First Lutheran's Organs and Piano

In Christian worship, organs are primarily used to provide service music such as hymns, preludes, offertories, and postludes. They accompany both instrumental and vocal soloists in worship, weddings, funerals, and memorial services. Organs are also an effective tool in leading congregational singing.

Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1342

Aeolian-Skinner Opus 1342 was designed by Joseph M. Whiteford in consultation with Dr. Merle Pflueger, Professor of Organ at Augustana College and Organist at First Lutheran Church from 1953 to 1986. The organ was installed in the fall of 1959 and dedicated on November 21, 1959, with a recital by Virgil Fox. The contract price was $52,000. For financial reasons, the organ was not completed as designed. The original stop list called for a sparkling Positiv division, and several ranks in the Pedal division.

In 1964, the Festival Trumpet was added by Aeolian-Skinner as a memorial to the late wife of Pastor Robert Borgwardt. No significant work was done between then and 1989, when Organist Marcia Kittelson retained Schoenstein & Co. to perform remedial maintenance and tonal finishing work, which was completed in 1990. In 1994, Schoenstein did additional tonal regulation and added a Bombarde to the Pedal at 16', 8' and 4', and at 32' (digital). The organ at that time was 39 ranks and 2,446 pipes.

Beginning in 2008, First Lutheran retained Dr. John Ferguson as a consultant and proceeded to develop plans with Jack Bethards at Schoenstein to do significant work to the organ. The objectives were to:

  • Rewire the console and convert it to solid-state action

  • Replace all of the leather in the chests and reservoirs that had not been recently repaired

  • Replace the expression shades on the swell and choir boxes

  • Add an antiphonal division in the chancel that would serve primarily to provide “the acoustical illusion of tone from the main organ in the rear balcony reaching forward to the chancel”

  • Enhance the Great with more fundamental tone at 16' and 8'

  • Add a complete chorus to the Choir to better complement the other choruses

Schoenstein’s stated goal was to complete the tonal work in the Aeolian-Skinner aesthetic, without changing the fundamental character of the organ. The work started after Easter in 2011 and was completed late in November. Schoenstein added 12 ranks of pipes. In the Great, we added a 16' Violone, an 8' Flute Ouverte, and a 1 3/5' Seventeenth. In the Choir, we added a 4' Fugara and 2' Klein Mixture (III-IV). The new Antiphonal division consists of an 8' Diapason, an 8' Lieblich Gedeckt, an 8' Erzahler, a 4' Octave, and a 16' Quintaton, which had served as the foundation of the Great.

Walker digital additions included a 32' Untersatz in the Pedal, Chimes in the Great, and Harp and Celesta in the Choir. Schoenstein added a new Zymbelstern to the gallery organ, and the original Zymbelstern was added to the Antiphonal. The completed organ is 54 ranks of 3,114 pipes on three manuals, with a floating Antiphonal and solidstate combination action with 100 levels of memory. Paul Jacobs played a re-dedication recital on December 4, 2011.

Christ the Victor Chapel's Alfred Fuhrer organ

Christ the Victor Chapel is home to an Alfred Fuhrer organ. The four-stop organ, built in 1968, was purchased from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Decorah, Iowa. The organ was used for the first time at vespers on Saturday, December 6, 2008.

In order to make the Fuhrer organ fit the acoustical environment of Christ the Victor Chapel (a much different room than its prior home at Good Shepherd), and to help lead congregational hymns and sung liturgy, two considerations came before the organ committee:

  • The first was the need to lower the pitch series of the two-rank Mixture stop. A Mixture is a compound stop, meaning that for each note, two or more pitches sound at the same time. The Mixture was rescaled, and 18 pipes were added.

  • The second addition was to the pedal division (the lowest notes played by the organist's feet). This division of the organ functions in a similar way to the bass section of a choir. It provides warm foundation tones for hymn singing and service music. This additional stop, consisting of 27 pipes, is invaluable in leading hymns and liturgy and expands the possibilities for organ repertoire.

The installation of the Fuhrer organ signifies the commitment of First Lutheran's music ministry to a higher standard of excellence. As an expression of outreach and evangelism to the community, First Lutheran has an opportunity and obligation to share this great heritage not only with children, but the entire community.

The Sanctuary's Steinway Piano

Residing in the Sanctuary, First Lutheran's Steinway piano is an integral part of worship. It is used regularly for anthem accompaniments, service music, special music, and everything in between.

The instrument is a Steinway and Sons Model B piano. Purchased in 2003 with money from anonymous donors, it was dedicated in 2004 by then Director of Music Brian Johnson. The Model B is 6 feet, 10.5 inches in length; 58 inches wide; and 760 pounds.

The rim is made entirely from maple with 16 laminations. It is 2 ¾ inches thick. There are four solid spruce braces with a volume of 2,265 cubic inches. Spruce provides tensile strength with less weight. Maple dowels fasten braces to rim producing a single homogenous foundation, upon which the entire tonal component is built. A cast iron treble bell, affixed to rim's underside at treble bend, holds plate firmly in position by means of a steel bolt. 

The soundboard, created like the soundboard of violins, gives a free and even response throughout the entire scale. It is 8 millimeters thick in the center and tapered to 5 millimeters as it approaches the rim and outer case before being double crowned. Close-grained, quarter-sawn Sitka spruce, a wood having unusual stability and vibrance under stress and vibration, is used exclusively for the soundboard.

The ribs are made from durable, resinous sugar pine to assure strong and constant support of string down-bearing on the soundboard. Rib ends are hand-fitted into their mounting surfaces virtually locking in the important soundboard crown.

The treble bridge is constructed from hard rock maple vertical laminations capped with solid hard rock maple, which are planed to prescribed height, graphite coated, drilled, and notched by hand for precise individual string bearing. The bass bridge is continuous with the treble and is made from maple, then doweled, glued, and screwed to soundboard. 

The treble strings are twelve whole and one-half sizes made from high-tensile Swedish steel. The bass strings are Swedish steel core wire wound with pure copper. The longest string, from agraffe to bridge is 59 ¼ inches.

The hammers are 16.5-pound premium wool top felt over premium wool under felt. The keys are made from Bavarian spruce and are individually weighed-off. There are three pedals: soft, sustaining, and full sostenuto.