ANATOMY OF AN ORGAN
THE SCHLICKER ORGAN COMPANY
The House of Prayer organ was built by the Schlicker Organ Company of Buffalo, New York, and dedicated in 1989. Herman Leonard Schlicker (1902-1974), born in Germany, was a third generation organ builder, who apprenticed with firms in Germany, France and Denmark before emigrating to the United States in 1925. In America, Schlicker worked first for the Wurlitzer firm, then for Tellers of Erie, Pennsylvania. In 1932 he established his own company in Buffalo. (See Figure 1.)
Following Herman’s death in 1974, the Schlicker Organ Company was directed by his son-in-law, Ralph Dinwiddie. Not being an organ builder, he sold the company in the early 1980s. The company again changed hands in 1992 and was acquired in September 2002 by Matters, Inc., an innovative supplier to pipe organ builders.
According to the Schlicker Organ Company website, their instruments are characterized by attention to detail in the upper-work and possess a brightness and clarity of tone, along with a slightly thin edginess in the plenum (PRINCIPAL PIPES). This was in keeping with the narrow scaling and no-nicking style of voicing in vogue at the time. Schlicker’s reeds are quite German in nature.
THE ACQUISITION OF THE ORGAN
During the tenure of House of Prayer Pastor Roger K. Hansen (see Figure 2), members of the congregation and staff began serious talks about acquiring a new pipe organ. According to the 50th Anniversary Program Book (2009), “In 1986, a pipe organ fund was begun with a gift of $25 each from two ‘snowbirds,’ $500 from Ralph Edison in memory of his wife; $1,000 from Luna Odland in memory of her husband, Ben, and $250 from Selma Koidel in memory of her husband.”
Mrs. Luna Odland, who had contributed $1,000 to the fund, served as chairperson for the Pipe Organ Committee. On November 20, 1986, Esther Radovich sent letters to several major pipe organ companies, including Holtkamp in Cleveland, Ohio; M. P. Möller in Hagerstown, Maryland; Reuter in Lawrence, Kansas; Schantz in Orrville, Ohio; Wicks in Highland, Illinois, Richard L. Bond in Portland, Oregon, William Atkinson of Vista, California (a representative for Robert Turner), and Schlicker in Buffalo, New York.
Esther Radovich also sent letters at random to churches across the U. S. that had pipe organs about the size needed for House of Prayer built by the above-mentioned organ builders. She wrote, “Of all the replies (20 or so), the organists were pleased with their instruments—one exception: Presbyterian Church in Colton, CA. has a lawsuit against Reuter.”
On Saturday, February 28, 1987, members of the Organ Committee traveled to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Hemet (Riverside County) to meet with Thomas Foster, a representative of the Schlicker Organ Company and hear the church’s Schlicker organ. The committee was pleased by what they saw and heard and asked Foster to create a “preliminary design” suggestion specifications for a “two manual and pedal electric-action unit organ.” Proposition One was submitted on April 29, 1987 which included eleven ranks and 592 pipes:
16 SUBBASS . . . . . . . . 12 pipes
8 GEDECKT . . . . . . . 61 pipes
8 Principal . . . . . . . . 12 pipes
8 SALICIONAL . . . . . 73 pipes
8 CELESTE . . . . . . . 49 pipes
4 OCTAVE . . . . . . . . 61 pipes
4 CHIMNEY FLUTE . . 73 pipes
III MIXTURE . . . . . . 183 pipes
16 TRUMPET . . . . . . 68 pipes
Proposition One noted, “Wood pipes will be made of Cherry, Poplar, Oak and other hardwoods. Metal flue pipes and reed resonators will be made of such material as will best reinforce the desired tone quality.” The cost of the instrument would be $77,500. The contract was signed by Bruce A. Edwards and Harlan P. Gruenstein on August 7, 1987.
In January 1987, a set of twenty-one chimes manufactured by Maas-Rowe Carillons Inc. of Escondido were contracted for an extra $7,500, and a 1 1/3 LARIGOT stop was added to the organ, bringing the total cost for the organ and chimes to $90,665.62.
Not all House of Prayer parishioners were thrilled by the considerable expense of a new pipe organ. One anonymous parishioner noted, ”How can we afford a new organ when we can’t pay current expenses? I don’t think God thinks we need to spend all that money on an organ when there is [sic] so many people needing our help. Can’t see how a big fancy organ can do much for our church.”
