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Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Background

Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manitowoc was founded in 1927. When the church was built, a Wangerin pipe organ with a limited number of stops was installed. While it was adequate for accompanying the congregation in worship, it lacked solo stops and sufficient flexibility for other uses. As was customary in this time period, the pipes were installed in a chamber in a side wall near the altar of the church and the console was located in the balcony. This location made it difficult to be used to accompany soloists and choirs singing from the balcony.

Why was the Organ Rebuilt?

In addition to the poor location of the organ, other problems began to appear in the 1980s. The air support for the instrument came from a single blower located in the basement of the church, two floors below the pipes. With age, it became clear that there was leakage in the delivery of the air supply which resulted in a wavering sound. The old leathers had become dry and brittle creating problems with the reliability of the instrument. In the summer of 1986, the organ was evaluated by an outside consultant. In October of that year, the church council authorized the formation of an Organ Committee.

The committee focused on three choices: a new installation, a restoration of its existing pipe organ, or an electronic instrument. The last option was quickly dismissed since the church was accustomed to a pipe organ and since the height of the ceiling was sufficient to permit the installation of pipes in the balcony. After further research, the organ committee found that an excellent pipe organ which thoroughly met the needs of the church could be located in the balcony for approximately half the cost of the original proposals.

Scope of the Rebuild Project

The congregation set its sites on the 65th Anniversary of their church, which was approaching in 1992. They hoped to have an instrument worthy of the celebration. One of the challenges facing the design of the organ and its case was the fact that the back wall of the balcony has three long stained glass windows that the congregation did not want to have covered. The Great and Swell organs are housed in cases on either side of these windows. The congregation had the owner of an excellent cabinet making firm among its members. This firm built the cases for the organ from sketches, incorporating design elements of the back wall of the chancel at the other end of the church, making it appear that the new installation was part of the original design.

The Chris Feiereisen Pipe Organ Company of Manitowoc was engaged to restore and enhance the pipe organ before the anniversary date of October 18, 1992. The organ builder was able to use pipes from the original organ and some from other organs, but the remainder were new and made by A.R. Schopp's Sons of Alliance, Ohio. While the console was retained, it was relocated to provide better vision of the worship area. The organ was enlarged to twelve ranks. Other work included:

  • Installation of a custom built Peterson solid state switching system to replace electro-pneumatic control equipment;

  • Installation of a Peterson combination action;

  • Installation of a multi-step transposer system;

  • Enhancement to twelve general pre-sets and six separate pre-sets for the Great and Swell keyboards with 32-memory levels.

Fundraising

The approval was given in 1987 to begin raising funds for the pipe organ restoration project, but the following year a budget deficit resulted in the fund drive being placed on hold. Nevertheless, money continued to flow into the fund through memorials and bequests. In December, 1989, the Organ Committee resumed its goal of raising funds for the completion of the project by the 65th anniversary date in 1992. Once the congregation saw the cases for the organ installed, the fund grew and the project was fully paid for on the day of dedication, October 18, 1992.

Highlights

The restored organ provides a firmer musical foundation for leading the congregation in worship. In addition, it has permitted the choir to select a greater variety of music utilizing accompaniment. Other instruments, such as brass ensembles, have been used more frequently, as have soloists.

One of the most thrilling additional features is the greater variety of recital and concert literature that can be played on this organ, whether by guest artists or by the resident organists. This feature has brought a new level of artistic performance to the congregation and set some new standards for the music ministry of the church.

Howard Wilsmann of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, can be reached at 916 Pine Street, Manitowac, WI 54220, or by calling (920) 684-3404.


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