Farrand and Votey Organ Installed in Ransdell Chapel

Farrand and Votey Organ Installed in Ransdell Chapel

Farrand and Votey Organ Installed in Ransdell Chapel

Wesley Roberts

            A century-old slice of music history arrived on the campus of Campbellsville University in early 2007 when a Farrand and Votey Organ was moved from Nashville, Tennessee, to the George W. and Marie T. Ransdell Chapel.  The organ was built in 1894 for Christ Church in downtown Nashville, as a modest instrument of approximately fifteen ranks.1  Over the course of many years it has been rebuilt and enlarged to its present size of 51 ranks and 3,014 pipes.  That Campbellsville University could acquire such a treasure was in itself a miracle, considering few universities nowadays are in a financial position to afford an organ of this size.  But the miracle of a pipe organ is that it can be rebuilt and enlarged for much less expense than the purchase of a new instrument.  Such would be the story of Farrand and Votey's pioneering instrument from the 1890's.

            At the time Christ Church contracted with Farrand and Votey for an organ in June 1894, the church was moving into a new sanctuary and desirous of a fine instrument for its new facility.  William R. Farrand (1854-1930) and Edwin Scott Votey (1856-1931) worked for Whitney Organ Company in Detroit and when Whitney retired in 1887, the two joined to establish their own company.  The company was soon expanded through the acquisitions of two small organ building firms, Granville Wood (1890) and Roosevelt (1892).  Always seeking new innovations, Farrand and Votey employed the most modern construction techniques of the time, using several recent developments patented by Roosevelt and a few of their own.  Their technique paid off handsomely, for they quickly reached national attention with important installations in key locations across the United States.  At the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, they exhibited two organs, including a four-manual instrument in Festival Hall.  Undoubtedly, these accomplishments attracted the attention of Christ Church, as it did others.2

            Farrand and Votey's new organ for Christ Church was a three-manual instrument of approximately fifteen ranks.  It was played for the first time during the opening services for the new building on Sunday, December 16, 1894.  The organist was accompanied by a quartette plus a “chorus choir” of three ladies and fourteen men.  The organ used the newly developed electro-pneumatic action, a revolutionary technique for the time, and had separate chests for each stop with individual valves for every pipe.  Its keyboard was attached to the instrument, as in tracker actions, although the original plans had called for it to be set across the chancel in a console.  The organ was considered the best to be obtained for the time and was the only one of its kind in southeastern United States.  As might be imagined, it quickly became a source of pride for the church and city.

            The new instrument drew its electrical power from a series of four large batteries for key action and obtained wind pressure from a water pump.  The batteries were expensive to maintain and proved to be unreliable.  Little to no maintenance seems to have taken place during the first dozen years.  During this period, there were no fewer than seven different organists.  In 1906, Arthur Henkel was hired as organist/choirmaster, and entrusted to the care of the instrument.  A committee was formed and before the end of the year, Orla D. Allen, a builder who had been with Farrand and Votey, was contracted to restore the instrument.  Allen installed a new electrical Holtzer Cabot rotary transformer, or motor-generator for key action and a Ross hydraulic engine for wind pressure.  He releathered the organ, rebuilt much of the internal working parts of the console, and moved the latter across the chancel, as the original plans detailed.  The work took six months and was said to be thorough and complete in church documents.

            In the years to follow the organ served as the principal ‘music’ vehicle for worship services and concerts.  Henkel gave concerts on the new instrument to demonstrate its capabilities.  One such concert program dated December 5, 1909, included J. S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Boëllmann's Suite Gothique, as well as lesser known works by G. M. Dethier, Edwin Lemare, and Edward d'Evry.

            A set of chimes with twenty bells was presented for the organ by Jane Washington Ewing in memory of her husband Felix Grundy Ewing in 1936.  They were dedicated and heard for the first time on October 28, 1936.3  Later, a Schulmerich carillon was given by Louise Bransford McGavock in memory of her parents William Settle and Noda McGavock Bransford in late 1944.  With no place to install the gift, a front tower for the church was constructed in 1947 and the carillon was installed therein.4

            By 1940, Henkel had noted to the church that the relays between the console and the organ had deteriorated to the point that repairs were needed.5  Pilcher Organ Company from Louisville, Kentucky, was engaged the same year to install a new console (with relays built inside) and seven new ranks.  Company records show that by the time work was complete, Pilcher had added nine new ranks.  These consisted of a Gemshorn 8' on the Great; Vox Celeste 8', Aeoline 8', and Trompette 8' on the Swell; Flute Celeste 8' and Unda Maris 8' on the Choir; and a Flute 8', Octave 8', and Super Octave 4' in the Pedals.  In addition, three ranks were revoiced: the Trumpet 8' (Great), Oboe 8', and Vox Humana 8' (Swell); and the Clarinet 8' (Choir) was given new bass.  By the time work was finished in September 1940, the organ was said to have been enlarged to 2,438 pipes.6  Pilcher's fee for these additions and service was $7,298.7

            Further expansion of the organ began to be discussed after World War II and a new console was installed by Möller Organ Company in 1955.  This console, the third for the organ, is still in use today. Tonal improvements were made a few years later in 1959.

