We first looked over the 1968 Angell pipe organ at the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston in the winter of 2005, having been recommended to the church by our friend K. Bryan Kirk.
What we found in Westport was an organ with many pipes that were well made, but in some cases unusually constructed and by our standards, only roughly voiced. The flue pipes were made mostly with a high content of tin. We suspect Tim Koelewijn was the original pipemaker. Just about everything else in the organ had been made by domestic and foreign supply houses. Overall, quality varied widely. Some things were very neatly done.
Though not altogether under-scaled, the organ did suffer in just about every other way from the prevailing trends in the day it was built. Wind pressures were low: less than two inches in the Great and three in the Swell. Looking at the original stop list, we noted that none of the choruses in the organ were complete, though the organ did boast two Celestes and a triple-overblowing Zauberflöte. The reed complement for the organ consisted of a double-blocked French style 8’ Trompette (extended to 16’ in the Pedal) and a 4’ Rohr Shalmei.
The windchest mechanism was a problematic plunger-type solenoid system that had been giving trouble for years. The console was a veneered plywood supply house unit already years beyond its life expectancy. The open contact switching system was dispersed throughout the organ; some of its components had already failed. The wind supply for the entire Great division was provided by a single 18” by 24” reservoir whose internal volume was largely dedicated to its curtain valve.
After an initial tuning of the organ, the church’s new Music Director and Organist, Todd Simmons, pressed me as what could be done to make the organ better. I pointed out that the organ had mechanical and tonal issues, to be sure, but there was something to work with here, some raw material, which with proper attention, could be the basis for a good pipe organ. In Holly’s words, the existing pipework possessed “unrealized potential.”
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