Our firm is a full service pipe organ building, rebuilding, and service company located near Lancaster, in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Since 1981 we have built a reputation for quality workmanship, careful attention to detail, and creativity.
P.O. Box 46
Silver Spring, PA
Our staff of 10 organ builders and technicians has a combined experience of over 100 years working on pipe organs and other musical instruments. We are all dedicated to the pursuit of excellence and we are passionate about the organ.
Most pipe organs were built by experienced builders who intended their instruments to last. There are many pipe organs still in use that are hundreds of year old. Every organ needs to be rebuilt at some time in its life, and the work depends on many factors, such as the age, type of action, and tonal makeup. Only a qualified pipe organ builder can evaluate your instrument and make a recommendation regarding rebuilding or replacement.
Since pipe organs are custom built and come in all sizes and configurations, it is usually possible to find a creative solution to the placement of the instrument. There is probably already a place for a console, and pipes can be installed in a variety of locations.
You should engage the services of a qualified organ builder or consultant during the planning stages of the building, so that the architect and builders are aware of the spacial, structural, and acoustic needs of the organ.
All organs operate on air pressure which is regulated through various bellows or wind regulators. The leather on these bellows needs to be replaced every 40 to 80 years. Some organs which have pneumatic or electro-pneumatic windchests will need additional work as the leather pouches and valves in these windchests lasts about 40 to 50 years before needing replacement.
Many organs built over the past century use electricity to send information from the console to the organ pipes. Past technology required the use of hundreds of electrical contacts, relays, and switches as well as extensive electrical wiring for the 12 volt DC current on which these organs operate. On many older instruments, the electrical contacts and wiring become unreliable and maintenance costs increase. These problems can be largely eliminated by replacing all of the relaying and switching in the organ with modern solid-state circuitry. These systems can provide digital multiplexed action, which allows more versatility in the makeup of stops, combination actions with multiple memory levels, and the option of a MIDI interface to enable the organ to interact with other instruments or to provide record and playback capabilities.
Pipe organs are designed to accommodate normal fluctuations in room temperature and humidity. It is not necessary to keep the heat turned up all winter for the organ, in fact excessive heating will dry out the wood and can cause problems. Turning the heat back to 55 or 60F in a church during the week will not harm the organ, as it will come back into tune once the temperature is brought up for Sunday morning or other services. Air conditioning is a benefit in the summer, as the reeds will stay in tune throughout most of the year with less tuning required.
Most organs should be tuned twice a year, in the late fall or during Advent for the heating season, and once in late spring when the warm weather arrives so that the reeds will be in tune during the summer. Some organs need more or less tuning depending on the musical program, building characteristics, and tuning stability of the particular instrument. It is important that your heat or air conditioning is set to the temperature you will use the instrument at prior to the arrival of the organ tuners, as is will only sound completely in tune at that temperature.
Modern keyboard instruments are usually set at a pitch of A440, including pianos and most organs. Problems with playing the organ and piano together arise when one or both of the instruments is different from this pitch or they are not at a comfortable room temperature of about 70F. If your organ was pitched at A440 when it was built, it will be at that pitch at normal room temperature. If the room temperature is cooler, the organ will go flat in pitch and if the temperature is hotter, the organ will go sharp. Some organs are not at standard pitch either because they were built at a higher or lower pitch (mostly prior to 1920), or the pitch has drifted away from years of tuning without it being reset.
There are always many fine older pipe organs for sale by churches, organ builders, and private individuals. Used organs can be found in all sizes and condition, sometimes still playable and sometimes already removed and placed in storage. An older organ can often be rebuilt and installed for half the price of a new organ. Many older organs are historical instruments built by noted organ builders and sometimes have fine casework which can architecturally compliment your church. Sources of organs for sale are the Organ Clearing House (see link), and classified ads in The American Organist or The Diapason magazines.