Holtkamp Pipe Organ

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Central Christian Church, Lexington, KY
Holtkamp Organ, Cleveland, Ohio: 1960, job no. 1724
3 Manuals, 35 stops, 37 ranks
total of 2,064 pipes

Photo by John Lynner Peterson

Photo by John Lynner Peterson

Our Holtkamp pipe organ was originally built in 1960 (job number 1724). In 1990, the original Holtkamp console was updated, and electronic organ sounds were added. A significant mechanical component of pipe organs is leather, allowing air to reach the pipes. Leather is a part of the mechanics of each individual pipe, each rank of pipes, each chest of pipes, each wind reservoir for the chests, and each conduit moving air from the blower generator to the reservoirs. But leather dries out and wears out, and the leather in our pipe organ is now over 50 years old — 50 years being a standard measure of life for the leather used in pipe organs. The serious problem is that then pipes will not play and will not sound, as is already happening with our pipe organ. Because renovation is such an extraordinarily expensive endeavor, it is typically an ideal time to also consider additions or changes to the pipe organ design.

An Organ Restoration Taskforce was created by act of the Administrative Board in July 2008. Originally chaired by Bill Adams, and now chaired by Jane Smith, the taskforce included Betty Cecil, S.K. Chan, Anne Taul, Herb Sledd, Tom Slabaugh, Kate Covington, Malcolm McGregor, Stuart Talbert, and Paige and Bill Rea. Michael Rintamaa and Michael Mooty attended taskforce meetings. Between July 2008 and January 2011, the taskforce met six times, hearing presentations by Bob Kintner (former minister of music), Chris Holtkamp, Thad Reynolds (current organ technician), and a summary report of recommendations by Kate Covington and Michael Rintamaa.

Here are some helpful definitions of common terms when speaking about pipe organs —

What you observe an organist playing is referred to as the console of the pipe organ – it is the work station for the organist. The console consists of a cabinet containing the manual and pedal keyboards and the stop controls, arranged in a convenient and standardized manner as prescribed by the American Guild of Organists. There is a bench for the organist, and parts of the organ action are found in the cabinet. The console is usually separated from the rest of the organ, to which it is connected with a cable, and is often decorated with cabinetwork that matches the decor of the church.

A manual is a keyboards in the console, designed to be played with the hands, as opposed to the Pedalboard, which is to be played with the feet. Manual keyboards resemble those of a piano, but normally have only five octaves (61 notes), beginning with the C two octaves below Middle C. Having more than one manual makes possible quick changes in registration (by moving from one manual to another) or solo effects with accompaniment (by playing on two manuals at once). Our Holtkamp pipe organ has three manuals, plus the pedalboard.

A stop is an individual voice in the organ, composed of one or more ranks of pipes. Its name includes a number, like 16′,4′, etc., which designates its pitch according to the length of its largest pipe (corresponding to low C on the keyboard). If it includes more than one rank of pipes it is a Mixture, with a Roman numeral in front of its name to indicate the number of ranks, as III or IV. The word stop is also applied to the control in the console which turns on the actual stop. (The name comes from the original controls, which were introduced to shut off, or ‘stop’ some of the ranks so they did not all play at once, as they did in the earliest organs.) Our Holtkamp pipe organ has 35 stops.

A rank is a row of pipes of the same kind of sound (the same stop). For example, all the pipes for a Spitzflute (one kind of flute sound) will be in the same row. In the row of pipes (rank), the pipes are graduated in length, one per key, corresponding to the entire compass of the keyboard (61 notes for a full manual, 56 for a short manual, 32 for a pedal). Ranks are described according to the length of the largest pipe, corresponding to the lowest key ( 2 octaves below middle C). For example, as 16′,8′,4′, etc. Each rank (and stop) has a different tone color or pitch, and providing multiple ranks in an organ allows many different combinations, resulting in a great range of volume and tone quality. Organs are often described by the number of ranks they have. A 60 rank instrument is a fairly large size while an 18 rank instrument is small. Our Holtkamp pipe organ has 37 ranks.

Our Holtkamp pipe organ has a total of 2,064 individual pipes.

Other quality pipe organs in town, include Centenary UMC (61 ranks), Good Shepherd Episcopal (59 ranks), Christ Church Episopal (51 ranks), Immanuel Baptist (50 ranks), Second Presbyterian (42 ranks), Calvary Baptist (37 ranks), First Presbyterian (35 ranks), Maxwell Street Presbyterian (32 ranks), Tates Creek Presbyterian (32 ranks), and Singletary Center for the Arts (90 ranks).

A 7-minute documentary made for a high school project by Central’s own Grant Holcomb.