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The State of the Hammes-Foxe Pipe Organ at Plymouth

The State of the Hammes-Foxe Pipe Organ at Plymouth

by Larry Wheelock

The organ at Plymouth Church makes a handsome architectural statement in the front of the sanctuary, providing a splendid and visually engaging backdrop for the cross. Installed in 1983 as Opus 8 of the Hammes-Foxe firm from Butler WI, the instrument was enlarged in 1991 by Foley-Biggers Organ Service. The strong and clean lines of the façade project solidity and purpose. How surprising it was, then, to discover that behind the lovely façade lies a wretched tangle of wires and an instrument which has suffered insult after insult over its 36 years of service. The cumulative effect of this has resulted in an instrument which is no longer reliable and which requires organists to create work-arounds to compensate for the problems and to make it sound as good as possible. The possibilities for viable work-arounds are getting fewer as the instrument deteriorates and even skilled organists cannot camouflage the problems. 

The issues include:

·        A failing and poorly-wired electrical system (which no longer conforms to standard wiring-code)
·        An outdated control and combination system (do you remember what computer you had in 1981?)
·        Pipes which have been mangled and mis-shaped over the years.
·        Poorly-laid-out additions and equipment making service nearly impossible.

These problems manifest as odd-sounding or dead notes, combination-pistons which may-or-may-not work as expected and insurmountable tuning problems. 

My late predecessor, Mary Schuett, became aware of the deteriorating condition of the organ and engaged David Beyer of Scott Ridel and Associates of Milwaukee to do a technical assessment of the instrument. The report was dismaying. These photos illustrate some of their findings. 

This report, along with the observations of our organists make it clear that it is time to address these issues if the organ is to continue to support the fine musical ministry of Plymouth Church. In order to start the process, Larry Wheelock has made contact with several organ-builders to ask them for their assessment of the condition of the instrument and to present possible solutions for the problems including anticipated expenses involved. Conversation with these firms continues so that very soon a plan of action can be presented to the congregation including all viable options. As we prepare to suggest a plan-of-action, feel free to approach Donna or Larry with questions about the necessity of action and progress of the plans so far. Look for further communication on this important subject.

mangled pipes

poor wiring

duct tape support for slider motors