Pulling Out All The Stops!!!!
A campaign for music, worship, and outreach at First Lutheran Church.
On a pipe organ, each rank (set) of pipes has a unique sound. Some organs have several dozen and even hundreds of ranks. The organist chooses what ranks to blend to create the various sounds you hear. Before electrical controls, the stops were bars next to the keyboard that had to be pulled out to turn the stop on.
“Pull out all the stops” meant to play the organ with the most full and complete sound possible. Today, it means making a great effort to achieve something. We are calling this campaign “Pulling Out All The Stops” because we are celebrating our return to life together by joining in to make a great effort, committing to renew our worship life with a new organ.
This page will have information about the project, videos of music played on the organ we have selected or instruments very similar to it, and ongoing Q&A based on things people ask. The committee has worked for months and learned a great deal through our work that we are happy to share. We learned so much that we don’t always remember what we didn’t know a few months back. So please ask if you don’t understand something because we had to learn as well and want to have everyone as excited as we are.
How To Give
When you have read about this project and are ready to make a gift to this exciting campaign, you can do so by bringing or mailing a check to the church at the address below, or by giving online through our secure online giving portal at this link.
If you wish to make a gift in memory or honor of someone, please add a note about that with your check. There will be no donor nameplates on the organ, but gifts towards that fund will be recorded in our Memorial Book as per our Memorial Gift Policy. (Giving thermometer updated on June 9th)
Checks can be mailed to:
First Lutheran Church
130 W. Holland Street
San Marcos, TX 78666
The Hofmann Organ
Otto Hofman was born in Kyle, and lived all of his life in central Texas. His first organ was at the German Baptist Church in Kyle, now known as Immanuel Baptist. Hofmann was a master at his craft, and made several advancements in the American style of pipe organs. When he built our organ he was already building what are still some of the largest pipe organs in South Texas and was president of the International Society of Organ Builders, the first American to hold that position.
But along with those accomplishments, Otto had a commitment to small churches and believed he should help any church that wanted an organ to make that happen. Most builders would not have done this. Unlike what is available today, the technology of the day had produced electronic organs, but they did not sound good and did not last. Hoffman knew that these did not fill the needs of churches to have good music for praising God. That commitment is faithful, because an electronic organ at that cost at that time would never have served as well and certainly not as long. To do this, Hofmann built a lot of very small organs, where each pipe does as much as it possibly can, doing double duty you could say. These were very much starter organs, meant to be added on to.
What Otto Hofmann provided for us is an excellent organ, and a story of good stewardship and commitment to good worship. The organ has served us so well is a testament to Hofmann’s commitment to excellence even for small congregations. This organ and the commitment and stewardship it represents is a special instrument worthy of preserving. That has been our guiding principle from the start.
Why a new organ?
When refering to a pipe organ, there are two principal parts. The pipes, cabinet, and all the many other parts that actually make the sound are often referred to as ‘the organ’ itself. The other primary part is the console, which contains the controls and keyboards. In some organs (particularly older mechanical instruments) these are built in one piece. But in most organs that use electrical connections between the keys and the pipes they are separate. Ours is the second type. The organ (pipes etc.) itself is in great shape, the pipes and their cabinet and mechanical operation last for many decades with proper care. But the console does not have the same lifetime. At 43 years old, it is failing. Because the controls are not working properly the organ now has several stops that will not play. It is basically down to two settings: loud and soft. The nuance and flexibility of sound is gone. Our faithful organist has worked with it, tinkered and found ways to make it sound as good as it can. But the time has come to do something about it.
We all know how much technology has changed since the 1970s. Organs too have done the same. The electronic organ that was unacceptable to Otto Hofmann has come a long way. Their digital sound is indistinguishable from real pipes. And they can now work with pipes to preserve the existing organ, meaning the new organ will have at its center the 1979 pipework played as it was before the console began to fail. This is called a “hybrid organ”, meaning digital voices combine with physical windblown pipes. For us, this will fill out the full vision for the organ with the additional ranks that were never added, now done in a quality that is indistinguishable from real pipes. In addition, it will bring in additional musical options that would never be possible because that many pipes simply would not fit in our space, or they are sounds like chimes or bells and instruments not made by pipes at all!
