Memorial United Methodist Church
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.


World-renowned organist Kent Burgess plays our organ.

The history of our organ

by Kent Burress, December 17, 2023

Our organ was installed in 1923 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church which was the second home of this congregation at 13th and Colorado Streets. The builder of the organ was Henry Pilcher and Sons out of Louisville, Kentucky. When it was originally installed the organ had 10 ranks - or sets of pipes. The organ led worship services at that location until the mid 1950s when the congregation moved to our third and final location here at 6100 Berkman Drive.

The organ at Central Methodist was dismantled and the pipes were stored in garages and sheds of some of the members of the congregation, and some of the pipes were stored in an outbuilding on our current site. The pipes stayed tucked away in those locations until 1971 when the organ was rebuilt and installed in our sanctuary.
When the organ was ready to be installed in the sanctuary, Otto Hofmann was contracted to restore and expand the organ. All the pipes were gathered up and inventoried. Some had been damaged, but the majority of the pipers were restored and are still playing in our organ. In addition to the original pipes, 13 additional racks were added. The organ got a new console or set of keyboards and pedals.
In the late 1990s the organ was showing its age and Geddes Pipe Organs was contacted to restore the cabling and also to add an oboe stope, and the principal pedal pipes seen in the facade. These 32 pipes are played in the pedal, and they are the lowest notes on the organ. Our tallest pipe is over 17 feet tall! 

Up until this time, the organ was hidden behind a cloth screen: originally green burlap and later a grayish white. The 1990s restoration brought the organ to visually into the sanctuary and also allowed more of the sound to enter the sanctuary unimpeded. Admittedly, there were times when some have wished that the cloth was still muffling the sounds, but we don't go into that. At this time as well, Don Morrison gifted an obo stop to the organ in memory of his wife Betty. We also added in a zimbelstern, which is an organ stop consisting of a star or wheel on which several bells are mounted and when it engaged, the item rotates producing a tinkling sound. Our zimbelstern is made up of flawed hand bells. While they could not be used to produce a clean hand bell sound, they could still be used for producing a joyful sound for us here.

Several years ago, the church was struck by lightning and basically fried the organ's electrical components. Fortunately, insurance covered much of the cost and the congregation took the opportunity to update the console and the controls of the organ, bringing it to state of the art. A lot of time was spent tuning the pipes and bringing it up to what we see and hear today.

In years past this organ will lead worship services, celebrated new births, new families, lives that were lived and souls that have gone on ahead.

I think there is an analogy the organ provides. For all those golden moments, there were many years it lay silent and unable to sing out. Life can be the way...

Kent played our organ for its 100th birthday which occurred during the third week of Advent 2023.