The Pipe Organ in the Sanctuary of First United Methodist Church (FUMC) at 203 South and 200 East dates back to 1906. 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. There are currently 18 ranks working.
In November of 2009, a fundraising campaign was begun to raise money to restore the organ back to its roots. The organ is in need of significant repairs and we propose to renovate the organ in keeping with its integrity, period and design. The organ project includes re-establishing the organ’s unique 1900’s tonal style, its organ case and 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.
The project will include restoring the sanctuary to its original era style in a flexible design to accommodate a variety of church and community uses. Upon completion the church will be an exquisite place of worship, singular history, and a unique venue for community recitals, musical events, recordings, as a destination for historic tours, and for educational studies.
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 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
A COMMUNITY SPACE
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 which will offer the community a new venue with a warm, intimate setting for music, dance and small theater groups.
In the recent past, the space was used by significant performing groups including the American West Symphony, Lex de Azevedo’s Millennium Choral Society, and the Salt Lake Men’s Choir. However, the limited acoustics and the arrangement of the altar area are not optimal. The flexibility that was in the original 1906 design of the front of the sanctuary was much more accommodating to various sized choirs and additional instruments. That original design allowed the downtown church to be a meeting place for community gatherings and performances, as well as for worship on Sundays, assuring that the building was an important community center and well utilized.
“We have performed at this beautiful historic building many times. We have always been impressed with how well organized and dedicated the staff and congregation is to presenting musical programs for the community. The sanctuary is beautiful but the performance space, the stage if you will, is terribly problematic, the renovations will allow the sanctuary to become a treasured concert spot in the heart of the city and leave performers and audiences much more satisfied with their experience there.” –Otter Creek (Peter & Mary Danzig)
FUMC will be a unique venue for community life:
- FUMC is in the heart of downtown.
- The Sanctuary will be restored to its original pioneer-era style providing an experience of “walking into the past.”
- The Sanctuary furnishings will have a flexible layout to accommodate a variety of church and community uses.
- The church has already been host to the American West Symphony, the Millennium Choral Society, the Salt Lake Men’s Choir, the Utah Pride Interfaith Service, the Transgender Education Awareness Candlelight Vigil, the Wesleyan Sermon Organ Recital Services, along with many other private recital ensembles and groups.
The renderings below give ideas for future use of the Sanctuary for worship, oratorio’s and ensembles. They were drawn by architectural illustrator, Scott Roberts.
The Organ Renovation Committee has initiated a Community Awareness Plan that will include making contact with such organizations as the Utah Chapters of American Guild of Organists (AGO), National Endowment for the Arts and other local foundations. The Wesleyan Sermon Recital Series has and will continue to increase community awareness and solicit donations for the historic organ and the renovation project. The cost of the project is $350,000. As of May 2014, we have raised nearly $300,000. This money has come from members of FUMC and community donations from our Community Awareness Plan. This includes $25,000 from our first major donor outside of FUMC, Zions Bank.
If you are interested in making a donation through our “Buy a Pipe” program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott R. Mills, Coordinator of Music/Principal Organist
Historic Organ Renovation Committee
Scott R. Mills, Chair
Dorothy Anderson, Fundraising Chair
Pete Ashdown, Pres & CEO of X-Mission
Clay Christiansen, Tabernacle Organist
Felipe Dominguez, Organist Provo Community Church, Student Representative at BYU for Utah Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
Don Gale, President of Words, Words, Words
Janet Griffin, Historian-Salt Lake Chapter of the American Guild of Organists
Boyer Jarvis, retired: University of Utah, Board Member: Inclusion Center
Jerold Ottley, retired Musical Director-Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Stan Penfold, Salt Lake City Council, Executive Director-Utah AIDS Foundation
Max J Smith, ArchitectMorgan Smith, retired Engineer
Raymond Tymas-Jones, Dean-School of Fine Arts, University of Utah
Ken Udy, Organist-Wasatch Presbyterian Church, University of Utah
Ken Verdoia, Producer-KUED Channel 7