Organ and Chancel Renovation
Wondering how things are going with the installation of our new pipe organ? Noticing changes in the Sanctuary and trying to figure out where we are in the renovation process outlined earlier this year? Get the latest update directly from those most closely involved with these two interconnected projects — and find out what you can expect to see happening in the coming months.
“It is thrilling to watch (and hear) as the plans, hopes and dreams of so many people over so many years finally come to fruition,” says Board of Trustees Chair Jim Whitton. “The Trustees are thankful for the hard work of the dedicated artists who are bringing our congregation an even more beautiful and vibrant place of worship. I want to personally thank all of the Trustees and Staff who served over the years since this project was launched. Their time and devotion helped make this possible. I also want to particularly thank Bill Scott and Linda Roe, for their years of donating their professional knowledge and skill, and Jack Benson for providing the leadership necessary to launch the project and see it through the initial planning and design. And we are all thankful to Hank and Ann Paup for their generous gift that propelled the organ project to completion. Finally, we must not forget those who made gifts to our Church and Foundation decades ago. Though many of them are no longer with us, their gifts are enabling us to purchase this wonderful organ and make the sanctuary even more beautiful today.”
CHANCEL RENOVATION PROJECT
So far we’ve completed:
An $190,000 upgrade to our sanctuary sound system that bid farewell to those giant white box speakers in the front of the Sanctuary. In there you now see two towers of small, moveable speakers that allow sound to be directed and the spread of it adjusted remotely to fit the needs of each worship service and special program. Sound improvements to date include:
- new sound board
- new wireless mics
- new sound console in TV studio
- all inputs repaired (including many that were nonfunctional!)
- new pulpit mic
“I want our sanctuary sound to be unnoticeable,” says Ryan Mansfield, Manager of A/V Services. “My goal is for people sitting in the sanctuary and listening to suddenly be able to hear everything better — but not to know exactly why.” Ryan Mansfield, former Sound Designer/Engineer with Yale University School Of Drama and Casa Manana , has poured countless hours into researching and assessing the functionality, efficiency and reliability of these upgrades to our sanctuary sound and lighting systems.
By replacing our circa 1931 fixed choir seating with risers and chairs, we are now able to adjust the choir seating as needed to fit the program or worship experience. This will also offer our choirs room to grow — going from 44 fixed seats to our new choir seating capacity of 74. New steps leading up to the choir loft allow choirs to process directly into the choir loft from the sanctuary floor without having to leave the sanctuary.
With all woodwork being artistically hand crafted by award-winning master carpenter Mike Reznikoff, adjustments and refinishing are now being done offsite to “modesty rails” (those sections of ornate carved wooden screens on either side of the organ console, just in front of the choir), new steps leading up to the choir loft (more on that in a minute). The next stage for woodwork portion of the project will be the adjustment and refinishing of the pulpit to make it moveable for greater flexibility in the design of our worship experiences.
Please note: The steps to the choir loft you see now are temporary placeholders to allow functionality while the actual pieces are being completed offsite. The modified choir rail wall was reinstalled 6-19-14.
“We appreciate the trust you have shown in allowing us to work on the amazing millwork that was done in the 1930’s,” says Mike Reznikoff, master carpenter and president of Reznikoff Custom Furniture. “We can almost feel the hands of the craftsmen that created these pieces. Our goal is to make the new pieces that we create look like they have always been there. This Church and its congregation are truly part of Fort Worth history. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to be part of the history of this beautiful and iconic church.”
To offer more surface area for worship and performances, as well as more space for our growing choirs (including space for the sanctuary piano to be in much more useful proximity to the choirs), the chancel is being expanded from its current 1,440 square feet to 1,770.
The completed renovation will bring the chancel out six feet (about to where the communion rail is now); the communion rail will be moved six feet into the current sanctuary, necessitating the removal of up to two rows of pews. Flooring and woodwork are being carefully matched to what is currently in place.
During this next stage of renovation, you may notice some difference in lighting, access to the chancel area, and a temporary pulpit and altar that will allow work to these details to be completed offsite.
