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  • A Story of Organ Donation



    <A name=maincontent></A>Published: <SPAN class=date><FONT color=#660000 size=1>September 23, 2006 09:16 pm</FONT></SPAN> <SPAN> <SPAN></SPAN> </SPAN></P>
    <P class=storyheadline>Stephanie Salter: 'A Tale of Two Organ Donors'</P>


    'How a mysterious glitch on eBay delivered divine results'</P><FONT size=2><SPAN class=storycredit>By Stephanie Salter</SPAN>
    </FONT>
    <SPAN>The Tribune-Star</SPAN>



    <SPAN>TERRE HAUTE</SPAN><SPAN> —</SPAN> <SPAN>This story spans the Western Hemisphere. We will call it “A Tale of Two Organ Donors” — meaning organs of the musical persuasion, not the internal. The story’s subtitle is, “How a mysterious glitch on eBay delivered divine results.”

    The point of intersection is Terre Haute and the Central Presbyterian Church on North Seventh Street. The cast of characters includes the current and former organist for the church, a high school music teacher in South Dakota, and a unique North Carolina home developer who has given away 18 organs in as many years, mostly to people he’s never met.

    It all began in January.

    Gary Jenkins, Central Presbyterian’s organist, invited his friend and predecessor, Al Schmidt, to come over to Jenkins’ house to listen to his latest acquisition: a Johannus digital organ.

    Schmidt, a retired math professor from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, had presided over the keyboards at Central for 29 years until health problems — especially arthritis in his hands — ended his playing days.

    Some people might have responded with bitterness and withdrawal. Not Schmidt. Reflexively generous his whole life — he used to house Rose-Hulman students in his home and he gave organs to Hatfield Hall and White Chapel on the campus — he donated his home piano to White Chapel and his personal Allen digital organ to the church he regularly attends, Trinity Lutheran, on Poplar Street.

    After Schmidt heard what Jenkins’ electric Johannus could do — “I was simply blown away by its capabilities,” he says — he got another philanthropic itch. He decided to buy an even bigger Johannus, a Custom Rembrandt 497 with four tiers of keyboards, or “manuals,” and give that to Central Presbyterian.

    Johannus is based in Ede, Holland, about an hour’s drive from Amsterdam, but there are dealerships throughout the United States, including Gage Organ Center, in Bloomington, Ind., with which Central Presbyterian worked.

    The Rembrandt 497 cost Schmidt about $100,000 with an additional $20,000 in customized features specified by Jenkins.

    “We were fortunate. The Johannus company has a very busy production schedule,” said Central Presbyterian’s pastor, Lant Davis. “The Mormon Church ordered 400 organs from them. We got in before that big line began.”

    But what to do with the Terre Haute church’s perfectly good, 18-year-old Allen digital?

    The first company in the world to harness and refine digital technology for organs, Allen is in Macungie, Pa., about 45 miles north of Philadelphia. Their patented mechanisms helped break down strong prejudice amongst pipe organ purists against anything electronic and digital.

    Jenkins describes the 1988 Allen that sat until July in Central Presbyterian as “a Cadillac.”

    Bill Evans, the tenacious orchestra coordinator for the Rapid City, S.D., area school system, says the Allen “is in gorgeous shape” and “looks like a million dollars” in its new home in the auditorium of Stevenson High School.

    In July, Evans drove the biggest truck owned by his school district to Terre Haute to pick up the three-manual Allen. Accompanying him were the quarterback of Stevenson’s football team — “who is also a fine cellist” — and the quarterback’s mom.

    “That truck got seven miles to the gallon. We spent $1,200 on gas,” said Evans by telephone.

    It was money with which he gladly parted. Rapid City is serious about its public music education. According to Evans, nearly a third of its 15,000 students participate in the district’s various musical programs; one out of 10 plays a string instrument.

    Evans and school district officials had been prepared to spend a lot more than gas money to acquire a nice organ. A 58-year-old man who lives more than 1,800 miles away changed all that.

