7,000 pipes of sound

On Friday our office closed early and as I was wandering past a nearby church I noticed people entering.  Being curious, I went in to see what they were doing and so began a lovely hour listening to an organ recital.
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The National City Christian Church grew out of an earlier congregation, the Disciples of Christ, which dated from 1843.   Fundraising for the new church began in 1919 and building began in 1929.   It was designed by John Russell Pope in the classic basilica style and built by the George A. Fuller Company.   (John Russell Pope was also the architect of the National Archives building, the National Gallery of Art and the Jefferson Memorial.)
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The weather-vane stands at 200 feet above the street and there are eleven Ionic-style columns on the portico. IMG_1482
The interior of the church is 180 feet long, 70 feet wide and 57 feet high: ..
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Stained glass windows include two installed during a renovation in 1980-81.  One dedicated to President James Garfield: –  IMG_1402
And one for President Lyndon Johnson whose state funeral had been held at the church in 1973 :  IMG_1362
And a nice bright one that caught my eye…  Dr. J. Warren Hastings was a minister at the church 1942-1960 :IMG_1398
An Opus 824 (Skinner Organ Company) was installed in 1930.  By 1960 it was developing age-related mechanical problems and the “tonal aspect” of the organ was viewed as outdated and unenlightened but it took until 1974 for enough money to be raised to rebuild the organ and alter the tone.   The older pipes were “revoiced” to work on lower pressures, reeds were given new tongues and the layout and placement was redesigned.
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The first organ had been hidden behind curtains but the new installation boldly displayed exposed pipework and windchests. IMG_1368
In 1980-81 the Pearl Neugent Nordan Gallery Organ was installed – 16 ranks housed in a case towering up the rear wall.  The Gallery organ was controlled by its own two-manual and pedal tilting tablet console.   It was also playable from the main organ through general pistons.  This organ was used to accompany operatic soprano Leontyne Price at the state funeral of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973.IMG_1404
In 1985 the Chancel organ was enlarged to reach its zenith in pipe count – a 141-rank instrument.  The organ has been re-voiced, rebuilt and renovated to its current 7,592 pipe,  five-keyboard Moller organ with more than 300 controls.   (For comparison, Washington National Cathedral’s organ has 189 ranks and 10,647 pipes).
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Both chancel and gallery pipe organs have their own blowers to produce the pressurized air needed to make the pipes produce a sound.  The chancel organ blower is two floors directly below the pipe organ chamber in a sound-proof room.   It was manufactured in 1930 by the Spencer Turbine Company and looks like a 747 jet engine.  The blower measures 50″ in diameter, has over a dozen steel turbines inside it and produces 15 hp of energy.  The blower could support another 2,000 pipes!  IMG_1397
The gallery organ’s blower is 2 stories above the organ pipes in the church’s tower.  It measures 30″ in diameter and looks like a small oil drum.  It only has 7 horsepower of energy.
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The hour-long program was performed by organist Julie Vidrick Evans who is currently Director of Music at The Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church here in DC.  The program was titled a Soul Juxtaposition:  JS Bach and the Negro Spiritual.    My favourite was Swing Low, Sweet Chariot with Wo Soll ich Fliehen hin BWV 646 IMG_1372
Ms. Evans was dwarfed against the backdrop of pipes and it sounded as though she used all 7,000 of them!   IMG_1379
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