Faith & Fellowship Sunday School Class
(In-Person and Remote Options)
First Presbyterian Church
Reuter Pipe Organ Co. Op. 1125
Renovations and additions by
R. A. Banks and Associates
Pipe Organ Co. in 1996 and 2009;
2021 by Reuter Pipe Organ Co.
|16' Violone (Pd.)***||16' Rohrgedeckt**||32' Quintbass (resultant)**|
|8' Principal**||8' Rohrflöte||16' Bourdon**|
|8' Gedeckt||8' Viola||16' Violone|
|8' Erzähler||8' Viola Celeste||16' Rohrgedeckt (Sw.)|
|8' Erzähler Celeste||4' Spitzprincipal**||8' Octave***|
|4' Principal***||4' Nachthorn||8' Bourdon**|
|4' Spillflöte||2-2/3' Nazard||8' Rohrflöte (Sw.)|
|2' Flachflöte***||2' Doublette||4' Octave|
|III Mixture***||1-3/5' Tierce||4' Rohrflöte (Sw.)**|
|8' Liturgical Trumpet||1' Zauberflöte||III Mixture (Gt.)***|
|Tremolo||III Plein Jeu**||16' Bombarde (Gt.)|
|8' Trompette****||8' Trompette (Sw.)****|
|8' Vox Humana|
Reuter Pipe Organ Op. 1125, II/30 [25 stops, 1,826 pipes]
[Note: All information and quotations from 1890 to 1991 are from A History of the First Presbyterian Church, Stillwater, Oklahoma by Dr. Eric I. Williams, ©1991 First Presbyterian Church, Stillwater, Oklahoma.]
FPC Stillwater was organized on Nov. 2, 1890 and incorporated on Feb. 11, 1891. Sacred music in general, and organ music in particular, have been important to the congregation of FPC Stillwater from its inception.
After first meeting in an upstairs room of a downtown building, the fledgling congregation built a framed structure nearby. It possessed an “ancient organ”, presumably an old reed organ given by one of the first church members which was played by the daughter of the first pastor:
In 1906, “Dr. A. C. Scott, President of Oklahoma A & M College…went to New York to select and buy an organ for the church, which he regularly played for worship services.” [p. 50-1] The church and its contents were moved to the present site at 6th and Duncan in 1907. The new sanctuary was dedicated on Sept. 14, 1924.
In 1928, Rev. Allen S. Davis, pastor 1919–1940, proposed that the church acquire a pipe organ, and an organ committee was established to promote the project and raise money. However, in spite of strong support and gifts to the organ fund, nothing was done until a Hammond Electronic Organ was purchased for $1,535 as part of the church's 45th anniversary celebration. It was dedicated on Nov. 3, 1935. Pastor Davis's son, Seymour, apparently served for many years as organist and eventually came into possession of the 1906 reed organ.
Before 1948, the Hammond had deteriorated and was needing repair. In 1952, a committee was formed to study the issue, and an organ committee was finally formed in 1954. Three organ companies were invited to submit plans and visit the church. The design by the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas for a two-manual instrument at a cost of about $17,000 was the committee’s first choice. However, in spite of wide agreement that “a high quality of church music was in the Reformed tradition”, there was dissension among committee members about whether to purchase a pipe organ or an electronic instrument, which would have saved about $10,000. Eventually, the committee asked to be relieved of its duties. In the course of a “long and lively” congregational meeting, church member Mrs. Harry (Ruth) Orr successfully argued for the value of choosing a pipe organ. A “Memorial Organ Fund” was established, fund-raising promoted, and the Reuter company commissioned.
In 1955, FPC hired Margaret Rickerd Scharf and Warren Scharf to lead the music program. Newly married, this was their first shared position after each had earned the M.Mus. degree and Performer’s Certificate in Organ at the Eastman School of Music where they had met. But shortly after coming to Stillwater, Warren had to leave to serve out his military duty, and Margaret took over all playing and directing until his return in 1956. Although it appears she never held the title, Margaret was in essence the church’s first full-time director of music and organist. When Warren returned in 1956, they served jointly until 1957, having cultivated a thriving music program with Warren doing most of the directing and Margaret most of the playing.
