Our Organ

Westminster Presbyterian Church is blessed with a wonderful organ.  Its majestic presence enhances our Sanctuary and worship experience. In addition to being a magnificent solo instrument, the organ is an integral part of worship, accompanying our choirs and leading the congregation in praising God.  

The Westminster organ was designed and partially constructed by Lawrence Phelps and Associates of Erie, Pennsylvania, in the 1970s. After having spent more than twice the original contract price for the organ, the church acquired the completed parts, and in August of 1979 the instrument was moved from Erie by Lynn A. Dobson and Company to Lake City, Iowa. In the Dobson shop the construction of the case, key actions, windsystem, racking of the pipes and voicing were completed. The installation and voicing of the organ was completed in the church by Lynn Dobson and his seven-man crew during February and March of 1981.

Dobson Opus 14 was the first sizable instrument in the Des Moines area which makes use of classical organbuilding techniques. These include the use of a freestanding case, tracker key action, low wind pressure, and open toe voicing.

 

The solid oak case shields the pipes inside from rapid temperature changes, dust, and other external forces that have an adverse effect on the tuning of the pipes. Most important, the case forms a resonating cavity that blends and projects the sound of the instrument. The case is divided into four compartments that contain the three divisions of the organ. The towers on each side, which contain the longest pipes of the Pedal 16’ Principal, house the pedal pipes. The group of towers just under the rose window contains the Great division’s pipes. The 8’ Prinzipal of that division is in the front of the case. Just under the Great division and above the keydesk is the Swell division. The louvers in the front of the division open and close to allow dynamic control over the sound of the pipes inside.


The tracker, or mechanical, key action allows the organist to precisely control how the pallets (the valves under the pipes) open. Since the connection between the keys and the valves is mechanical, it is essential to have the relationship of the keyboards and the speaking parts of the organ arranged in the most efficient way. The mechanical action has the advantage of greater durability over the years than would electric actions. The mechanical action, however, gives the player an intimate control over the sound producing parts of the organ.

The low wind pressures and open toe voicing allow the organ to have a very gentle and clean tone which is easy to listen to as well as being musically satisfying. The articulate and clear sound of this organ makes the musical lines being played upon it clear, and makes it easy to distinguish pitch and rhythm.

The organ stands about thirty-six feet tall from its footings below the floor to the top of the case, and weighs seventeen and one-half tons. The organ’s thirty-eight ranks contain a total of 1,828 pipes. Each keyboard has fifty-six notes with naturals of Ebony and sharps of Rosewood and Ivory. The pedal keys are of Oak, Maple, and Rosewood. The stop action is electric and has a computerized combination action or memory system. The drawknobs are made of Rosewood.

Join us for worship and experience this beautiful instrument this Sunday!

 

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