“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.”
Psalm 100

The Organ Today | Rebuilding the Organ | Organ Concerts
Organ Staff | For Information

The Organ Today

The current Sanctuary organ is a 1971 Aeolian-Skinner Organ, Opus 1516, with 126 ranks, numbering 6,603 pipes. It is the second largest instrument in the city (second only to the organ at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel) and one of largest in the Midwest. Some of the existing pipe work dates back to 1914 when Ernest M. Skinner was contracted to build the first pipe organ. That organ contained 59 ranks. Among them was a stop invented by Skinner called the Kleine Erzäehler, which means little storytellers, a stop of which he was most proud.

In 1946, the Aeolian-Skinner Company made additions to the Great, Choir, and Pedal divisions. By the middle of the 1960s, the organ was in poor mechanical condition, and the church decided to replace the modified E.M. Skinner with a new instrument. The Aeolian-Skinner Company was selected. The organ was expanded to 125 ranks. Significant E. M. Skinner ranks that were retained included the Kleine Erzähler and Celeste, French Horn, Voix Humaine, Clarinet (Corno di Bassetto), Fagotto (Antiphonal Pedal Trompete 16'), and the Geigen Prinzipal 32’, much of which is in the large case. The old echo organ, housed above the east balcony, was replaced by an unenclosed antiphonal division with complete pedal. The high pressure Festival Trumpet is located there as well.

In 1989, the firm of Goulding and Wood of Indianapolis was consulted regarding deficiencies of the organ that needed to be corrected (i.e., the Swell organ was at the back of the chamber and spoke directly into the large pedal Prinzipal pipes; the half-length 32’ Kontra Trompette in the Pedal lacked adequate support for the entire instrument). Other alterations included relocation of the Swell, Positiv, and Pedal chests; the replacement of the Swell Trompette with a new stop and the substitution of the Positiv Rankett 16’ with the existing Swell Trompette; the extension of the Pedal Posaune 16’ to 32’ to replace the lighter weight existing Kontra Trompete; the addition of a Subbass 16’ to the pedal; the raising of wind pressures to the Positiv, Swell, and Antiphonal; the revoicing of the pipes for those divisions; and a case for the Positiv with a new Prinzipal 8’ replacing the existing Spitzprinzipal. The organ was cleaned, tuned, and regulated to accommodate the new acoustic that resulted from the removal of three inches of horsehair felt from the ceiling during the restoration of the Sanctuary and the installation of a new oak ceiling.

16 Geigen Prinzipal 16 Flûte Conique 16 Quintade 8 Holz Gedeckt
8 Prinzipal 8 Montre 8 Prinzipal 8 Flauto Dolce
8 Gemshorn 8 Bourdon 8 Rohrflöte 8 Flûte Celeste
8 Bordun 8 Viole 4 Prinzipal 4 Spitzflöte
8 Flûte Harmonique 8 Viole Celeste 4 Koppelflöte 2 Waldflöte
4 Oktave 8 Kleiner Erzähler 2 Oktave III Mixture
4 Spitzflöte 8 Erzähler Celeste 2 Flachflöte 8 Corno di Bassetto
2 Super Octave 4 Prestant 1 1/3 Quint 16 Festiva; Trumpet (t.c.)
2 Blockflote 4 Flûte Ouverte 1 Siffloöte 8 Festival Trumpet
II Sesquialtera 2 2/3 Nazard IV/V Mixtur 4 Festival Clarion
IV/V Kornett (t.c.) 2 Doublette II Zimbel Tremulant
IV/VI Mixtur 1 3/5 Tierce II Terzian ANTIPHONAL PEDAL
IV Scharf IV Plein Jeu 8 Trompete 16 Holzprinzipal
16 Kontra Trompete IV Cymbale 8 Krummhorn 8 Oktave
8 Trompete 16 Bombarde Tremulant 4 Choral Bass
8 Festival Trumpet 8 Trompette ANTIPHONAL 16 Trompete
(Antiphonal) 8 Hautbois 8 Prinzipal
8 French Horn 8 Voix Humaine 8 Gedeckt
(Enclosed in Choral) 4 Clairon 4 Oktave
Chimes Tremulant 2 Hellflöte
32 Geigen Prinzipal Great to Pedal 8 8 Trompete
16 Prinzipal Positiv to Pedal 8 Tremulant
16 Subbass Positiv to Pedal 4
16 Bordun Swell to Pedal 8
16 Geigen Prinzipal (Great) Swell to Pedal 4
16 Quintade (Positiv) Choral to Pedal 8
16 Flûte Conique (Swell) Choral to Pedal 4
8 Octave Antiphonal to Pedal 8
8 Pommer Gedeckt Great to Great 16
8 Spitzflöte Swell to Great 16
4 Choral Bass Swell to Great 8
4 Spillflöte Swell to Great 4
2 Nachthorn Choral to Great 8
IV Mixture Positiv to Great 8
IV Sharf Antiphonal to Great 8
VIII Grosskornett Positiv to Positiv 16
32 Kontra Posaune Positiv Unison Off
16 Posaune Great to Positiv 8
16 Bombarde (Swell) Swell to Positiv 8
16 Kontra Trompete (Great) Choral to Positiv 8
8 Trompete Antiphonal to Positiv 8
4 Schalmei Swell to Swell 16
Chimes Swell to Swell 4
Swell Unison Off
Choral to Swell 8
Antiphonal to Swell 8
Choral to Choral 16
Choral to Choral 4
Choral Unison Off
Swell to Choral 8
Antiphonal to Antiphonal 4
Antiphonal Unison Off
Chancel Organ Off
Antiphonal Organ Off

