You may be experiencing any of the of the following with your pipe organ:
- The console is not functioning reliably and/or repair costs are increasing
- Our organ service technician is recommending rebuilding the console
- Problems with the pipes, such as ciphers (a pipe that plays continuously), or dead notes
- We’d like to add MIDI capability to the console to increase the versatility of the organ
If your pipe organ console was built more than forty or fifty years ago and still has the original internal mechanisms and control system, the technology it uses is obsolete. If the console is also malfunctioning and unreliable, a rebuild or console replacement should be considered.
Rebuilding the console involves installing a new, state-of-the-art digital control system. Other components on the console, such as keyboards and stop controls, may also benefit from upgrading or replacement.
In the case of a larger pipe organ, two important questions must be addressed:
- Is the console worth rebuilding, or is it more cost effective to replace it?
- Are the needed repairs to the pipe organ minor or extensive?
Seeking expert advice is recommended to determine the correct answers–see below for some guidelines for addressing these questions. The answers will point to the most cost-effective overall solution. Here is a quick summary of the options:
Option 1 – Rebuild console / minor pipe repairs
Solution: rebuild the console and make repairs to the pipes. The console will get a new state-of-the-art digital control system, including MIDI capability. When completed, the organ will still be the same organ as it was prior to rebuilding the console, but functioning reliably and with new modern features, such as expanded combination memory.
If there is a desire to expand the organ with additional stops, this must be accomplished with either additional ranks of pipes or adding digital voices. Adding pipes requires a substantial investment above and beyond the cost of rebuilding the console. You must also have the physical space available to accommodate additional pipework. Adding stops with digital voices can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of additional pipework, and can be conveniently accomplished as part of the console rebuild. Your overall budget will determine the appropriate plan.
Option 2 – Rebuild console / major pipe repairs
Solution: rebuild the console and make pipe repairs. Consider adding digital voices and features as needed. The console will get a new state-of-the-art digital control system, including MIDI capability. When the console rebuild and pipe repairs are completed, the organ will still be the same organ as it was prior to rebuilding, but functioning reliably and with new modern features, such as expanded combination memory.
Because the pipes require significant repairs, such as re-leathering the wind chests, the cost will be substantial and the organ will be out of service while the work is being done. An all-digital Rodgers organ can be installed temporarily while the work is being done, especially if the pipe organ will be out of service for a year or longer.
In some instances, it may not be desirable or feasible to repair all of the pipework. In this instance, repairing a portion of the pipework and adding digital voices to the console is a cost-effective alternative.
Option 3 – Replace console / minor pipe repairs
Solution: a hybrid pipe+digital organ with a digital Rodgers console interfaced to your existing pipes. There are a variety of reasons that replacing the existing console is more cost-effective than or preferable to rebuilding the existing console. This could be the case when the original console was a “budget” model to begin with, or a larger console is desired now, or the pipe organ console is so old or in such poor condition it does not warrant further investment.
Given that the pipework is in good condition and requires only minor repairs (if any), a new Rodgers digital console provides many advantages. The new hybrid pipe+digital organ will be larger and more versatile than the original pipe-only organ. A new console provides greatly expanded combination memory and many other modern features your musicians will appreciate.
Option 4 – Replace console / major pipe repairs
Solution: a hybrid pipe+digital organ with a digital Rodgers digital console interfaced to your existing pipes, OR replace with a Rodgers digital organ. In this instance, with the console needing replacement and the pipes requiring extensive repair, the church will need to decide if pipework warrants the expense of repair, which will be substantial with a larger pipe organ.
A new Rodgers digital console is a complete digital organ by itself and can simply replace the pipe organ, with less investment than the cost of rebuilding the pipe organ. If the pipework is of good quality, of historical significance, or important to the church for any reason, making the additional investment to restore the pipe organ to good playing condition should be seriously considered. This can be accomplished in a two-phase approach. In phase one the console is replaced with a new Rodgers digital organ. The pipe organ rebuilding is accomplished in phase two. This approach ensures no interruption to the use of the organ while money is raised to fund phase two and the phase two work is done, which from start to finish might require a year or two, or more.
Getting expert advice about your pipe organ
Church Keyboard Center has hundreds of examples of successful hybrid pipe+digital organs in churches and homes throughout Southern and Central California, ranging in size from two to seventy ranks of pipes. Each of these is the result of a detailed evaluation and customized plan for updating the organ that supports the musical needs of the congregation.
We are happy to work with the organ technicians who currently service your pipe organ, or when desired, will bring one of several pipe organ technicians we work with to evaluate your organ. It is important that the technicians involved have a broad understanding of modern digital organs and control systems. All of the pipe organ technicians we work with are experienced in the full range of organ solutions outlined above.
With an understanding of the configuration and condition of your pipe organ and your musical goals, we will propose one or more of the above solutions. If a new console is part of the solution, we can usually suggest two or three alternatives with varying budget levels.
Click here to learn more about the level of organ budget required for any of the above options.