    Keith Wenger grew up in Dayton, Ohio but has made a great deal of money building upscale homes in Southport, N.C., a beach community that sits on the state’s southernmost shore, some 25 miles from Wilmington.

    For the past 18 years, Wenger has picked out a church or group in need of an organ, located one, bought it and given it away.

    “I’m a Christian and I have been very blessed,” Wenger said in a phone interview a few days ago. “I like to give back. With the tax deduction I get, it’s a win-win for everybody.”

    On the verge of early retirement, Wenger admits his vein of philanthropy is “a weird little niche.” He has given organs away all over the country, but rarely goes to meet the people who receive them. When he does, say, for a dedicatory concert, “I won’t let them introduce me. I don’t do this to get recognized.”

    Inevitably, Wenger said, the beneficiaries of his largesse wonder what the catch is.

    “It’s kind of like that old TV show, ‘The Millionaire,’” he said. “But people today, it’s very tough for them to accept a gift with no catches. It’s very hard for them to understand what’s going on.”

    It was especially hard for Evans in Rapid City. A veteran member of eBay, the gigantic California-based cyber trading site., Evans prepared for days for the May auction of Central Presbyterian’s Allen digital organ. (A church committee decided eBay was the best way to make money from the Allen and make room for the new Johannus.) When the bidding began, Evans was primed and ready.

    Slowly, he and another bidder got the field to themselves. In the last seconds, as bidding was about to close, Evans delivered an offer well over $15,000 with no time left for a counter by the other person. But to his horror, eBay rejected his final bid, saying he was not a verified member of the company’s auction system.

    “I’ve had verification for years. Something went wrong,” Evans said. “I was extremely upset. I had the organ. I was very depressed for a week. Then I appealed to the church.”

    Pastor Davis in Terre Haute was sympathetic. He gave Evans in South Dakota the phone number for the eBay auction winner, Wenger in North Carolina.

    “He (Evans) called me. He’d really wanted the organ,” said Wenger. “He said, ‘Can we buy it from you for $5,000 more than you paid?’ I said, ‘No. But I could just give it to you.’ He was like, ‘Are you on drugs or something?’”

    Evans said last week that reconstruction on Stevenson High’s auditorium has slowed down complete installation of the Allen, but he’s shooting for a debut concert in November.

    “This organ is so much more than we hoped for,” he said. “It couldn’t have ended up in a better spot.”

    The spot for which it originally was intended, another Midwestern church in need that Wenger heard about, will still get its free organ. It will just have to wait until next spring. That give-away will be No. 19, the organ donation Wenger says will be his last.

    “If I made it an even 20 I’d have to keep working for another two years, and I’m ready to play some golf and travel,” he said.

    As for Central Presbyterian, the church already presented its dedicatory concert for the new Johannus, Sept. 19. The internationally known organist, J. David Hart, did the honors for a full house.

    Now, Gary Jenkins is the keeper of the keys of the Rembrandt 497. If the Allen was a Cadillac, the Johannus organ is “a Rolls Royce,” he said.

    With the flick of a switch or the pull of any of the organ’s 89 stops, Jenkins can change the sound from old German-style Baroque to French Romantic to American Classic.

    Truly a digital wonder with pristine speakers tucked behind the pipes of a long-gone traditional organ at Central Presbyterian, the Johannus also can sound like a section of violins, a trumpet, a flute, a celesta, a timpani, choirs of women, men, children or all three, a campanile full of bells or hundreds of other combinations.

    Perhaps the most amazing element of all, according to Jenkins, is the Johannus’ ability to sound like the real thing.

    “I have played a great many pipe organs that have not sounded as realistic as this one sounds,” he said.

    A pipe organ that could produce such sound would have taken up the entire sanctuary, said pastor Davis, and cost $8 million. Fortunately, for Central Presbyterian and Al Schmidt, digital technology made that unnecessary.

