The Wesleyan Heritage Organ
The Pipe Organ in our Sanctuary dates back to 1906. Our building was dedicated on May 22, 1906 and the organ was dedicated about six months later, on December 7. This instrument has more of its original components in their original location, thus with this distinction, is considered the oldest organ in Utah, Idaho & Nevada. The original organ had 33 ranks of pipes. The organ was constructed by the George Kilgen and Sons Organ Company (1873-1939) of St. Louis, Missouri. Kilgen was a major organ builder, and at the time, constructed many noted organs, including the instruments at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
In 1949, the front facade pipes were painted a dull gold color when the church interior was remodeled. The pipes were originally green in color and were stenciled as seen in this photo from 1915. In 1960, at the time of the Sanctuary and Chancel beautification project, the organ pipes were moved back and a transparent screen placed behind a wooden grid. A cross was mounted in front of the screen and lights placed behind the screen. The pipes were no longer visible. Since then, there have been several remodel and renovation efforts. A Rodgers electronic console was installed in 1989 combining some of the pipes ranks with the latest in electronic sounds. The facade pipes were brought back out to be seen in the Sanctuary. The pipes in the organ chamber were out of tune, many of the pipes had disappeared and the wind chests were leaking and thus, costly repairs needed. So, for the next twenty years, our congregation heard mostly the electronics of the organ. Gratefully, the original pipes and wind chests were not thrown out.
In November of 2009, a fundraising campaign was begun to raise money to restore the organ back as close as possible to its original roots, keeping with its integrity, period and design. The organ project included re-establishing the organ’s unique 1900’s tonal style, its organ case from the 1915 photo, a vintage console, and augmenting its character with other vintage components most notably from another of the oldest and most noted organs in the region from the Salt Lake Masonic Temple. The organ at the Masonic Temple was originally in the American Theatre, a 3,000-seat silent movie theatre and the largest in Utah at the time, which was located on Main Street in downtown SLC. The instrument was built by the Kimball Organ Company of Chicago, Illinois. The Austin Organ Company enlarged the organ in 1915 (Opus #609). The American Theatre’s organ was a 49-rank instrument that was moved to the Masonic Temple after the silent movie era ended. Of note is that Alexander Schreiner, a Tabernacle Organist for 53 years, “began his professional musical career as a theater organist in SLC as early as his sophomore year in high school in 1917 at the American Theatre” (Kenneth Udy, Alexander Schreiner, The California Years, 1999). The final organ will represent the oldest organ in the region still in its original location with another of one of the oldest organs in the region.
By 2014, we had raised sufficient funds to hire Bigelow & Co. Organ Builders of American Utah. This organ is Bigelow Opus 38 (2015) with the renovation/enlargement of Farrand & Voety/1904/1924 Kilgen and Austin with 3 manuals, 36 voices and 42 ranks. The rebuilt Austin “A-style” console was purchased from the Austin factory and had previously been part of Austin Opus 1702 in the Old St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. The lovely stenciled artwork was re-created by Tony Devroude of Artisan Organs , Cannonville, Utah, who researched the original colors by carefully stripping layers of paint. Stop List.
Preserving these instruments with their treasured history provides a significant connection with our past, provides a sustaining commitment to who we are as a people in our worship to God and a truly unique venue site for community events.
“In this age of “raze and replace,” the restoration of the pipe organ at FUMC presents a unique opportunity…because nowhere in Utah is there an original organ, still in its original space, which is intact enough to be saved. This is truly the last church organ in Utah still in a condition for restoration to its original design. This is a rare opportunity to recapture Utah’s heritage through this magnificent pipe organ.” –Dr. Ken Udy, University Organist, University of Utah
“I am not an organist, but I have worked with many of the finest. The restoration of this instrument is not only a physically viable project, but it is also vitally important to the ongoing cultural and theological missions of the church. Ours is a day of fleeting values. Restoring an organ is a particularly strong statement regarding our appreciation for the values of previous generations and their institutions.” –Dr. Jerold D. Ottley, Music Director, retired Mormon Tabernacle Choir
A COMMUNITY SPACE
Included in this project is the restoration of the Sanctuary to its original style in a flexible design to accommodate a variety of church and community uses. Downtown Salt Lake City has been experiencing a revitalization and renaissance in livability, culture and arts. The theater style sanctuary at FUMC is an optimal moderate-sized space and is an exquisite place of worship, singular history, and a unique venue for community recitals, musical events, dance, small theater groups, recordings, as a destination for historic tours, and for educational studies.
“A historic instrument such as this organ should have a future. It’s a vessel worthy of many more musical journeys. No two pipe organs are alike. If they were, we would find them disappointing. The organ’s downtown location within a sanctuary of architectural beauty is a welcome destination shielding the visitor from urban din and clamor. If you’re like me, you value not only green space, but serene space. The serene space surrounding this organ can sonically be considered part of the instrument itself”. –Marcus Smith, Classical 89 General Manager
If you are interested in the use of our space for your event, please contact us for details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Wesleyan Heritage Organ Curatorship Fund – donate to support the ongoing care for the organ.
You can read about the symbolism of the cartouche stencils on the renovated pipes here.