The primary donors who contributed to the organ fund were Ellen Benson Ashby, Evelyn Benson Heise and Inez Benson Madsen (see Figure 3), who pledged $25,000. A plaque was installed on the back of the organ console to honor these three women who made the acquisition of the Schlicker organ possible. The HOP directory noted, “Inez Madsen . . . enlivened the fund by presenting the congregation with $12,500 along with the challenge for the congregation to match these funds, after which she would give an additional $12,500. Inez not only gave the $25,000 but ended by giving a total of $50,000.” The final payment of $16,900 was paid on July 12, 1989.
The House of Prayer organ was dedicated on July 23, 1989. Guest organist Thomas Foster, the Organist and Director of Music at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, California, performed the dedicatory recital on October 15, 1989. His program consisted of works by Georg Philipp Telemann, Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Charles Villiers Stanford, Ernst Pepping and Johann Sebastian Bach. His fee was $500.
Luna Odland, in a letter to the Schlicker Organ Company, wrote, “The organ is beautiful, and the music is so uplifting for our congregation on Sunday mornings. We truly do enjoy it.”
The House of Prayer Schlicker organ console has two manuals of 61 keys each, and a 32-note concave radiating pedal board. It is a small, but beautiful and well-maintained instrument with 592 pipes, plus a 21-note set of CHIMES and an 8-bell ZIMBELSTERN. It contains nine RANKS of PIPES with distinctive and contrasting timbres.
(1) 16 GEDECKT/SUBBASS (73 pipes, pipes one through twelve unenclosed)
(2) 8 PRINCIPAL (73 pipes, unenclosed)
(3) 8 SALICIONAL (73 pipes)
(4) 8 SALICIONAL CELESTE (49 pipes, beginning on Tenor C)
(5) 4 CHIMNEY FLUTE (73 pipes)
(6-8) MIXTURE III (3 ranks, 183 pipes)
(9) 16 TRUMPET (68 pipes)
CHIMES (21 notes, A3 to F5, unenclosed)
ZIMBELSTERN (8 bells, added ca. 2011 by L. W. Blackinton)
4 CHIMNEY FLUTE
2 CHIMNEY FLUTE
MANUAL I (GREAT)
8 CHIMNEY FLUTE
2 CHIMNEY FLUTE
CHIMES (A3-F5, 21 notes)
MANUAL II (SWELL)
4 CHIMNEY FLUTE
1 1/3 LARIGOT
ABOUT THE HOUSE OF PRAYER SCHLICKER ORGAN
The organ is a wind instrument; its pipes are powered by moving air created by an electric blower. When a key is depressed on the console, a valve is opened under a particular pipe or pipes which allows air to flow through the pipe(s) thereby producing a tone. The timbre (quality) of the sound depends mainly on three factors (1) the types of metals used in the pipes, (2) the shape or design of the pipe, and (3) the speech characteristics established by the pipe voicer. Most organ pipes are made from lead, and are alloyed with tin, plus trace amounts of antimony and copper. Some pipes, such as the SUBBASS (and the larger 8-foot GEDECKT) PIPES, are made from wood.
Pipe shapes can be cylindrical, conical, or rectangular. Most pipes are open at the top (like the mouth-blown musical instrument, the flute), while others are stopped or capped. FLUE PIPES have no moving parts, while REED PIPES have moving spring brass tongues that vibrate much like clarinet or saxophone reeds. The largest and longest pipes at House of Prayer are 8-feet in length, although the SUBBASS and 16-foot TRUMPET PIPES sound an octave lower than written and legitimately can be called 16-foot stops.
For a small organ, the House of Prayer Schlicker has a wide variety of tonal colors. Amongst the PRINCIPAL PIPES (sometimes called DIAPASON), which are the traditional pipes used for accompanying hymns, the organist can begin with a fairly quiet 8-foot stop, and gradually increase the volume and brightness by adding in succession, (2) the 4-foot OCTAVE, (3) the 2-foot OCTAVE, and (4) the III MIXTURE. Once in a while, for especially loud and dynamic passages, the 16-foot, 8-foot, and 4-foot TRUMPET STOPS can also be added to “raise the church roof.”
The House of Prayer Schlicker boasts of not one, but two ranks of FLUTE PIPES. These pipes have a lighter and rounder tone than PRINCIPAL PIPES, and are used sometimes during contrasting verses of a multi-verse hymn, or for solo preludes and offertories, as well as vocal and instrumental accompaniments. The CHIMNEY FLUTE is a partially-stopped pipe—but with an open chimney attached to the gasketed cap to allow development of more harmonics than are present in a totally-capped pipe—with a “chiff” at the moment the pipe begins to speak. The GEDECKT FLUTE (called SUBBASS in the lowest octaves) is a fully-stopped pipe with a lighter and more delicate tonal quality. The SUBBASS PIPES are made of wood, not round but rectangular.