    Last week, as Jenkins demonstrated some of the Johannus’ bells and whistles, Schmidt sat happily in his wheelchair in the church and listened. Pastor Davis began to count up the number of organs and pianos that Schmidt has given away. Then he and Jenkins began to imagine the hundreds of music students whose playing will be enabled by those donations, and the thousands of audience members who will enjoy the music.

    “Al can’t perform anymore,” said Davis, “but he’s continued playing the organ vicariously through so many people.”

    That number now includes all those kids in Rapid City, Davis was reminded. Without Schmidt’s donated Johannus, Central Presbyterian’s Allen organ never would have gone on eBay to be bought by Wenger and given away to teacher Evans.

    It may not be Bach, but a round of “It’s A Small World After All” seems in order.

    Stephanie Salter can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or [email protected].</SPAN></P><SPAN><a href="http://www...nticon.gif</a>[/img] <SPAN></SPAN> </SPAN>


    <FONT color=#003366>Click to discuss this story with other readers on our forums.</FONT>
    </P>

  • #2
    Re: A Story of Organ Donation



    <FONT style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" color=#ff0000>*Rant Alert*</FONT> -if you want to keep smiling maybe you should skip over this unusuallypassionate post (I'm usually not so grumpy).Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. [:|]</P>


    I know this article is supposed to be a warm &amp; fuzzy, feel-good, human interest story -but it has the opposite effect on me. Sorry, but to me this reads like a Johannusad disguised as a 'news article'.So many of the "features" are described in such detail, it makes me wonder if the salesman was nearby.</P>


    This comment was very revealing: “I have played a great many pipe organs that have not sounded as realistic as this one sounds” </P>


    How is it possible for an electronic to sound more "realistic" than a pipe organ, for heavens' sake?! [:@] The term "Reality Check" comes to mind here! Last time I checked, "real" is real. Artifice cannot be more real than real, unless you are into something rather psychadelic.</P>


    And this comment is particularly irritating: "A pipe organ that could produce such sound would have taken up the entire sanctuary, said pastor Davis, and cost $8 million. Fortunately, for Central Presbyterian and Al Schmidt, digital technology made that unnecessary."</P>


    Even a small pipe organ, appropriately scaled for the room could produce an equivalent sound, NOT take up the 'entire sanctuary', and would certainly cost MUCH less than $8 million!Who has ever heard of an$8 million dollarpipe organ anyway?</P>


    I'm a fan of having an appropriately-sized instrument for the room - a 200 rank 'organ' with cathedral-sounding fake reverb isabsurd inthe typical small parishchurch.A sense of artificialityis conveyed to the parisioner which taints the worship experience, in my opinion.How manyself-serving organistsput their desire to play the biggest organ possible ahead of thelegitimate musical needs of the church? Technology has stepped in to feed these egos.</P>


    I won't even mention what I think of the usefulness of the "hundreds" of sound effects mentioned in the article.</P>


    Digital technology makes pipe organs "unneccessary"? Don't get me started! [8o|] I would have said "Unfortunately for Central Presbyterian, they have lost their unique pipe organ". Oneonly needs to peruse the publications of the Organ Historical Society or Organ Clearing House to see how many churches realize - after the fact - that they should have kept their hard-earned (consider that carefully) and entirely serviceablepipe organs.</P>


    I don't mean to "bash" digital organs; in fact, I have asubstantial installation at home. Butin my opinionarticles like this can do a lot of damage, sadly for pipe organ fans.</P>

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: A Story of Organ Donation

      soubasse32,
      My friend you and I are on the exact same wavelength. Well put!!!! I have NO problem with adding some digital ranks when space requirements are the issue but that's where I draw the line. I've never played a digital organ that I thought sounded as pure as even a smaller, correctly voiced and regulated pipe organ installed in a space which the organ was designed for.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: A Story of Organ Donation

