The pipe organ at the Morristown United Methodist Church, like many organs, is a work that was in progress over the course of 25 years. The main organ was built in 1973-74 to replace the organ that was destroyed in the devastating fire that destroyed the sanctuary in January 1972. Plans for the new organ were laid by the organ committee, which awarded the contract for building a new instrument to the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut. The tonal specifications were developed by James Rooker, organist, working with Charles Neill, Austin representative. The new instrument, together with a new electronic carillon of 100 bells, the gift of Mrs. Roy E. Tucker, was dedicated on March 16, 1975.
The organ at that time was a three manual and pedal organ of 45 ranks (sets) of pipes, 47 stop tabs (switches) and a total of 2,595 pipes, most of them hidden behind the larger pipes in the facade. The installation included provisions for planned completion of the organ in the future, and was wired for these additions and stop tabs provided in the console.
The first addition was a very soft stop of 49 pipes, Dolcan Celeste, given by John Herbst and installed in 1975. In December 1985, the antiphonal organ in the balcony was installed. It was the result of a fund-raising effort led by Beatrice Schattschneider, director of music, and was named in her honor. It is composed of 354 pipes in six ranks. It provides a boost to congregational singing, helps keep the choir synchronized with the main organ in processionals, and allows antiphonal music to be played on the organ. This addition brought the pipe complement to 2,998.
In the early years of the 1980’s John Herbst, a gifted engineer, invented and constructed electronic generators for four pedal stops that added a low octave to the range of the organ. Called 32’ stops to identify the length of the lowest pipe in a corresponding pipe rank, these electronic pitches sounded two octaves below the notated pitch. The entire endeavor was John’s gift to the church, and was a pioneering effort to imitate electronically the sounds of actual 32’ pipes.
Unfortunately, in September 1997, the generators of the units were seriously damaged, as was the carillon, by a lightning strike to the spire. The carillon was repaired. But due to the unfortunate death of John Herbst in 1986, the schematics for the generators could not be located, and repair was not feasible.
In 1998, Lee Schubert and Jane Rehmke voiced a desire to offer a memorial gift to the music program of the church. After discussions with the music committee and other persons involved with the music program, June Van Thoen, director of music ministries, and Kathy McNeil, organist, decided that the most lasting gift would be the completion of the organ as it was originally planned. Lee and Jane agreed, and the result was the installation of an extended 32’ Bourdon rank of pipes to add the bottom octave to the organ and strengthen the higher bass pitches. The addition of these 56 pipes brought the complement to 3054 pipes.
The pipes and installation were given in loving memory of Helen Dwan Schubert and Leland Browne Schubert by Jane Theresa Rehmke and Leland William Schubert, and were dedicated October 3, 1999.
In addition to the new pipes, the donation provided for the revoicing of the large pedal reed stop using new full length resonators. Some of these new resonators are visible behind the smaller pipes in the facade.
In the completion of the organ, the upper tonal spectrum was not slighted. Several private donations provided for the purchase of a Cymbelstern, a set of small bells played by a rotating beater. The Cymbelstern creates a high-pitched ringing sound that blends with the upper work of the organ.
The Morristown United Methodist Church is truly blessed by the generosity of those who have enriched the lives of its members with these significant gifts. The completed organ will lead in the singing of praise to God now and for generations to come.
James Rooker Organist 1972-1984