Our Schlicker organ has two ranks of STRING PIPES, known as the SALICIONAL and SALICIONAL CELESTE ranks. STRING PIPES are, as a rule, quiet and slightly brighter and less deep than flute pipes. They are often used as an accompaniment played by one hand on one manual, while the other hand plays a melody with a solo stop on another manual. The SALICIONAL can function as a small or “echo” PRINCIPAL in certain music.
The CELESTE SALICIONAL is a special rank which is tuned slightly sharp. All the pipes on the organ are tuned to A-440 (440 vibrations per second at 70 degrees Fahrenheit), however the CELESTE PIPES are tuned slightly sharp (typically ten cents—ten percent of a semi-tone), and when combined with the true-tuned SALICIONAL, produce a pleasing shimmering chorus effect.
The House of Prayer Schlicker Organ has one set of MIXTURE pipes: the III MIXTURE in MANUAL I. The III SCHARF in MANUAL II plays the MIXTURE pipes an octave higher. When the organist presses one key using a MIXTURE STOP, three pipes sound simultaneously in intervals of octaves and fifths. MIXTURES are usually employed to add brightness, definition and power to a chorus of PRINCIPAL STOPS.
The TRUMPET PIPES are REED PIPES, as opposed to the more common FLUE PIPES which contain no moving parts and produce sound solely through the vibration of air molecules. REED PIPES contain a vibrating strip of brass—the tongue, which beats against a stationary shallot. These pipes can be quite raucous, especially in the lowest octave, and have a quality not unlike a bassoon or contrabassoon. The lowest pitches can evoke a smile in listeners, just as listeners sometimes smile at the sounds a bassoon (commonly referred to as “the clown of the orchestra”) can produce. The TRUMPET PIPES can be used in hymn introductions, as contrasting accompaniments for alternate hymn verses, and for solo melodies for preludes, offertories and postludes.
The LARIGOT STOP is a special STOP, known as a MUTATION STOP, which is nearly always paired with an 8-foot stop, such as the 8-foot GEDECKT. The LARIGOT is actually a 1 1/3 CHIMNEY FLUTE, which means it sounds the fifth partial (or harmonic) of the fundamental pitch of the 8-foot CHIMNEY FLUTE. It sounds two octaves and a fifth higher than the fundamental. The LARIGOT combined with the 8 GEDECKT is an especially pleasing stop for solo melodies. I like to add the TREMOLO effect (the wind pressure in the chests is shaken) to produce a regular and repeated modulation of the volume and pitch.
All ranks of the House of Prayer Schlicker are enclosed in the SWELL BOX, except for the PRINCIPAL PIPES, SUBBASS PIPES, and the CHIMES. The PRINCIPAL PIPES are the pipes you see when you look at the organ cabinet from the pews. All other PIPES, except for the 16-foot SUBBASS PIPES (the lower extension of the GEDECKT FLUTE PIPES), are enclosed in a cabinet with wooden shutters, commonly known as a SWELL BOX. The organist controls the shutters of the SWELL BOX with a foot pedal called an EXPRESSION SHOE. When the shoe is fully depressed (the default position) the shutters are open wide, and when the shoe is retracted the shutters are closed. This allows the organist to vary the dynamics or volume of the sound of the instrument.
The CHIMES, which are tubular bells hanging on a rack and struck by an electric solenoid plunger, are, as a rule (depending on local customs), used sparingly during church services. I like to use the chimes, however, during the meditative Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God. I also use the CHIMES sometimes while improvising a prelude on a hymn tune.
The ZIMBELSTERN is used even more sparingly. In our organ, it is a set of eight bells with a diameter of about two to three inches arranged in a circle. When the organist activates the ZIMBELSTERN by depressing a toe stud, two metal strikers spin round and round, striking the bells and producing a pleasant tinkling sound. I find its magical quality especially appropriate for certain Christmas carols. It can also lend a festive touch to especially high praise hymn stanzas.
In conclusion, I would like to personally invite the reader to come and hear our Schlicker organ. Whenever you happen to be in Southern California on a Sunday morning, please visit. The clergy, staff and congregation of House of Prayer Lutheran—including the Rev. Dr. Daren Erisman, Pastor; Carol Gross, Director of Music; Kitty Wiebe, Youth Director; Darla Phelps, Office Administrator, and my humble self—welcome you!