Reuter’s records show that their Op. 1125 was built in 1955. One rank was apparently not successful upon installation and was taken back to the factory to be re-worked at no extra cost. In a service of dedication on Nov. 18, 1956, Margaret Scharf played the inaugural recital. The organ of two manuals (keyboards) and 21 ranks had the following specification:
Great Swell Pedal
8’ Principal Conique 8’ Rohr Flöte 16’ Violone
8’ Gedecht 8’ Viola Pomposa 16’ Bourdon Dulce (Sw.)
8’ Kleine Erzähler 8’ Viola Celeste 10-2/3’ Quinte (Sw.)
8’ Erzähler Celeste 4’ Nachthorn 8’ Octave Violone
4’ Octave 2-2/3’ Nazard 8’ Rohrgedecht (Sw.)
4’ Spillflöte 2’ Doublette 5-1/3’ Violone
III Plein Jeu 1-3/5’ Tierce 4’ Choral Bass (Gt.)
8’ Liturgical Trompette 1’ Zauberflöte 16’ Bombarde (Gt.)
8’ Vox Humana
In 1970, an elder “reported that the pipe organ was in need of service which would cost about $35,000. This would entail doubling the number of stops, relocating the pipes and adding a new reed-bank. No action was taken.” And “Another report on the state of the pipe organ by a Dutch organ manufacturer recommended not to repair it but to replace it as soon as feasible.” [p. 169] In 1974, the roof leaked and the organ suffered water damage. Both roof and organ were repaired. In 1985, a cleaning of the pipes was undertaken, with members of the choir and congregation assisting.
My tenure at FPC began on Sept. 1, 1991. It was clear that the organ had been lovingly maintained by William Stephens of Lawrence, Kansas, who was Reuter’s regional service representative for many years. However, it was showing its age in a number of ways, including its tonal concept that was “of its time”: what was considered “cutting edge” in the mid-50’s was a “neo-Baroque” plethora of “skinnier”-sounding pipes, counteracting the typically “tubby”-sounding American instruments of the first half of the 20th century. But the results proved insufficient for leading and supporting congregational singing, or for adequately rendering solo organ music. The console was in dire need of upgrading. The organ desperately needed additional pipes to add “weight” in the Pedal division, more “singing” foundation tone in the Great, and more clarity and strength in the Swell. Accompanying the choir was frustrating: either the organ was too loud or the choir couldn’t hear it well enough. It was soon evident that the constraints of the small organ chamber and its surrounding lode-bearing walls (including those of the north and south sanctuary stairwells) precluded extensive additions or relocation of pipes. Thus began a series of targeted additions, renovations and repairs that have occurred over the last three decades.
In May of 1992, a swarm of honey bees followed their queen through an open window in the upper southeast room off of the choir loft and into the organ chamber. They made their presence known by making the lights in the organ chamber arch appear to flicker. They died out almost completely within 48 hours but left a lot of dust and dirt in and around the pipes that caused tuning and maintenance headaches and random dead notes for months.
In 2011, honey bees once again invaded the organ chamber, this time entering through an opening under the roof of the south transept. They set up shop on the back side of the swell box against the south transept wall. They were discovered after they had already produced quite a lot of honey, which oozed out over the top of the swell box, down the back, and finally out over the floor beneath the swell box. Bee experts were consulted, but sadly the only solution was to seal the opening they had entered and allow them to die, which they did in about a week. Many died in or fell into pipes, causing maintenance and tuning issues for quite some time. Three years later, a pedal pipe that suddenly quit speaking was found to have bee remains lodged in it.
Our long-time organ technician/builder Roger Banks died on June 5, 2019 (born 1940). JR Neutel, President of the Reuter Organ Company, personally assumed the care of our instrument a couple of months later. He planned and oversaw the 2021 renovation, addition, and repairs made by Reuter personnel.
The organ now consists of 30 ranks on 25 stops with 1,826 pipes. It’s replacement value stands at $725,000.
Pipe autographed by Reuter's
reed voicer Sean Estanek