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You are here: Home > Featured Organs > Houston TX: Christ the King Lutheran, Noack organ (Wegscheider-consultant)

From the outset, the design concept of the organ at Christ the King Lutheran Church was simple and uncompromising -- to build an instrument on which to play the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. It was fully realized that any such instrument would quite naturally be well-suited for Lutheran worship and for playing the core organ literature of the Lutheran tradition. In the view of its planners, this "Bach Organ" does these things remarkably well, and Fritz Noack and his advisers and craftsmen have earned most sincere and profound respect and gratitude.

In what sense may an organ be called a Bach Organ, or can one even dare speak of such a thing? This would be an impossible task were the term to signify the"perfect" organ for Bach, or one which he would prefer to play. Rather, the appellation is used more modestly, to describe an instrument similar to those that Bach knew and played. There are many possibilities for such a Bach Organ, ranging from North German organs such as those built by Arp Schnitger in the late 17th century to the organs of Thuringia and Saxony to the east in Central Germany. The choice of a Saxon-style organ flowed from a series of preferential considerations, and not from any judgment as to what makes the best Bach Organ.

Gottfried Silbermann (1683-1753) was the best known Saxon organ builder during the time Bach was at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig (now the sister city to Houston). Zacharias Hildebrandt (1688-1757) was his pupil, then his associate, and later an independent builder. Bach and Silbermann, for example, jointly inspected and approved an organ built by Hildebrandt in Naumburg. While a number of organs have been built in America in the style of Schnitger, to date only a few emulate Silbermann, and none is known to follow Hildebrandt. The organ at Christ the King Church follows the example of Hildebrandt, thus adding a Bach Organ of a new dimension on the North American continent.

Fritz Noack and the Noack Organ Company were selected to design and build the organ. Noack is an American builder born and trained in Germany and uniquely situated to bridge the Saxon past and the Texan present. Kristian Wegscheider of Dresden, restorer of important Silberman organs, accepted appointment as a design consultant; Reinhard Schabitz of Dresden, voicer in the restorations, assisted in the voicing; and most of the metal pipes were built near Dresden in the workshop of Günter Lau. The result is a wonderful instrument which not surprisingly, but quite remarkably, evokes the look, feel, and sound of an 18th century Saxon organ. One can imagine Bach's walking in, sitting down without missing a beat and, as was his custom, pulling all of the stops to see whether or not the instrument has "good lungs."

This Bach Organ possesses attributes commonly found in organs built today in historical style -- tracker action (the keys are mechanically linked to cause the pipes to speak, without the assistance of electricity); mechanical stop action; keys suspended below the pipe chests; a flexible wind supply provided by bellows; flat rather than radiating pedalboard; narrower, shorter manual keys; no pistons or combinations, so that each of the 30 stops must be pulled on or off separately; and tuning in a historic temperament. The Saxon style imposes a series of additional design characteristics. The entire organ is housed in one case, rather than in compartments for each division according to the Werkprinzip; the case design and beautifully executed carvings employ 18th century Saxon conventions; and the case is built of pine and painted (blue-green, red, and gold leaf). The Oberwerk to Hauptwerk coupler is activated by shoving the Oberwerk manual forward, and the Oberwerk does not couple to the Pedal. The pipe scalings are taken from Hildebrandt's, and the principal pipes have a high tin content rather than lead. The impulses which lead to the construction of a Bach Organ flow from the glorious music of Bach himself and a desire to reproduce it in the best possible manner. The desire to place such an instrument in a Lutheran church derives from additional considerations as well. The Bach Organ at Christ the King Church exists to help cultivate the musical traditions of the Evangelical Lutheran confessional movement both within the movement itself and throughout the entire Church catholic, in order to equip them better for carrying out their mission in society. In a developing multicultural society, the responsibility of all worthy Christian traditions is to cultivate and contribute their distinctive resources. The Bach Organ responds to this imperative.