        I cannot agree more with Soubasse32 and Don! Just yesterday, I experienced a "200-rank" digital organ in a medium-sized church. This was a "top-of-the-line" digital instrument. It sounded like an excellent recording of an excellent pipe organ being played over an excellent audio system. It did not sound like a real pipe organ was playing in that space. When the individual "pipes" are blended before emerging from the audio system, they cannot sound the same as real pipes speaking individually and blending in the room. I suspect that it is technologically possible to engineer and build a digital organ that sounds like a pipe organ for all practical intents and purposes--but not for less money than an equivalent pipe organ--at least not "enough less" to make anyone favorthe digital instrument over the pipe instrument. Moreover,such a digital instrument would take up considerable space and use considerable electricity as well. Ibelieve it was Pliny who originallysaid that there is no free lunch?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: A Story of Organ Donation



          The world's most sophisticated digital installation is perhaps an intellectual triumph. Lots of "gee-whiz,can you believe what they can do with computers now"kind of stuff.</P>


          Apipe organcan also beintellectually stimulating (though admittedly some aren't); to me it can also be emotionally and spiritually stimulating. Electronic organs almost always leave me cold in this regard. Perhaps it has something to do with the feeling that anything electronic is mass-produced(artistically lacking) and disposable (whether by design, or through the normal process of technological innovation). The downside of innovation is that today's tour-de-force is tomorrow's boat anchor. The newest gizmos combined with the dissatisfaction of that 'boat anchor's' owner, ensure that the cycle (a costly one!) begins again.</P>


          Pipe organsrepresent a mature technology; perhaps the technology is a bit lackluster compared to hi-tech stuff but it is stable and has centuries of rich history - another facet which canbe appreciated by those whoare interested insuch things.</P>


          Part of what I enjoy about pipe organs has to do with the fact thatthey aresuch big, complicated,willfulbeasts, withtheir own assortment ofunique sounds, noises,andeven smells. Try 'enjoying' the smell of any electronic gadget - trust me,a pipe organ's 'collection ofsmells' seem quite nice in comparison! [:)]</P>


          Though I dohave funplaying aroundwith some of the gadgets on electronic organs(changing temperaments especially) I still wouldn't tradeit for playing a pipe organ.</P>


          I guess I'm a die-hard fan. [&lt;:o)]</P>

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: A Story of Organ Donation



            I really must extend an olive branch to fans of electronic organs - again, my intention is not to bash (never, ever).</P>


            I realize that I'm posting my strong feelings towards pipe organs inside the Classic &amp; Church <FONT color=#ff0000>Electronic</FONT> Organs part of the OrganForum - sort of like being inside the nest of bees you are about to annoy! [:$]</P>


            It is really the tone of the article that I dislike so much.</P>


            I do own an electronic organ at home (3 manuals) and will say that there are circumstances that would be served very well by an electronic organ.</P>


            But my preference isfor apipe organ (obviously). [:)]</P>

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: A Story of Organ Donation



              It's interesting in that it illustrates the general public perception of the organ.</P>


              They're still trying to copy something that was perfected hundreds of years ago.</P>


              They're copying the chiffs, airleaks and trem thump. Geez, I got that free.</P>


              Maybe a little too much sometimes. Oh yes, it never stays quite in tune.</P>


              Goodness should I buy a toaster? Naw, an air conditioner instead. The rest</P>


              of that 100 grand what shall I do? Now I am really confused. Got to go</P>


              downstairs, turn on the blower, get a Bud and enloy a little noise. See ya....</P>


              </P>

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: A Story of Organ Donation

                [quote user="soubasse32"]


                <FONT style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #ffffff" color=#ff0000>*Rant Alert*</FONT> -if you want to keep smiling maybe you should skip over this unusuallypassionate post (I'm usually not so grumpy).Maybe I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. [:|]</P>


                I know this article is supposed to be a warm &amp; fuzzy, feel-good, human interest story -but it has the opposite effect on me. Sorry, but to me this reads like a Johannusad disguised as a 'news article'.So many of the "features" are described in such detail, it makes me wonder if the salesman was nearby.</P>


