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
- The organ was incomplete when originally built–the plan was to add more pipes/stops, but it was never done
- 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than forty or fifty years ago and still has the original internal mechanisms and control system, the technology it uses is obsolete.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 smaller pipe organ, two important questions must be addressed:
- Is the console worth rebuilding?
- Are the pipes worth keeping?
Seeking expert advice is recommended to determine the correct answers–see below for some guidelines for addressing these questions. The answers to these questions point to the most cost-effective solution in each case. Here is a quick summary of the options:
Option 1 – Rebuild console / Keep pipes
Solution: rebuild the console. In this scenario, the organ will be the same organ as it was prior to rebuilding the console, but functioning reliably. If there are tonal limitations or additional stops that were planned or desired, these must be addressed 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 digital voices can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of additional pipework, and can be conveniently accomplished as part of the rebuild. Your overall budget will determine the appropriate plan.
Option 2 – Replace console / Keep pipes
Solution: a hybrid pipe+digital organ with a digital Rodgers console interfaced to your existing pipes. The new hybrid organ will be larger than the original pipe organ, with new digital voices providing stops that the pipe organ did not have. The Rodgers console provides greatly expanded combination memory and new functions (such as a transposer) that the pipe organ did not have. A new digital interface enables the pipes to be played by the Rodgers console, seamlessly integrated with the new digital voices provided by the Rodgers console. It is important to understand that the new digital interface to the pipework can be added later if budget constraints don’t accommodate doing all the work when the new console is installed. The Rodgers console can be played as an all-digital organ until funds are available to install the interface system to play the pipes too. There is no additional cost incurred if the pipes are connected later–all Rodgers consoles are “pipe compatible” and easily connected to pipes at any time.
Option 3 – Replace console / Get rid of pipes
Solution: a Rodgers digital organ. When it is clear that the church does not wish to keep the pipe organ as a whole, a new or pre-owned Rodgers digital organ is a cost-effective replacement, with substantially lower annual maintenance expense than the pipe organ. Church Keyboard Center can assist with finding a new home for the pipe organ and getting it removed from the church. Sometimes the pipe organ will have some value that, when sold, can be applied to the purchase of the new organ. However, in many cases the removal cost is more than the pipe organ is worth–in these instances it can be prudent to give the organ away in exchange for the organ being removed without cost to the church.
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.