Organist at House of Prayer Lutheran Church
October 31, 2017—the quincentennial of the Reformation
P. S. Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Daren Erisman, Carol Gross, and Dale Sorenson (an organist, organ builder and technician with L. W. Blackinton & Associates of El Cajon, California, who services the House of Prayer Schlicker organ) who encouraged me, assisted in research, and proofread my manuscript.
Organ registration, or choosing the STOPS for a particular piece on a particular organ, is an art. It is something like a painter choosing colors for a painting. Each instrument normally has a very different palate of tone colors to choose from. The best registrations are balanced; one manual (or pedal) does not overpower the other manual (or the pedal). Registrations must be chosen with great care to present the composer’s music in the best possible light (or sound).
Following are five recordings of Henry playing the House of Prayer Schlicker organ. For more recordings, go to Henry’s personal website.
This piece is written for four individual voices. The two (sometimes three) upper voices (soprano and alto, and occasionally tenor) are played on MANUAL I using the 8 SALICIONAL, 4 GEDECKT and 2 CHIMNEY FLUTE. The hymn tune appears in the tenor voice and is played on MANUAL II using the 8 TRUMPET. The bass is played by the pedal, using the 16 SUBBASS and the 8 GEDECKT.
J. S. Bach: Prelude in Fugue in Gm (BWV 558)
The Prelude features the 8 CHIMNEY FLUTE for the two hands on Manual I and the 16 SUBBASS and 8 GEDECKT in the pedal. The Fugue, which begins at 1:36, adds the 4 GEDECKT to Manual I and the 4 CHIMNEY FLUTE to the pedal.
Three Pieces by Anonymous 18th-Century French Composers (compiled by Père Pingré): Prélude, Prélude à 2 Chœurs, Fugue grave.
These pieces are for manuals only. The first, Prélude, begins with the 8 PRINCIPAL rank. The repeat at 0:39 features the 8 SALICIONAL. Notice the contrast in sound between the PRINCIPAL and STRING pipes.
The second piece, Prélude à 2 Chœurs, beginning at 1:22, features the LARIGOT MUTATION STOP in the right hand manual (8 GEDECKT plus 1 1/3 LARIGOT), and the 8 CHIMNEY FLUTE in the left hand. At 1:34 the III SCHARF is added to the right hand, and the 8 SALICIONAL is added to the left hand manual. The B section at 1:46 is played on the 8 PRINCIPAL.
The third piece, Fugue grave, beginning at 2:30, features the 8 TRUMPET. The repeat at 3:03 features the TUTTI organ (8 PRINCIPAL, 4 OCTAVE, 2 OCTAVE, III MIXTURE, 16 TRUMPET, 8 TRUMPET and 4 TRUMPET.
Five Pieces by Anonymous 18th-Century French Composers (compiled by Père Pingré): Fugue Grave Cromatique, Duo, Récit de Trompette, Cornet, Basse de Cromorne.
The first piece in this set, Fugue Grave Cromatique, features the 8 PRINCIPAL plus the 2 OCTAVE. The repeat at 0:54 showcases the 8 GEDECKT plus 1 SIFFLOETE.
The second piece, Duo, provides a nice comparison of the two FLUTE STOPS. The first half, beginning at 1:54, features the 4 CHIMNEY FLUTE, followed by the 4 GEDECKT during the repeat beginning at 2:20. Notice how the GEDECKT is more subdued than the CHIMNEY FLUTE.
The third piece, Récit de Trompette, beginning at 2:50, is played with TREMOLO. The left-hand accompaniment uses 8 SALICIONAL and 8 CELESTE, while the right-hand melody features the 8 TRUMPET.
The fourth piece, Cornet (4:19), begins with the the 8 PRINCIPAL. The repeat at 4:43 features the 8 GEDECKT plus 1 1/3 LARIGOT on the melody, while the accompaniment uses the 8 CHIMNEY FLUTE.
The fifth piece, Basse de Cromorne (5:11), provides an excellent example of the 16 TRUMPET. The piece begins with the left hand using the 8 GEDECKT and 4 CHIMNEY FLUTE. At 5:21 the 16 TRUMPET is introduced in the right hand.
Dialogue entre Grand Jeu et Petit Jeu by an anonymous 18th-Century French Composer (compiled by Père Pingré).
In French, the Grand Jeu (literally “grand play”) refers to the full organ, and Petit Jeu refers to a second manual which uses quieter pipes or reed pipes. The second half of this piece is definitely a “dialogue” between the full organ and a second manual. Unlike the first eight pieces in this set, this piece uses the pedal.
To see the House of Prayer Schlicker organ ZIMBELSTERN in action, click here.