As we move into the construction phase, a protective covering over the organ chamber will be in place to keep construction dust from getting into the pipes. During this time we’ll be using our piano during worship rather than the organ.
In addition to doing all we can to ensure minimal inconvenience to our weekly sanctuary worship services, we are taking special care of and are in constant communication with our wedding families this summer to ensure that all wedding ceremonies are given utmost priority. By making sure the sanctuary is clean and beautifully lit for each of these ceremonies, with particular attention given to the areas important to wedding photography, our goal is for our renovation project to be all but invisible during these events. Any funerals that must be scheduled in the sanctuary will also be given this “white glove” priority treatment as we work around the challenges of renovation.
By August 1, you can expect the chancel expansion and flooring to be complete, modesty rails and center panel back in place, and temporary steps constructed to allow access to the chancel from the sanctuary floor.
“Construction wise, our Sanctuary is very special,” says Bill Scott, construction manager. Bill president of Scott Tucker Construction and has served as a First Church Trustee for several years. He has worked on every construction project at the Church since 1985. “Back in 1930, the millwork and trim were installed piece by piece with a lot of the work being hand-carved. The craftmanship of the cuts and fits are nearly perfect. The care that must be taken to work on these elements is critical. It’s a real honor to be involved with preserving our original woodworks while we improve the functionality of our Chancel & Choir spaces.”
The Trinity Chairs, now separated, with two on one side and one on the other, will be moved back together in the center once renovations are complete. New chairs in the choir loft offer flexibility while preserving the traditional look and feel of our Sanctuary.
Please note: Throughout this process, all needlework and tapestry have been carefully protected and preserved — and replaced as renovations are completed.
“The restored woodwork you now see back in the sanctuary is beautiful,” says Dr. Tim Bruster. “Mike Reznikoff is truly an artist, and that rare kind of craftsmanship takes time and is well worth the wait. Once everything is complete, in addition to being more functional, the sanctuary will be more beautiful than ever.”
A huge upgrade to our 1980s lighting system will create better control of lighting of the chancel area, ability to control lighting from several locations (all lighting controls are now in the pulpit), flexibility to change and direct lighting for subtle enhancement of (and to preset!) lighting for weddings, funerals, special worship experiences, and cleaning. The new system will ultimately allow for upgrade to LED bulbs to increase lighting control and cost and energy efficiency.
Please note: Until the construction is complete the lighting controls will be temporary; controls for worship lighting will be installed once all other pieces are in place.
As you know, the installation of our new $1,850,000 Garland Pipe Organ, projected to be the 2nd largest pipe organ of its kind in Fort Worth, and the 3rd largest pipe organ in Texas, has been underway since early 2013. While this process may seem slow, it is by its nature a very painstaking artistic endeavor that requires incredible, specialized focus to every detail in order to produce the result this investment deserves and requires. With that in mind, here is a progress report to let you know where we are!
Bringing to this project his staff of seven full time employees, many of whom hold degrees in organ performance, piano, voice, as well as industrial arts, Garland Pipe Organs founder and tonal director Dan Garland has been involved in music for worship for forty years. With more than 50 pipe organs to his career credit, Dan says that the FUMC Fort Worth organ is his magnum opus to date. With their goal always to “excite and satisfy those who play our instruments and inspire all who hear our instruments,” Garland’s team also brings to the table strong support and advice in regard to other elements of the space including acoustic, structural, and visual design.
“We keep an open ear to the desire of the client and work with them to obtain the final design of the project,” he adds. “We strive to build an instrument that will lead the congregation in hymn singing and also be useful to them in all other elements of worship.”
Most of Garland’s pipe organs are placed in houses of worship, “in the best of the American eclectic design with a lean toward the English tradition and incorporating a significant number of foundation stops. Other major local organ projects to Garland Organ’s credit include All Saints Episcopal Church of Fort Worth, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, St. Stephen Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth, University Christian Church, Fort Worth, Arborlawn United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, St. Maria Goretti Catholic church, Arlington, and University Methodist Church in Fort Worth.
“We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to do our work in this beautiful historic church with such a long-tenured music program — and in my own hometown!”