What organ are we getting?
After looking at multiple organ companies and designs, the organ committee is recommending a Rodgers Imagine 351-D. (Click for a full description from Rodgers) It is an excellent organ, with 323 tone colors and state of the art technology to allow for many different styles of music. It also has recording capabilities and will play back as if the organist is live, which could be helpful for a number of situations. The options it offers are nearly endless, including ways that simplify playing for less experienced musicians. It is a great match for our worship style and will open up amazing creative options for our superb music team.
The following is a video from Rodgers about this particular line of organs.
Beyond Sunday Worship
Aside from our Sunday services, the Rodgers / Hoffman hybrid will be an excellent instrument for concert repertoire. With the university and other musical groups in town, we have the opportunity to use it as a tool for community outreach. We have already had some limited partnerships with Texas State related to music and we want to grow that connection. The SMART Orchestra is already a partner for their rehearsals as well as recitals. We are in conversation about their participation in the dedication of our new organ when that time comes. With this project we have an opportunity to create an instrument and a space that makes outreach to the community more possible than ever with music.
What will it sound like?
On their youtube channel, Rodgers Instruments has several videos of the organ in a variety of styles, all excellent professional recording. But this video is not recorded for a marketing campaign, but at a dedication service. It shows a creative yet very singable hymn accompaniment in a Lutheran setting. It is the same organ we will have, other than using a different style of stop controls. Ours will have knobs that push or pull, this one has tab switches. This does not change the sound, only the organist’s way of selecting pitches. It is also a hybrid organ, a digital organ that was set up to compliment and control existing pipework.
You can find many more videos with some excellent music at https://www.youtube.com/user/RodgersOrgans
Worship Space Changes
With the new organ technology, the organ console can sit anywhere, because everything is driven by small cables. Placing the organ console downstairs is the best musically. To play well together, musicians need to be close to one another. Putting the organ downstairs also makes it possible to move it towards a center location for recital and concert performances.
Our choir is excellent. But we also are an older congregation. The choir has not sung from the balcony on a regular basis for a number of years. When our choir sings downstairs it has been in a piecemeal fashion. They are not able to stand in a proper formation. To do that, we will need to remove pews. The handbell choir will also have room for their tables. Our other instrumentalists and vocalists who lead singing in worship are also very limited in regards to space. We will work to change this space to better serve our worship and music needs while keeping it visually appealing and leaving the focus of the sanctuary on the chancel and altar.
In addition to the change of removing pews, there is significant wear to the building, mostly with the walls near the windows and the wall towards the centrum. The wallpaper has been sagging for years, and the blinds are well past their useful life. It is not a good first impression for new people. This overdue work needs to happen, particularly if we will have more happening there and more attention focused that way. This is the moment to do it. We are beginning to get costs for that, but it should not be exorbitant. Those could be paid from current maintenance budget or from any commitments to this campaign in excess of the cost of the organ itself.
Finances and timeline
The organ itself will cost $85,888. This includes the organ, speakers, and connecting to our pipes. We also recommend an additional $5,000 in the budget to cover any contingencies. The organ pipes and mechanics appear from the outside to be in great shape. But we are opening up a very complex 43 year old instrument. It could need more extensive repairs than the pipe connection labor charges will cover. If we do not use that money, it will go in to an organ maintenance fund.
From memorial funds that were designated to begin this project and some initial gifts as we began talking about it, we currently have $26,285. We also have $30,000 in pledges. We are well past halfway there! That means we will be able to sign the contract and lock in the current price after our congregational meeting. Once ordered, the organ should be ready in 3-4 months. We will have at least that long to pay the remaining balance, and our dealer has promised to work with us as we finish our campaign, including willingness to take payments over months. We believe that the support for our worship life will easily close this final $34,000 gap. (Thermometer updated on October 1)
Pastor Tim has had a great time learning about pipe organs, spending many late nights reading about them and how they are built and designed. The rest of the committee has also done a lot of research (though not as obsessive as Pastor). Our Rodgers representative, Andrew Maurais at Aethereal Church Organs of San Antonio can answer any question that the committee cannot and we talk regularly. So please ask and we will post any questions and answers here.