COVID surge, the organ builders were unable to travel from New Haven, Connecticut to work on the instrument between late November and mid February. They returned during the third week of February and made significant progress on the installation. All of the pipe chests (i.e. the “chassis” of the organ) are now in place, barring the special chests for the new sets of pipes which will be added for this particular installation. 

There’s been a bit of a delay between late-February and now as they work on a very time-sensitive matter of removing a historic E.M. Skinner organ from a mansion on the Connecticut coast which is scheduled for near-immediate demolition as soon as the organ is removed.  

The organ console is nearly complete at Organ Supply International (OSI), and I anticipate it arriving here at Derry sometime in early April.  

Here are the remaining steps between now and the instrument’s first notes:

  • Wind supply: the builders need to complete the installation of branched metal tubing from the single wind supply (a blower in the basement) to each and every pipe chest (this is ~65% complete).
  • Pipes: Place all remaining pipes in their designated holes on the pipe chests (this is ~70% complete).
  • Wiring: Connect wires from each pipe chest to a central processor so the signals from the console are sent to the desired pipe (this is only possible once all the previous steps are completed).
  • Regulation & Tuning: Once the wiring is complete, the organ will be playable. However, adjustments may be required to achieve the optimal balance between ranks of pipes the original builders planned for the instrument. Nick Thompson-Allen (the primary organ builder of the firm) has already voiced each and every pipe in his shop, so only tweaks will be required.

Although I only had the chance to play the instrument once at its original home in New Haven, I knew it was a special instrument almost immediately. We are planning dedication services and a dedicatory recital for the organ, and I hope all of these will happen sometime during the summer. 

Please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions about the instrument or the process. Being a proud “organ nerd,” I’m always happy to talk about the organ!

Editor’s Note: Sunday, March 21, is the 336th anniversary of Bach’s birth! Although the Prelude will be a Bach chorale from his “little organ book” or “Orgelbüchlein,” Grant will also present the entire French Suite in G Major on the piano as a “pre-prelude” to celebrate the occasion. If you’re attending in person, be sure to arrive by 10:15 am, and if you’re live streaming, the stream will launch at 10:15 am with the music beginning shortly thereafter.