The Lutheran musical tradition is a great treasure. Luther himself was a musician; he taught that "next to the word of God, it is music which deserves the highest praise." The Reformation spread on wings of song due to the outpouring of musical creativity which it spawned. In a single generation thousands of hymns (called chorales) were composed, which became the foundation stones of a remarkable musical culture spanning two centuries, from Praetorius through Scheidt, Schein, Schütz, Buxtehude, Telemann, and Händel until the death of Bach in 1750 (and then continued by Mendelssohn, Reger, and subsequent composers to the present day). Organists composed (and improvised) variations on the chorale tunes (called chorale preludes), and cantatas were written for singers and instruments which expanded upon the chorale tunes and texts. Composers also wrote masses, passions, and oratorios, along with preludes and fugues for the organ. The pipe organ developed hand-in-hand with the music in Lutheran lands, leading to the Baroque organs built in Bach's day.

The creation of this organ is predicated on the belief that the music of Bach best embodies and expresses the musical tradition of the Lutheran movement. Indeed, Time magazine once placed Bach's picture on its cover and described him as the "Fifth Evangelist." Although his music belongs to the whole world and all time, scholarly doubt as to his firm grounding in scripture and the historic faith was laid to rest by the discovery (in America) of his personally annotated Bible. His entries reveal the deep religious faith of the man who wrote Soli Deo Gloria on his manuscripts. This motto is inscribed on the center tower of the organ -- as it was on many organs of Bach's day. On the Pedal towers appear the opening words of Psalm 100: Jubilate Deo omnis terra, servite Dominum in laetitia. (Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness.) These words suggest that, just as a performance is great when it enables the listener to look through to the composer, so also the organ, through the music of Bach and others, is a medium for revealing the heart and mind of God. Finally, this organ will not only take its place in the liturgical, musical, and theological life of the congregation itself, but also will strengthen the offerings to the broader community of two affiliates of Christ the King Church, the Bach Society and the Melanchthon Institute.

Hauptwerk (lower manual, C-f''' = 54 notes)
Bordun 16' 54 pipes 18 pine, rest 85% lead
Principal 8' 54 pipes 90% tin, front
Viola di Gamba 8' 54 pipes 90% tin
Rohrflöte 8' 54 pipes 12 pine, rest 85% lead
Octava 4' 54 pipes 90% tin
Spitzflöte 4' 54 pipes 90% tin
Quinta 2-2/3' 54 pipes 90% tin
Octava 2' 54 pipes 90% tin
Mixtur III 162 pipes 90% tin
Cimbel II 108 pipes 90% tin
Cornet III c' 90 pipes 85% lead
Trompete 8' 54 pipes 90% tin, brass shallots, metal boots
Vox Humana 8' 54 pipes 90% tin, brass shallots, metal boots, not playable in Pedal
 
Oberwerk (upper manual, C-f''' = 54 notes)
Gedackt 8'54 pipes 12 pine, rest 85% lead
Quintadena 8' 54 pipes 90% tin
Principal 4' 54 pipes 90% tin, front
Rohrflöte 4' 54 pipes 85% lead
Nasat 2-2/3' 54 pipes 85% lead (as Rohrflöte)
Octava 2' 54 pipes 90% tin
Waldflöte 2' 54 pipes 90% tin
Terz 1-3/5' 54 pipes 90% tin
Quinta 1-1/3' 54 pipes 90% tin
Sifflet 1' 54 pipes 90% tin
Krummhorn 8' 54 pipes 90% tin, brass shallots, metal boots
 
Pedal (C-f' = 30 notes,flat)
Principal Baß 16' 30 pipes 6 pine, open, rest 90% tin, front
Subbaß 16' 30 pipes pine
Octaven Baß 8' 30 pipes pine
Octava 4' 30 pipes 90% tin
Posaunen Baß 16' 30 pipes pine, cast lead shallots
Trompete 8' 30 pipes 90% tin, cast lead shallots
 
Couplers
Oberwerk to Hauptwerk (shove coupler)
Hauptwerk to Pedal (separate pallets in Hauptwerk)

Manual naturals covered with ebony, sharps with bone
Attached keydesk, with doors Case from Eastern white pine, painted
Mechanical action throughout
Temperament: Neidhardt I Tremulant
Zimbelglöcklein
Vogelgesang
Carved pipe shades
One wedge-shaped bellows
The Gothic Catalog
P.O. Box 414
Orcas, WA 98280 USA
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