            Henkel continued service at Christ Church until his retirement in 1959.  He had served a total of fifty-three years as organist/choirmaster.  In honor of his ministry, the church dedicated the organ to Henkel upon his retirement.  He was succeeded by Peter Fyfe, who served in the same capacity for the next thirty-five years, until 1994.8  During Fyfe's years of service many fine musicians from across the country came to Nashville and played the organ in either church services or concerts, including the American composer and organist Leo Sowerby, John Scott (organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London), and Fred Swann, among others.  An unusual event was the first performance of a Mass for Moog synthesizer and organ given in Christ Church by Nashvillian Gregory Woolf in the early 1970's.9

            In 1967, Fyfe and Christ Church turned to A. W. Brandt and Company of Columbus, Ohio, for extensive work releathering much of the instrument and repairing pneumatics and pipe boards.  An extensive contract detailing the operation was signed in September for the sum of $16,535. The choir organ was expanded in a second agreement with Brandt two months later which called for the installation of six new stops in the choir and one in the great.  Additions in the choir included a new Rohrflute 8' (replacing the Concert Flute 8'), Spitz Principal 4' (replacing the Rohrflute 4'), Nazard 2⅔ (replacing the Flute Celeste 8'), Blockflute 2' (replacing the Harmonic Piccolo 2'), Cymbal III (replacing the Geigen Principal 8'), and Krumhorn 8' (replacing the Clarinet 8').  A new Gedeckt 8' (replacing the Doppel Flute 8') was placed in the Great.  The total cost for these additions was $6,730.

            The maintenance and care of the organ was entrusted to Dennis Milnar in 1968 and has remained with him and Milnar Organ Company to the present day.10  A newcomer to Nashville from upstate New York, Milnar soon established his own company, and developed a business which has serviced organs throughout Tennessee and in surrounding states.  Under Milnar's guidance, a new Tierce 13/5 was added to the Choir in 1974.  Additional work was done on the organ throughout the 1980's, including releathering the console pneumatics in 1981, converting the Double Open Diapason to a 32' Bourdon in 1984, releathering the wind chests in 1987-88, and installing a Scharf III, Trombone 32', and other stops in 1989.  The expression machines were releathered in 1991.

            While many of these changes were being made to the organ, discussion within Christ Church began to develop following World War II on the placement of important items within the  chancel.  Those concerned with liturgical renewal suggested the baptismal font, pulpit, and altar of the church be brought forward from the back wall to the front of the chancel for closer contact with the congregation.  Similarly, efforts to study the possibility of placing the organ in the balcony began during the 1960's after Peter Fyfe had been organist for several years, but there was never a coordinated effort to any of these ideas until after 1980, when Rev. Tom Ward became rector.  Ward enthusiastically supported changes in the liturgy laid out in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and it was under his encouragement that church leaders studied and retained a liturgical consultant to suggest changes.  A new design was approved in 1990 which called for the altar table, with adjoining pulpit and baptismal font, to be moved close to the front of the chancel.  These changes were completed in 1992 with the installation of a new altar.  Shortly thereafter, discussion turned more decidedly toward moving the organ and choir to the balcony, and plans began to be developed for this purpose.  As these plans developed, various organ consultants agreed that the Farrand and Votey could not satisfactorily be reworked and installed in the balcony.  Consequently, the decision was made to purchase a new organ rather than move the existing instrument to the balcony. Renovation of the balcony for this purpose was completed in 2003 and an impressive 60-rank Lively-Fulcher organ was installed.  The new organ was played for the first time on June 1, 2003, by church organist Michael Velting.11

            With these changes complete, the church no longer needed its Farrand and Votey organ and placed it for sale.  Along the same time, the initial stages for designing the new Ransdell Chapel for Campbellsville University were put into place.  Upon learning of the availability of the Farrand and Votey organ in October 2003, University Organist Nevalyn Moore and Wesley Roberts approached University President Michael Carter and received permission to investigate the possibility of acquiring the instrument for the new chapel.  As they visited the church and played the organ, they realized that the organ would serve well as both a service organ to support the University's Chapel services, and a concert organ to support the academic program.  Upon Moore’s and Roberts' recommendation, with the assistance of Dennis Milnar, the organ was purchased for $30,000.  The University then engaged Milnar Organ Company to convert the console to solid state technology, rebuild, redesign, move, and install the instrument in Ransdell Chapel.