                This comment was very revealing: “I have played a great many pipe organs that have not sounded as realistic as this one sounds” </P>


                [/quote]</P>


                Yes, I had the same reaction to that sentence. A good digital might sound better than a poor sounding pipe, but not more "real". That is a highly subjective anyway.</P>

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: A Story of Organ Donation



                  One thing that is funny about this whole story is that I know the Allen dealer and the Johannus dealer in that area. I live in Indianapolis. You can go to the Allen site and under "Installations" see that Rose Hulman purchased a new Allen organ. There is a picture of some of the people mentioned in the article. Mr. Jenkins became disenchanted with the Allen dealer and went with Johannus.</P>


                  I have bumped heads with Keith Wenger on Ebay numerous times. He is known on Ebay as Keithew. When I was looking for a used Allen as a practice organ, he was the bane of many attempts by me towin an organ auction on Ebay.A few days after winning theAllen ADC-8350 mentioned in the article, Keithew won an auction for a much newer Allen for about $30,000. He has since tried to sell a twomanual Allen on Ebay, twice, to no avail. </P>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: A Story of Organ Donation

                    Radagast,
                    Thanks for pointing the article out to me. At least Keithew is putting the organs to good use and it sounds like the students at the high school will get an appreciation of the organ that they otherwise might not have had (with so many churches converting to brain-dead praise bands and whatnot)

                    For all we know a dealer accepting that organ on trade in - whether an Allen dealer or some other brand - might have trashed the organ to keep it off the used market (as has been documented to happen) or priced it prohibitively high for such a use.



                    Comment


                    • #11
                      High School Organ Project---Organ Donation

                      Time to revisit this thread.
                      This story is true, with a few minor details that warrant correcting. I know, because I am the orchestra director mentioned in the story.
                      ✦✦✦ The organ is housed in the Milo Winter Auditorium at Stevens High School in Rapid City--not Stevenson. We do have a large and fine music department in this district, and the organ is used at EVERY choir and MOST orchestra concerts. Several students have taken to organ study because of the organ's presence. My cellist/quarterback is currently a nuclear officer on a submarine after winning the nation's top ROTC award while at Purdue--dinner at the White House!!!

                      ✦✦✦ The installation is significant, and contains some 60 HC-15 tone cabinets, as well as a few ElectroVoice horns added since with mouth dimensions of 5 feet across!! The State Trumpet REALLY speaks through those. We have 4 B-40 subs, which I would love to augment in the future. I ran nearly 1/3 MILE of speaker cable around this room . We have three dedicated 20 amp circuits to ensure no voltage drops. There is an antiphonal speaker system in front of the curtain with the main system on the back corners of the stage--Swell stage right, Pos/Ch stage left, Great/Pedal Both chambers so sounds middle of stage. State Trumpet over thrust stage.

                      ✦✦✦ I voiced the organ myself, and I must say that the only instrument that can compare within 400 miles is our 67 rank Casavant in our cathedral. My goal was to make it sound as much like Central Lutheran in Minneapolis as possible--it doesn't, but it sounds FANTASTIC in its own right.

                      ✦✦✦ I used a decibel meter to balance the ensembles, and made sure the organ was 'scaled' to balance my 120 piece Symphonic Orchestra. It is warm and rich, but has very bright upperwork--in keeping with the Phelps tradition--but NOT screamy, because what is below all that upperwork blends so well with it. The flutes are quite chiffy, and sound unbelievable in trio sonatas, and the principals choruses DO NOT NEED reeds to give the organ power. The 8350 has, those double principal choruses on the great, one german, one french, and although they do sound different, they really sound the best together--its HUGE!

                      ✦✦✦ The sound of this organ when using the 'celeste tuning' stop on the divisions makes you think of a mini-Wanamaker--they make you weep on a Frank chorale!! This is one thing that any pipe organ less than 130 ranks would envy--Allen really nailed that sound on this instrument. Grace Cathedral--you got nothin' on us! The only registration missing on this is a vox humana, like at the National Shrine in DC--can't figure how to get that sound out of this instrument.