Completed to date:
• Removing the old console, piece by piece, taking care to preserve any reusable parts to recondition and use for the rebuild. Adjustments made to the main chamber in the sanctuary will give our new organ’s sound more room to romp: “The ceiling was raised in the Main Chamber to allow the instrument full use of the center tone opening,” Garland explains.
• Restructuring The entire air conditioning return air system was redesigned to decrease noise in the current ducts and to intake air through all three main organ chambers as well as under the choir and pulpit. “This will be beneficial in regard to the tuning stability of the instrument as well as make the air conditioning system much more efficient,” Garland said.
• Rebuilding The process of reassembling the Main Organ Chamber began at the Garland Pipe Organ warehouse, where they built the footprint for reassembling the pipes — adding new pipes as needed and repurposing the older pipes that will remain in the Main Organ Chamber
• Installing the pipes, piece by piece
• Installing the new console
• Voicing the 8,000+ pipe organ, one pipe at a time
“A significant amount of pipework from the 1967 instrument is being incorporated into the new organ,” says Dan Garland, organ builder. “All of this pipework will be rebuilt and revoiced as to blend with the new pipework to achieve a good tonal ensemble.”
Other significant — and noteworthy vintage components of our organ include:
- Several sets of wooden flutes in the swell division were constructed by the Hook & Hastings Organ Company in Boston, one of the finest builders of organs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “We found this a number of years ago after we got this contract and saved it for this organ,” Garland says.
- Three stops from the Pilcher Organ Company out of Louisville, KY, another of the finest organ builders in the nation during the late 19th early 20th centuries. These originated from Highland Park UMC from the late 20s.
Note: neither of these famous old organ companies survived the Great Depression
- A 16-foot open wood pipe built by Estey Organ Company from Battleborough, VT, also considered among the best of the best, came to us from the Munger United Methodist Church in Dallas, which is now owned by Highland Park UMC as their contemporary worship center.
“These vintage pieces are all rare and wonderful finds that make perfect additions to the capabilities of this organ — and to the rich history of this church.” — Dan Garland
• Most of the organ will be complete as scheduled this fall. We will celebrate this milestone by dedicating it in our sanctuary on Sunday, October 26th during our morning worship services and with special recognition of donors and supports of this historic project.
• One of the details that indeed makes our new pipe organ so special is the upgrade and expansion of our currently nonfunctional gallery (“antiphonal”) section of the organ, located in the rear of the sanctuary. (Upon completion, this organ will be known as our “Celestial” organ.) While most of us may not recognize the subtle overlays and nuances of sound this organ will provide, it contains some relatively rare pipes that will bring our organ to full completion.
• Due to an issue of architecture and space in our current chamber, an unexpected adjustment to that chamber is required in order to complete the gallery organ portion of our overall project. While the subtle nature of the sound it produces may make this seem like a minor issue, it is so integral to the artistic completion of this project we will be postponing the larger public dedicatory concert until this work in complete, now projected for Spring of 2015. Work will begin on the installation of the gallery organ in August.
• It is also important to remember that as current stewards of this historic church, we are taking part in a significant piece of its history. The organ this era is contributing to our church will long outlive all of us. It is a significant piece of auditory art, and while we have commissioned it with our donations, Dan Garland and his team are the artists.
• Throughout this project, many unexpected twists and turns have occurred to present the special challenges historic architecture is famous for. For this organ to be all it can be for generations to come, precision now is crucial. Put simply, it has to be perfect. We encourage your patience and appreciation for this process as we look forward to celebrating the results together. We are making a significant contribution to our church just by being here and being part of this exciting process.
“Surprises and delays are integral to any huge undertaking such as this, especially when you are working to maintain the historic integrity and detail work of fine, old architecture,” says Taylor Davis, FUMCFW Director of Music and Worship Arts. “Throughout history, I’m sure every great work of art and architecture has its own stories of complications and delays; over time these stories become part of its tapestry. To develop the best possible solutions to these unexpected challenges, we must remain patient, creative, and focused on achieving the end result we’ll all be proud to have been part of.”