            The  purchase  of  the  organ at  the  early  stages  of  design  for Ransdell Chapel enabled architects to provide adequate space and facilities to house the instrument.  Ground breaking for the Chapel was on October 25, 2005 (see related article "The Ransdell Chapel Story" by Michael V. Carter, also in this issue).  Two additions were offered as gifts to the University for the organ.  James and Nevalyn Moore, Campbellsville University School of Music faculty, gave a Zimbelstern, and Maynard and Jewel Faye Roberts of Ocala, Florida, gave a full set of trompette-en-chamade.

            Excitement grew over the next year and a half as Ransdell Chapel was being built.  As construction neared completion, Milnar began delivery of the organ in February 2007, in a series of six weekly trips from their shop in Eagleville, Tennessee.  The initial delivery on February 20 brought many of the largest parts of the organ, including the huge wooden Sub Bourdon pipes and wind chests.  Students and faculty joined the Milnar crew in unloading its precious cargo from week to week as pipes and equipment arrived.12  The Central Kentucky News Journal featured a front-page story on the organ in its April 5, 2007 issue.

            The installation was completed in time for the dedication of Ransdell Chapel on April 18, 2007. University Organist Nevalyn Moore was at the console for the momentous occasion.  Later in the summer, the trompette-en-chamade arrived and was installed in the rear of the Chapel for antiphonal effect.  The Chapel was also equipped with a Bechstein concert grand piano built in 2002, and a new Yamaha upright piano in an adjoining class/rehearsal  room.  Both instruments were gifts by friends of the University.

            The organ was formally dedicated in a recital by Nevalyn Moore on September 4, 2007.  On the program were selections by Albert Travis, Johann Sebastian Bach, Gordon Young, James Moore, Jean Langlais, and Charles Marie Widor.  The organ has since come to be admired in its new setting for its visual and musical beauty, and treasured for its capabilities and rich heritage.

Christ Church Cathedral
Specifications of the Original Farrand and Votey Organ13

 Great Organ                                                  Choir Organ

16            *Double Open Diapason                   8  Geigen Principal
8              Open Diapason                                  8  Dolce
8              Viola de Gamba                                8  Concert Floete
8               Doppel Floete                                  4   Rohr Floete
4               Octave                                              2   Piccolo Harmonique
2 ⅔           Octave Quint                                    8   Clarinet
2               Super Octave
3  ranks    *Mixture                                        Pedal  Organ
4               Trumpet
                                                                          16 Open Diapason
Swell  Organ                                                     16  Bourdon
                                                                            8  Violoncello
16             Bourdon
8               Open Diapason                             
8               Salicional
8               Stopped Diapason                         Great to Pedal
8               Gemshorn                                      Swell to Pedal
4               Flute Harmonique                         Choir to Pedal
? ranks     Cornet                                            Swell to Great Sub Octaves
8               Oboe                                              Swell to Great Unison
8               *Vox Humana                               Swell to Great Super Octaves
                 Tremolo                                         Great Octaves
                                                                        Choir to Great Unison 
                                                                        Swell to Choir
*To be added later.                                         Swell Octaves

Ransdell Chapel
Farrand and Votey Organ
Redesigned and Rebuilt by Milnar Organ Company, 2007

