ORGAN RESTORATION PROJECT
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Most frequent questions and answers
Within a decade of moving to an initial building at our Ponce de Leon Avenue site, the vision of a major sanctuary was being planned. The church leaders wanted the church to have a worship space of exceptional reverence and inspiration. That vision included the architecture of the building and its components. The most prominent elements of the sanctuary, which opened in 1940, were its Gothic Revival design, the stained glass windows, and the pipe organ. For the organ, the church leaders wanted to install a very fine instrument so they called upon the premier pipe organ builder in America at that time, the Æolian-Skinner Organ Company of Boston, a company that was renowned for its excellence of quality and technical innovation. For the design and installation of the Druid Hills organ, we secured Æeolian-Skinner’s tonal director and president, G. Donald Harrison, one of the most sought-after and influential tonal designers and voicers in the industry.
The organ premiered on the day the sanctuary opened for its first worship service, September 22, 1940. It was the Æolian-Skinner Organ Company’s 1004th installed organ and their first in the Atlanta area. The organ was expanded slightly in 1945 to total 2,108 pipes in 36 ranks, now considered Æeolian-Skinner’s opus 1004-A. Slight additions and adjustments or enhancements have been implemented through subsequent years, but the basics of the organ remain virtually unchanged since 1945. A zimbelstern was added in 1995, the internal components of the console were converted to solid state in 2005 and tubular chimes were installed in 2016. There are three manuals and a pedalboard, with 33 stops. The Swell and Choir pipe chambers are under expression. For more information about the specifications of this beautiful instrument click here.
The pipe organ of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church is in rare company among organs in the United States. It is one of only 19 surviving Æolian-Skinner organs planned, crafted and signed by its designer, G. Donald Harrison. Fine music has been an integral part of worship at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church for decades. This organ has beautifully fulfilled the vision of the church leaders when the sanctuary was designed. It is a magnificent complement to the worship of God, assisting the members in congregational singing, accompanying the choir, soloists and other instruments, and providing organ interpretation.
We would cherish any financial help any of you can offer. A donation by way of a check (please be sure to designate to the organ on the memo line) can be mailed to Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306. For those of you who prefer the convenience of electronic transactions, we direct you to https://secure.accessacs.com/access/oglogin.aspx?sn=94011&f=1 and designate your gift for the “organ fund.” You are also invited to visit http://www.druidhillspresbyterian.org/?page_id=4815 to read more about our historic pipe organ and see photos.
We honor the heritage that Æeolian-Skinner and designer G. Donald Harrison created for us, and we pledge that the restoration of our historic pipe organ will continue to honor that vision so as to leave a secure and beautiful legacy for those who follow us. We truly appreciate your consideration of this invitation to participate with us.
Members of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church have already begun contributing to our organ restoration fund. But we know we can’t raise all of the required funds alone. That is why we are appealing to the public, especially those in the organ community who have an affinity for Æeolian-Skinner organs, to help us with this endeavor.
Our church will host a series of concerts to highlight the many features of our treasured organ, with performances by a variety of talented guest artists and where donations will be invited and encouraged.
Our current staff organist and our organ servicing company have been diligent about keeping the organ in good repair within our fiscal constraints and the ability to repair individual aging parts. However, some of the organ components have been faltering with increasing frequency. Some components have actually failed and have either needed to be replaced or are currently not usable. The length of time before a major failure is, of course, not predictable. Continued repair is not our preferred solution. At this time, we want to address the organ’s condition as a whole and completely restore it to its original, completely working condition.
Perhaps you are familiar with some of our organists who have taken great care to maintain the organ and preserve its original integrity ‑ Mabel Stewart Boyter, Willa Lowrance, Jerry Black, Porter Remington, among others, including our current staff organist Cliff Frierson. These talented musicians have been very respectful of the organ and its history, trying to keep it in good repair while honoring the vision of its brilliant designer. For almost 80 years, this remarkable organ has supported not only our church’s worship services but has also been available to the community for weddings and concerts.
Time has taken its toll, however, and the day has come to initiate major maintenance of the organ to implement some much-needed repairs – primarily, completely replacing all leather and aging electrical circuitry, restoring all pipes and windchests, and restoring the organ to its original condition according to known historical documentation. With the church’s commitment to maintaining the instrument, it is poised to continue to be an inspirational musical resource for many years to come.
Druid Hills Presbyterian Church was founded in 1883. When its residential neighborhood gradually transformed into what became part of the urban core of Atlanta and there were fewer nearby residents to support it, the church moved to its current Ponce de Leon Avenue location in the inner northeast quadrant of the city in 1924. We have become a well-known beacon of spiritual support, Christian education and missional outreach ever since. We are a diverse congregation that freely welcomes people from all around the metropolitan area. In addition to hosting weekly worship services and educational classes for all ages, our campus is the home of a well-respected child development center, an associated congregation devoted to homeless and minimally housed neighbors, a food pantry for area residents who are challenged to maintain adequate nutritional support, and the home for several non-profit organizations that share our vision and passion for Christian nurture and support of all God’s children.
Druid Hills Presbyterian Church calls everyone into Christian community to explore God’s purpose for our lives, celebrate God’s work in the world, and serve the needs of our neighbors.