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Courtesy of Temple Organs
Temple OrgansThe First Christian Church at Trenton houses one of Temple Organs’ instruments.
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Courtesy of Temple Organs
Temple organ workers
David Cool (right) and his nephew, Bob Cool, construct the organ at the Lutheran Church and Student Center, Norman, Oklahoma.
The King of Instruments
More than two centuries ago, in 1777, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart called the organ “the king of instruments.” Seven centuries before Mozart’s time, pipe organs started cropping up in cathedrals, though early Christians initially resisted their use during worship. Today, organ music tends to be associated with church.
In recent times, however, the instrument’s kingliness gave way to commonness, and newer organs made music that wasn’t as solemn and churchlike.
“The American organ of the first half of the twentieth century followed the new technology of the time, which included the advent of the electric blower … and the early use of electricity to open the valves that allow air into the pipes,” says David Cool, owner of Temple Organs at St. Joseph.
In the silent film era of the early 1900s, smaller theater organs were developed to provide live, mood-appropriate music and sound effects for theatergoers, including sirens, doorbells, car horns, and drums.
“The popularization of this type of organ influenced the art of church organ building, introducing a voicing style not considered before this time to be orthodox and spiritually uplifting,” David says.
Temple Organs and its founder, David’s father, moved organ building forward by turning back the clock. N. Frederick Cool started the company in 1953 after apprenticing at Kansas City with the late Charles McManis who, along with some other builders, aimed to revive the classic tonal style of the previous century in Europe. Frederick designed each stop (a means of turning a particular sound on or off) so that each offered a unique “voice” while blending with all the others. David likens the process to orchestrating many kinds of instruments so they join together into a symphony.
“The organ is by far the largest man-made instrument,” he says.
An average church organ has more than a thousand pipes, ranging from sixteen feet long down to half an inch. Each instrument is composed of blowers to supply air pressure, a reservoir and regulators to stabilize the pressure, one or more wind chests with valves that control airflow to the pipes, and the console, which is the organ’s equivalent of a piano keyboard, though it’s much more complicated.
Temple Organs has been at St. Joseph since 1975. It’s a small company, producing three or four organs each year. New organs often are built for newly constructed churches, and David likes to get involved during the design phase to make sure the instrument will fit in and complement the space. That doesn’t always happen, though. Sometimes, he draws on his ingenuity to design an organ for an existing church where no space was planned for such a major installation.
Rebuilding projects make up a large part of David’s business because old organ pipes are salvageable. Pipes are designed to last for centuries, he says, while other mechanisms will degrade or obsolesce as new technologies become available.
“Just as a vintage violin may need to be restrung, the working parts of an organ will finally need replacement,” David says.
One such project currently underway is for St. Patrick’s Catholic Oratory at Kansas City. A donated organ from a church in Massachusetts will be revitalized over a six-month period and installed in a rear balcony.
After every installation, the organ’s pipes are tuned to match the acoustics of the space and the congregation’s worship style. The result is a rich, warm, unified sound that’s perfect for church—and fit for a king.
Call 816-232-2008 or visit www.templeorgans.com for more information.