The solid state combination action of 1971 was replaced by Peterson Electro Musical-Products, Inc., in 1982 and includes four levels of memory controlling twelve general pistons and eight divisional piston, (except the Antiphonal which has five). In addition, there are five master pistons, crescendo pedal and two tuttis.

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Rebuilding the Organ

Background | Timeline

The Sanctuary pipe organ has been deteriorating for some time. There are serious mechanical problems resulting in challenges that only the most skilled organists can work around. Notes sound when they are not supposed to sound, and fail to sound when they should. The combination action—the brains of the instrument—is seriously out of date, and the pipes, in three locations, need to be upgraded.

In January 2012, we were pleased to announce that the Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, one of this church’s longest standing and most generous benefactors and very generous supporter of the arts in Chicago, had offered a $1 million matching grant as a springboard to financing the $3 million organ project.

Thanks to widespread support from so many of you we were able to share in July the news that we were already halfway to that goal. Then on September 23, 2012, we were able to celebrate that with gratitude for a generous gift from Edie and Ed Andrew we have successfully reached the $3 million goal and will indeed have a rebuilt organ.

In recognition of the Andrews’ longtime support of Fourth Church music programs—including not only their gift to the organ but also their launching and endowing Tower Brass as an ensemble of Fourth Church—the rebuilt organ will be named the Edith G. and Edward J. Andrew Pipe Organ.

The Boards of Fourth Church subsequently approved our beginning to move forward with the rebuilding project. At the recommendation of the Organ Task Force, which visited and studied pipe organs around the country and considered multiple builders, a contract has been signed with Quimby Pipe Organs to handle the rebuild. Quimby is arguably the foremost pipe organ expert and rebuilder in the country.

In addition, U.S. Equities has been engaged to provide project management. U. S. Equities is a long-time Fourth Church partner, having most recently served as project manager for planning and construction of the Gratz Center. The U. S. Equities team will oversee scheduling, sequencing, site preparation, and the various subcontractors (architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical) necessary to complete the work.


The project timeline has us using the current organ until the summer of 2014 and completing the rebuilt organ in late 2015.

The design and preparation phase—which includes purchasing material, aging wood, and constructing components such as wind chests, pipes, and the console—is underway.

The current organ is scheduled to be removed in June 2014. We will use an electronic organ—as we did during the Sanctuary renovations back in 2006—during what will be twelve to eighteen months of organ rebuilding and installation work, with the hope of completing work and dedicating the rebuilt pipe organ in late-November 2015.

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Organ Staff

John W. W. Sherer
Organist and Director of Music

Thomas Gouwens
Associate Organist

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For more information about the organ at Fourth Presbyterian Church, contact John Sherer, Organist and Director of Music (312.981.3592).