|The organs of the First United
Methodist Church of Palo Alto gather together materials from the early
history of the church. Although a pipe organ was not in the very first
buildings of the church, it was a high priority for the congregation
to obtain a suitable pipe organ for the worship service. In 1923, the
cramped organ loft in the old sanctuary was enlarged to accommodate
the installation of the Mattie I. Dayan Memorial Organ, including the
J. J. Morris Memorial Chimes. The Organ Dedication, with an elaborate
three-day musical program, began on June 10, 1923, under the direction
of Warren D. Allen assisted by eminent musicians of the Bay Area. Dr.
Allen, Organist of Stanford University, designed the Dayan Organ in
collaboration with the Robert-Morton Company of Los Angeles. The stop
list included a number of organ pipe designs unusual for the period.
When the new church building was being planned
in the early 1960s, the church engaged the services of the noted organ
consultant Dr. William H. Barnes of Evanston, Illinois, to supervise the
creation of an organ of the exceptional versatility and size required by
the new sanctuary. The Dayan Memorial Organ from the old church was retained,
but as a separate antiphonal organ playable either from the
main console or from its own console in the balcony. The two organs
separately and together for years served for service and recital use,
and from time to time additions were made to bring the instrument
closer to the scope of its original proposed design.
The organ was named in honor of its principal donor,
Merritt C. Speidel, whose munificence during the last year of his life
made possible an instrument of this size. The Swain and Kates Organ Company
of Oakland originally installed the pipework (of tin, lead and zinc, and
of Honduras mahogany), windchests and console, which were made by the historic
organ supply firm of Aug. Laukhuff GmbH & Co. of Weikersheim, Germany.
After the instrument was installed in 1963, Dr. Barnes himself played the
Over the years many distinguished guest
recitalists have played recitals on the instrument, among them E.
Power Biggs, Pierre Cochereau, Maurice and Marie-Madeleine
Duruflé, Virgil Fox (who insisted that a very large mirror be
mounted above the original, unmovable console for his recitals, in
order to show off his technique to the audience), Jean-Louis Gil,
Robert Glasgow, Gerre and Judith Hancock, Rodney Hansen, Peter
Hurford, Wilma Jensen, Susan Landale, George Markey, Herbert Nanney,
Robert Noehren, Flor Peeters, Simon Preston, John Rose, Michael
Schneider, Frederick Swann, John Walker, and Todd Wilson.
One of the first additions to the organ after its
first installation was the Trompette en Chamade, or horizontal fanfare
trumpet, mounted high above the gallery organ, the gift of Mr. and Mrs.
Bonnar Cox. A replacement gallery console to control the Antiphonal Divisions
was presented in 1971 in recognition of the work of Eileen Washington upon
her retirement after twenty-two years as Director of Music. In 1977 the
Antiphonal windchests, dating from 1923, were replaced because of normal
deterioration. In 1979 a new chancel console was installed to control the
resources of both organs. Under the direction of David Parsons,
organist from 1987 to 2004, in 1989, several quiet stops, of period
pipework, were added to the Antiphonal Swell division in an attempt to
reintroduce the sounds of some of the stops discarded from the 1923
instrument. In 1991, several damaged sets of pipes in the Chancel
Organ were replaced with sets made in Holland and France, in order to
provide clear and stable sounds especially for choral accompaniment.
An Organ Committee, chaired by Dr. James Angell, reported to the Board
of Trustees in 1991 concerning the continuing problems facing the
chancel instrument. Subsequently the Administrative Council authorized
the formation of a Task Force for the Centennial Organ Project, which
would endeavor a) to complete the instrument, using as a guide the
original proposed grand scheme, b) to rationalize the original scheme
with the latest in organ scholarship, and c) to correct the mechanical
and acoustical problems which had faced the instrument for years.
By 1992 it was clear that the leather valves
of the chancel Swell division windchests were failing the most rapidly
of any in the instrument. Without immediate attention, the division
would have become completely unplayable. Thanks to the generous gifts
of several members of the church, and the volunteer efforts of those
who gutted and reconstructed the Swell chamber in preparation for the
repairs, an entirely new Swell windchest was installed in 1993 by the
Balcom and Vaughan Pipe Organ Company of Seattle. By 1997 it was
evident that the Choir/Bombarde windchest was quickly deteriorating,
just as the Swell had, and it was clear that it was necessary to
replace it as well. Work on the newly-named Positif
division was finished in 2000, and its full complement of pipes was finally
installed in 2002. Both new windchests are of slider
construction, which, in addition to being compact and reliable,
involve none of the fragile leather valves of the type which had
caused so many problems in the original instrument. Damaged pipes were
replaced and several new sets of pipes added to both the Swell and
Positif divisions. Some pipes from the exterior divisions were
centralized into the interior, allowing for more flexibility,
especially in choral accompaniment. Exterior pipes were cleaned and
adjusted for uniform speech, with excellent results. In time for
Christmas 2002, a set of chimes was given in memory of Robert Waitte,
to replace the J. J. Morris Memorial Chimes, discarded in 1963. In
2004, MIDI control circuitry was added to the instrument, allowing the
console to control external electronic devices and for computer
sequencer software to play back the organ itself.
The instrument is now one of the largest in the
San Francisco Bay Area, boasting numerous sets of ethereal soft string
stops, in addition to many piquant flute stops, and all the stops
required for accompanying congregational and choral singing, and for
playing the organ literature of all periods.
information about the mechanics of the pipe organ.