The pipe organ of First Presbyterian Church is a fine instrument for leading congregational singing and playing service music. It is also flexible enough to accommodate most organ repertoire, and therefore can be used for recitals. It was built by Homer Blanchard in 1962.
Each pipe organ is unique. There is no other pipe organ exactly like this Blanchard organ, not even other Blanchard organs. It was designed specifically for our sanctuary. The design included decisions about how it should sound as well as how it should look. Even the pipes, though they start out like some of the pipes on other organs, are adjusted individually so they sound their best on this instrument in this room. That adjustment is called “voicing,” and every one of the 1,397 pipes had to be voiced so it sounds just right here in First Presbyterian Church. At least twice a year those 1,397 pipes also have to be tuned individually—obviously a much larger job than tuning a flute or even a piano.
The Blanchard organ has three manuals (keyboards) and a pedal board corresponding to the divisions of the instrument. Two of the divisions, the Swell and Choir, are enclosed, with vertical shades (like vertical blind slats) that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the volume. The pipes are in a chamber behind the choir loft. Because curtains screen the pipe chambers, the only visible part of the organ is the console, which is what the organist plays. As part of the renovation of the sanctuary, the organ console was placed on a moveable platform so it can be positioned optimally for worship, recitals, or musicals.
Some Facts about the Blanchard Organ
Built: 1962 by Homer D. Blanchard (Oberlin, Ohio).
Number of divisions: 4 (Swell, Great, Positiv, Pedal).
Number of registers (stops, or different sounds): 21.
Number of pipes: 1,397 (of which 134 are reeds and 1,263 are labial).
Largest pipes: about 16 feet long.
Smallest pipes: about 3/8 of an inch.
Lowest pitch: 3 octaves below middle C.
Highest pitch: almost 6 octaves above middle C (beyond the range of many people’s hearing).
Key Action: Electric, solid state with MIDI (converted in 2006).
Combination Action: Solid state, 8-level (added in 1996).
Homer Blanchard, the organ builder, established his own company after he had worked for a large American organ company, M. P. Moller (Hagerstown, MD). A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan, he received his M.A. (1934) and Ph.D. (1940) from Ohio State. He taught at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1937 through 1946. He also taught German at Ohio Wesleyan University from 1963 to 1977, and he was a founder of the Organ Historical Society. Mr. Blanchard built several other organs for central Ohio churches, including St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Delaware and The First Methodist Church in Marysville. He lived in Delaware from 1963 until his death in 1988.