Organ Façade: Waiting for glue to dry…

…is about as exciting as watching paint dry. But the flip side is that the main frame of the façade is together!


My brother-in-law and I got quite a bit accomplished the other day. We finished chiseling out all the spots where the detailed lattice work will go, and were able to glue up the main frame. It was not all fun and games though, as we started gluing and squaring up the frame we realized (in good time) that we had the far right uprights flipped with the far left! It was one of those “Oh SH–!!!” moments, when I realized the huge mistake we had made. Some of the pieces needed a little convincing with a mallet to come apart but we were able to salvage the project and get it glued up correctly.

It really feels like we’re getting somewhere with this, now that we’ve got some of this project glued together. The next step is to start in on the decorative lattice work that will occupy the seven openings of this frame. Then we need to build the “alcove” where the music desk will go. After that, the two side panels that will go from floor to nearly the ceiling when finished.

When you put it in those terms it sounds like we’re nearly done, we’re not. However, this progress has made my brother-in-law quite anxious to get cracking on this. I think he just hates having unfinished projects lying around. I can’t say I blame him. I have to figure out some final dimensions so he can get some things prepared ahead of time for the next time I come down and work.

I’m really proud of how this whole thing is turning out, with much help and thanks to my brother-in-law!

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It’s a start!


Well. It’s no pipe organ. But it’s a start!

Yesterday in class I completed my third and final project of the class, my first attempt at dovetails. It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight weeks since starting this adventure, one that I had a bit of mixed feelings about. I have been so certain of my desire to be involved in pipe organ building, but equally as apprehensive about whether or not I’d be able to learn the skill of woodworking I’d need to pursue this dream. As this class comes to a close I think God has given me an answer to that! The answer is, yes, I can learn this stuff. And not only that, I’m finding it very enjoyable!

Admittedly, I’m somewhat relieved. My lack of woodworking skills were on full display back in an interview I had this past October (a factor that I feel is making any organ builder stop and hesitate about me, and rightly so). But, I decided to do something about it. This first class is a very tiny step towards doing something about it. I didn’t build much, but I learned a whole ton.

Another thing I found validating about the last eight weeks, is something I kind of suspected all along–that my background in art/design would be an advantage. Maybe more the design background. In some ways the similarities of laying out a project in wood and building a page layout for my church’s newsletter are greater than I thought. I think that has been a huge contributing factor to my enjoyment of this class!


It was also validating to hear my instructors say how well I’m doing in the class. They’ve been impressed with the results of my work, which gives me a confidence boost as well. Everything pictured above was made with hand tools, with the exception of using a power drill, twice. And given this was the first time I’ve done some joint work (by hand) and all, I have surprised myself. This class has been very rewarding.


I still long to find a job with an organ builder. And I still firmly believe that is the direction God is slowly working me in. But it’s taking lots and lots of time. And I’m impatient. I have to keep reminding myself that the skills and things I’m learning now, will only help me in realizing my dream. And perhaps this is not something to be rushed.

Next week is the last session of the “101” course. We’ll mainly be setting down the groundwork for the “102” course in which I’m going to be building a small side-table, with much of the focus being on mortise and tenon joinery, as well as an introduction to the various shop machinery to be used in that and future classes. (You should see all the wonderful tools this shop has!) I plan on taking the “103,” the cabinetry class, and possibly the more advanced hand tool class as well. This of course, all assumes we have adequate funds to do so. But I’ve been told we’ll make it work!

I’m really looking forward to continuing this new education. It’s been fun and looks like it’s going to be even more fun! I just pray that in the end, this was all worth the time and money we’ve invested! My hope is once I have a few more substantial projects built, it will be a fair demonstration to any organ builder I talk to that A) I really am serious about this, and B) I CAN learn this stuff.

Oh, and if you were wondering. My “façade” project is coming along. Very very slowly. But here’s a picture of some of the progress I made the last time I was in Indiana!