Pedal                                                               Great

32             Sub Bourdon                                  16    Quintaton
16             Principal                                           8     Open Diapason
16             Quintaton                                          8    Gedeckt
16             Bourdon                                            8    Gemshorn
8               Octave                                               4    Octave
8               Flute                                                  4     Koppel Flute
8               Cello                                                 2 ⅔  Twelfth
4                Super Octave                                   2      Fifteenth
32             Trombone                                         V     Fourniture
16             Trombone                                         8      Trumpet
8               Trumpet                                            III    Scharf
4               Clarion                                              8      Trumpet en Chamade
                 MIDI to Pedal                                           Unison Off
                                                                                   Great 16
Swell                                                                          Great 4
8               Trumpet en Chamade                               MIDI to Great
8               Open Diapason        
8               Stopped Diapason
8               Salicional                                         
8               Aeoline                                             8     Rohrflute
8               Vox Celeste                                      8     Dolce
4               Flute Harmonic                                8     Unda Maris
4               Gemshorn                                        4      Spitz Princpal
2               Principal                                          2 ⅔  Nazard
III             Plein Jeu                                          2      Blockflute
II              Sesquialtera                                     1 3/5Tierce
16             Contra Fagotto                                III     Cymbel
8               Trompette                                       8       Krummhorn
8               Oboe                                               8       Trumpet en Chamade
4               Clarion                                                     (Old Gt. spec. 8 Trumpet)
                 Tremolo                                                   Tremolo
                 Unison Off                                               Unison Off
                 Swell 16                                                   Choir 16
                 Swell 4                                                     Choir 4
                 MIDI to Swell                                          MIDI to Choir

Moore Zimbelstern

Couplers                                                       Pistons

Great to Pedal 8, 4                                       Generals: Thumb 1-6 & Toe 1-9
Swell to Pedal 8, 4                                       Swell: Thumb 1-6
Choir to Pedal 8, 4                                       Great: Thumb 1-6
Swell to Great 16, 8, 4                                 Choir: Thumb 1-6
Choir to Great 16, 8, 4                                 Pedal: Thumb 1-6 & Toe 1-6
Swell to Choir 16, 8, 4                                 Swell to Pedal: Thumb & Toe
Great/Choir Transfer                                    Great to Pedal: Thumb & Toe Choir to Pedal: Thumb & Toe
                                                                      SFZ: Thumb & Toe
Expression                                                    Combination Adj.: Thumb
                                                                      Cancel: Thumb

Compass                                                        Memory System

61-note manual                                             Peterson ICS-4000
32- note pedal



1 In 1998, the church was consecrated a cathedral and its name changed to Christ Church Cathedral.

2 Including St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, which also purchased an organ from the firm in 1894. Farrand and Votey’s business was dissolved in 1898 and Votey Organ Company was established. No sooner was the new company established than it was purchased by Aeolian Organ Company. The changes were without doubt prompted by Votey’s success as the inventor of the pianola in 1895, and his desire to explore its commercial possibilities. For more details on these developments,  see  www.pianola.org/factsheets/votey.

3 This set of chimes is still in the organ today.

4 The carillon was played until the 1980's, when it was no longer possible to obtain replacement parts to maintain the equipment.

5 The author is indebted to Dennis Milnar for providing a copy of Henkel's brief history of the organ as well as another brief history by an unknown author. Both are undated but were undoubtedly written after 1940.

6 Nashville Banner, September 18, 1940. Erroneously, the newspaper reported that chimes had been added at this time.

7 The author is indebted to Jim Miller and Keith Norrington of Miller Pipe Organ for providing copies of pages from Pilcher's service ledger detailing the transaction. Unrelated, but as an interest to Campbellsvillians, is a separate entry on one of these pages that Pilcher had recently repaired the organ at First Methodist Church in Campbellsville following fire damage.

8 Peter Fyfe (b. 1923) also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Blair School of Music from 1964-2004. He was ably assisted by his wife Lois. The author graciously expresses appreciation to Peter Fyfe for regarding the organ and its history.

9 Woolf taught at Peabody College and was a neighbor of the Milnars. Their families became close friends, and after Woolf died in his early thirty's from cancer, the Milnars named their last son Gregory in his honor. Woolf's Mass was sung at Washington Cathedral for its second performance.

10 Milnar’s first service call was for a touch tuning. Company records show his fee was $20.

11 The author expresses appreciation to Fletch Coke, Christ Church
Historian, and Bill Coke, Chairman of the Organ Committee, for supplying details on changes which took place within the Sanctuary, as well as Michael Velting, for additional information on the history of the organ.

12 The entire Milnar team assisted in the initial delivery. They were: Dennis Milnar, Derek Milnar, Greg Milnar, Todd Milnar, Jeff Milnar, Gregory Milnar, Tim Murphy, Kevin McGrath, and Chris Brent.

13 Of the original ranks, the following are still in use in the organ: Open Diapason 8', Octave 4', Octave Quint (Twelfth 2⅔), Super Octave  (Fifteenth 2'), Mixture (Fourniture V), Salicional 8', Stopped Diapason 8', Gemshorn 4', Flute Harmonique 4', Cornet (Sesquialtera II), Oboe 8', Dolce 8', Bourdon 16', and Violoncello 8'.