What started as a simple request for releathering turned into a new instrument for St. Mark’s. Although some of the 1928 Welte voices remained, over the years, major changes and additions had occurred during radically different tonal trends. This had left the organ tonally unbalanced, as well as mechanically compromised. It was therefore determined that rather than trying to make repairs, it was time to recast the instrument.
The physical layout was totally changed, providing a simple, easily serviced installation. Manual chests were replaced with custom-designed electro-pneumatic slider or electro-pneumatic unit, as the need required. Thus, where previous additions had been forced to fit, the new layout placed the total chassis and pipes where they needed to be, physically and tonally.
The project presented a serious tonal challenge: How would we seek a balance with the 1928 Welte and all the subsequent additions? Having taken a thorough inventory of the organ’s pipes, we determined which stops needed to be restored, modified, or replaced. Many installed by Moller in the 1960’s had suffered from metal fatigue to the point that it was necessary to replace them. This meant building a new Principal Chorus for the Great. When we examined the Antiphonal division, it became apparent that the beautiful voices of the Kimball stops would be much more useful if they were together with the chancel organ. Therefore, the Kimball Viole and Celeste, as well as the Cor d’Amour were relocated to the Solo. Some original Welte stops were found stored in the cathedral’s tower. Close examination showed some could be made into valuable voices again. The 4’ Clarion was reunited with the rest of the Swell’s reed chorus. The Great Second Diapason’s missing basses were replaced, that rank becoming the Great Diapason. Lastly, Welte’s large scale Vox Humana was restored and returned to the Swell.
Aside from pipe-work, some of the original Welte equipment was in good, useable condition; static reservoirs, Pedal wind-chests plus swell shades and frames were all carefully restored at our Tolland facility. The original triple outlet, Spencer Turbine blower and its 15 horse-power motor were completely rebuilt. A new humidity system, installed at the static reservoirs, seasonally blows humidified air throughout the entire organ-chassis combating the damaging effects of Minnesota’s dry winter months.
The total project spanned 16 months and has been a most exciting venture for our firm.