                      ✦✦✦ Certain individual sounds, in this spacious room, sound exactly, not close to, but EXACTLY like pipes--positiv 8' flute for example. Mixtures are so-so. Reeds variable. Other sounds reveal the truth quite easily until you start to build that ensemble. This is the only electronic organ I have every heard that just keeps getting BIGGER, and when you couple the manuals the spacial effects are magical. To sit in the orchestra, surrounded by all this sound is truly an aesthetically moving experience. AWESOME is the only word that can describe it. It does sound EXACTLY like a pipe organ then, and not just any pipe organ, but a GREAT PIPE ORGAN!!! It is a MUSICAL organ, not just some loud growling or screaming appliance.

                      ✦✦✦ Overall, this project has been very worthwhile educationally, and will continue to add to the cultural community here in the shadow of Mt.Rushmore.

                      Please view our feature in Allen eNotes-- http://www.allenorgan.com/enotes/2014Aug/eNotes.html Check out those speakers before being hoisted 35' in the air!!

                      Thanks for reading.
                      Bill Evans (not the deceased jazz pianist!)

                      P.S.✦✦✦ If anyone hears of ADC amplifier racks that I could get my hands on, please let me know---those things must be like gold, they are NEVER out there!!! We are tax deductible!!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by otispit View Post
                        Time to revisit this thread.
                        This story is true, with a few minor details that warrant correcting. I know, because I am the orchestra director mentioned in the story.
                        [snip]
                        ✦✦✦ The sound of this organ when using the 'celeste tuning' stop on the divisions makes you think of a mini-Wanamaker--they make you weep on a Frank chorale!! This is one thing that any pipe organ less than 130 ranks would envy--Allen really nailed that sound on this instrument. Grace Cathedral--you got nothin' on us! The only registration missing on this is a vox humana, like at the National Shrine in DC--can't figure how to get that sound out of this instrument.
                        Bill,

                        I'm ashamed at you! You haven't learned how to get a Vox Humana by using the Alterables?;-) I know, you need Vibrato to really hear that stop correctly, however, if you get some Trem-3 or Trem-4 generators and add them to the Swell only, then you'd have your Vox Humana. I'm not sure if the card is still available, but I think I have one in my collection.

                        I too, am in education and understand the impact one gift can make on many students' lives (the compounding effect). Just this week, one of the 16 year-old prisoners turned around from the electric piano and guitar he had plugged into his computer and stated, "I can't believe it--it makes me want to cry." Everyone else had headphones on, so I asked what made him want to cry. He responded the he couldn't believe he could play so much music after only a few months. His grandmother had a grand piano he never touched before. Now, he can't wait to get him so he can show her what he's learned. He truly has a gift. His instruments include violin too. He truly has the gift of making music.

                        Electric piano--donated. Violin--donated. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to provide any specifics to the donor, other than to say his/her gift is still being used and enjoyed. They are investing in the future!

                        Thank you so much for recounting this story.

                        Michael
                        Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                        • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                        • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                        • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Michael:
                          Just read your reply......I should speak to you about those trem cards!!! Honestly, without the service manuals, I am operating blindly. Luckily, I do have the voicing charts, but they don't cover everything I would like to adjust.
                          Getting the 8350 service manual would be like hitting a gold mine....any ideas how I could make that happen??
                          Bill

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Bill - PM me.
                            Allen Q285D

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by otispit View Post
                              Getting the 8350 service manual would be like hitting a gold mine....any ideas how I could make that happen??
                              Bill,

                              My advice--find a friendly Allen repair person!

                              Do you actually have the Trem cards installed? If so, I do have one of the Trem manuals (I think it's the Trem III or Trem IV), which provides what is necessary to know for them. I'm not sure if they include schematics or not.

                              ADC-8350? You lucky duck!!!

                              Michael
                              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                              • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

                              Comment

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