Good Question…

The other day I posted this on Facebook:

In 2003 I started to build my organ music collection. At that time I had roughly 6 discs of organ music. Today, I splurged and purchased my 400th disc of organ music! Now I just have to wait for it to come… from France…

One of my friends responded with a couple of really good questions. And with his permission I will tackle them here.

He wrote:

 If you were stranded on a desert island and had a solar-powered CD player… but could only have one CD. Which would it be?

And, a similar question… but not necessarily the same… which of your CDs is your favorite?

Now, he didn’t specify that if it would have to be an organ CD–after all, my music collection also contains a fair number of soundtracks and classical music albums and a few odds and ends. There’s also a number of albums in my collection that contain more than one disc in them. Amanda got me a box set of the complete works of Josef Rheinberger that contains 12 discs. Then there’s one of the “crown jewels” of my collection, a 19 disc set of the works of J.S. Bach recorded on Silberman organs, on the Aeolus label…

But for the sake of this organ blog, I’m going to assume that my friend meant I had to choose organ music. However, I am going to allow the possibility to cheat slightly in that I will allow a CD set, as long as there are no more than 3 discs in it.

So! If I was stranded on a desert island and could only have one organ album (3 discs or less), which would it be?

Long Answer:

I hate the question, because there are so many good recordings of really good organ music out there. I only own a minute fraction of the many albums available. But if I had to be stuck with one album for my forseeable future I think I would want an album that shows a variety of the organ music that has been written out there.

That said…
Those of you who know me and read this blog, know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the French Romantic School of organ music as personified by organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, and composers such as Charles-Marie Widor, César Franck and Louis Vierne, among many others. Much of that love has to do with the French Romantic Organ itself. I love the sound they produce. Those organs are capable of a wide variety of colors and dynamics, from soft string-like stops all the way to the majestic tutti of full organ! In those terms, which Cavaillé-Coll is my favorite?

It’s really a toss-up between the large grand instrument at St. Sulpice, Paris, and the stunning organ at St. Ouen, Rouen. The former is a great synthesis of the French Classical style with elements of Cavaillé-Coll’s romantic aesthetics, the result of which is a great instrument from which a wide range of the repertoire can be easily rendered. Some of my best recordings of the St. Sulpice organ, are ones that have a wide varied program featuring music from a wide range of regions and time. The latter, St. Ouen, I have many recordings of. This instrument is the pinnacle of Cavaillé-Coll’s symphonic ideal. That, combined with the rich acoustics of the large gothic building, make for one of the marriages of instrument/building that I’ve ever encountered on disc.

ohscatalog_2217_120062197With the St. Sulpice organ I could easily narrow the choices down to a few, preferably an album that contains a varied repertoire. One of the most ideal for that is a recording by Sophie-Véronique Choplin. It contains works by Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Jeanne Demessieux, and an improvisation by Choplin. The album is varied enough to be satisfying as mush the music isn’t exclusive to France. It also shows off the capabilities of the instrument quite well…

jav-inc_2219_6279364If I went the St. Ouen route there are a number of excellent recordings to choose from. But perhaps the best for the stranded island deal would be a recording of organist Daniel Roth (incidentally, he is titular organist of St. Sulpice), recorded by one of the best recording engineers out there, Christoph Frommen (owner of the Aeolus recording label). Though the disc features all French music, it’s such an amazing recording of that instrument and space that it would probably surpass any other album I could come up with. (Again, keep in mind, this is one of the most recorded instruments in my CD collection.)

The best part of all this is the albums I’ve singled out today may not be the same albums I would single out tomorrow!

Short Answer:
I hope I never have to choose.
Hopefully I’ll get stranded with my iPod and I wouldn’t have to choose! 😉

As to the other question: Which CD is my favorite?

I seriously cannot choose. I just can’t. I have so many treasures among my collection that it is so very hard to choose any one single album to hold out above any other. I know that really doesn’t answer the question, but it’s true. There’s also the added complication of what I’m in the mood for. What was my favorite album this month may not be a few months from now. What I may have thought my favorite a few years ago will not be a few years from now…

In the meantime I just enjoy the 399 discs that I own! (Still waiting for #400 to ship from France!)