A History of the Wicks Pipe Organ, Op 6085
Expression through music has always been a vital part of worship to God.
(John R. DeWitt, 1987)
Second Presbyterian Church makes a very visual statement to all who enter her sanctuary that the worship of Almighty God is her sacred and ultimate purpose, to be done with excellence and awe. Nothing proclaims this truth so boldly as the magnificent pipe organ. Its history, like our church, is long and rich, spanning nearly six decades. With its many voices, this instrument praises the One True God. The solemnity and dignity, the excitement and passion it brings to each service and performance speaks of the many attributes of the Lord Almighty, the King of Creation.
Hear the Organ:
A Brief History
In 1952, the M.P. Möller Pipe Organ Company of Hagerstown, Maryland, constructed a three-manual, forty-four rank instrument for Second’s “new” worship space. It was installed in the shallow chambers on either side of the choir loft, making the instrument speak ‘into’ itself, and not out into the room. This organ was a gift of Mrs. Ida Norfleet Fuller in memory of her mother.
In 1987, the Wicks Organ Company built a new four-manual, 87-rank pipe organ, incorporating over thirty ranks of the existing Möller instrument. The organ specifications were Jeff Binford, Second’s church organist, Charles Mosley, tonal consultant, and Robert Capra, Wicks Company regional manager and builder of the organ. The organ is in the American Classic style, which means that it facilitates the playing of a wide range of classical literature (baroque, classical, Romantic, 20th century) as well as supporting the congregation and choir. Consistent with the previous design, the organ pipes were installed in chambers on the east and west sides of the choir loft, with the Great and Pedal divisions cantilevered in front of the chambers.
The sanctuary was renovated and expanded in 2002. This afforded the magnificent opportunity to enlarge and re-engineer the instrument and also to improve its acoustical placement in the room. Personnel from the Crump architectural firm, Kïrkegarard Acoustics, the Wicks Organ Company, together with Robert Capra and church organist Roger Lowther, worked tirelessly to capitalize on the organ’s prime acoustic environment. The organ was expanded to its present size of 96 ranks, making it the largest instrument in the city of Memphis. It is also one of the largest church instruments in the mid-South region. At present, there is room on the instrument for five additional ranks, and a large Antiphonal division in the back balcony with its own console
The console was built to standard specifications, complete with draw knobs, ivory keys, and over 5,000 pipes. To find a complete stop list of the organ, please see the Wicks Organ Company. In 2009, a cymbelstern was installed in the east side within the choir division chamber, a gift of Roger E. Fakes in memory of his wife.
There are five divisions total, three of which are ‘under expression,’ which means that volume is controlled and manipulated by shades:
- SWELL (Expression)
- CHOIR (Expression)
- SOLO (Expression)
There is also a midi system and an electronic memory with 99 levels, allowing the organist great freedom in setting and resetting pistons. The moveable console is on a hydraulic lift, which affords ease of movement in the chancel, and makes way for the large orchestras that often share its space for concerts and worship services. The blower for the organ is located downstairs in the basement, supplying pressurized wind to all three chambers.
The organ is a wind instrument, and its mighty voice summons the highest praises from the combined voices of congregation each Sabbath day. The Psalmist again exhorts God’s people, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
For questions or a private tour, please contact our organist, Samuel Metzger, at (901) 454-0034, ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.