This behind-the-scenes video tour of the Andrew Pipe Organ has amassed more than 5 million views on YouTube.
The Andrew Pipe Organ
About the Organ
The Edith G. and Edward J. Andrew Pipe Organ, built by Quimby Organ Company, is an American symphonic organ with a great deal of influence from the British organ builders T. C. Lewis and Henry Willis.
The instrument includes delicate symphonic colors, including a harp, English horn, and many lush string tones, as well as zymbelsterns (bells) and chimes. Pairing that with its warm foundation tones and expansive color, the Andrew Pipe Organ is able to play any organ literature. It is particularly well suited, however, to accompanying congregational singing and choir anthems, inspiring people and bringing them closer to God with expressions of majesty, sorrow, and joy.
Its console is the only organ in Chicago — and one of the few in all of the U.S. — to have five manuals (keyboards). These keyboards, along with the pedals, control the nine divisions of the organ. These are made up of 143 ranks and 8,343 pipes, making the Andrew Organ the largest pipe organ not only in Chicago but throughout the Midwest. The combination action has 10,000 memory levels.
Truly Surrounding Sound
The main pipe chamber is located on the south side of the Chancel. The Positive division is in the North Balcony, and the Antiphonal division is located in the back of the Sanctuary, the east window. The blower is in the basement.
In order to make it easier for the sound from the pipes in the south chamber to be heard (the walls of the pipe chamber are 29 inches thick!) and in preparation for the installation of the Andrew Pipe Organ, in 2015 a portion of the west wall of the South Balcony was opened to the pipe chamber behind to make a new tonal.
That opening is approximately five feet high by eight feet long but is not visible in the room, since it is behind the first arch in the South Balcony. The bottom six murals in this arch were carefully removed and have been replaced with digitally produced replicas of the mural images, printed on a screen much like the fabric over a stereo speaker. This screen allows the sound to pass through.
(Architectural preservationists oversaw the removal of the original mural sections. The restored mural canvases are now displayed in the north area of the Commons, affording a “ground level” view of the panels that once were far overhead.)
A Timeline of the Construction
Prior to the work on the pipe chambers, in August 2014 the previous Fourth Church organ, the 1971 Aeolian-Skinner Organ, Opus 1516, was removed and sent to the Quimby Organ Company in Warrensburg, Missouri, where pipes were cleaned and repaired and new ones were hand made. (The design and preparation phase — which included purchasing material, aging wood, and constructing components such as wind chests, pipes, and the console — had begun in late 2012.)
A year after the pipes were removed the finished pipes were delivered to Fourth Church in early August 2015 to begin the installation process, with a new console hoisted into the choir loft on November 11, 2015.
That console was made near St. Louis by Jim Schmidt, and the electronic control mechanisms and combination action for the organ were made in Atlanta by the Virtuoso Company.
Named in recognition of Edie and Ed Andrew’s longtime support of Fourth Church music programs, the Andrew Pipe Organ was dedicated to the glory of God on Sunday, November 22, 2015, the first day it was used to lead worship. Each November a special organ concert marks the anniversary of that dedication.
For more information about the organ at Fourth Presbyterian Church, contact John Sherer, Organist and Director of Music (312.981.3592).