First United Methodist Church, Somerset, KY

A Distinguished, New Voice

For the Ubiquitous Wicks


Martin Ellis at Somerset United Methodist Pipe OrganMartin Ellis at Somerset United Methodist Pipe OrganSomerset is a beautiful small town in south central Kentucky. Located between Lake Cumberland, the largest manmade lake in the United States, and the Daniel Boone National Forest, the community draws nearly 1.5 million visitors each year.


First United Methodist Church meets in a striking mid-century modern building in the center of the downtown. The congregation has an active music program under the direction of Ben Stapleton. Since 1960, this music-making has been supported by a three-manual Wicks pipe organ of 20 ranks. (Click here to see the original specification)


Following our completion in 2006 of a new organ for First Presbyterian Church in Somerset, Reynolds Associates was asked to prepare a proposal for the renovation of the organ at First United Methodist as part of a larger capital improvement project in the church.


The instrument presented several challenges. The console and electromechanical switching system were both worn out. Typically for organs of this builder and period, the sound of the instrument tended, in our view, to be thin and harsh, and yet without enough fundamental power to ring the building acoustically. Previous tonal modifications to the organ had made these problems worse instead of better.


The proposal we presented to the congregation in April, 2006, included three possible options. Ultimately, after considering these, the congregation decided on our 26-rank tonal redesign, which also included a new console, renovation of the winding system, and a Peterson ICS4000 solid-state integrated control system in a new console.


In our tonal redesign of the organ, we replaced the principal ensemble with new pipes of more appropriate scales. Although thin ensemble elements can often be rescaled with great success, we felt that new pipes were needed to achieve a more distinguished and cohesive sound. Since the principal ensemble defines the basic character of an organ, the investment in these new pipes is certainly worthwhile!


To provide the best possible speech characteristics from these new pipes, we replaced the toeboards on the Wicks windchests with new toeboards constructed in our shop using our CNC manufacturing process. These new toeboards include specially designed internal channels to quiet the turbulence of the wind as it enters the pipes, and to eliminate the “popping” sound that is sometimes heard in electromechanical windchests. This toeboard design is critical to good pipe speech, especially in the principals.


Somerset United Methodist Pipe Organ Rebuilding ReservoirSomerset United Methodist Pipe Organ Rebuilding Reservoir

Along with the new principal ensemble, we replaced the flutes in the Great division. In keeping with our usual custom, we provided the organ with both an 8’ Rohrflöte of new pipes, and an 8’ Offenflöte. The Offenflöte is an open flute made up of carefully restored and revoiced vintage pipes. Its purpose is to provide a solo flute presence in the Great, and also to darken and color the 8’ Principal, giving it the sound of an English Diapason.


The Swell was recomposed, based on a new 4’ Spitzprincipal (also playable at 8’). The Fagotto was extended to 16’ using a 12-note electronic extension, which was also made available in the Pedal. A 1 3/5’ Tierce was added, making a Cornet combination possible in the Swell to contrast with the 8’ Clarinet in the Choir.


Somerset United Methodist Pipe Organ Great PipesSomerset United Methodist Pipe Organ Great PipesThe Choir division in the existing organ had been a particular problem. The original Wicks 8’ Spitzflöte had been retuned as a celete stop for the Gemshorn, leaving the organ with only the Gemshorn and Dulciana at 8’ in this division. There were no principal stops in the Choir at all.  We added a new 4’ Principal, and reestablished the Spitzflöte as an 8’ flute, strengthening its tone to make it more useful, and more of a contrast to the Gemshorn. We also added an 8’ Unda Maris, which creates a warm undulation when played with the Dulciana.


The new Pedal division includes a 16’ Gemshorn, extended electronically from the 8’ Gemshorn in the Great. Likewise, the Swell reed plays at 16’ and a 4’.


Martin Ellis, organist at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, played the dedicatory recital on the completed organ on Sunday, May 4, 2008.


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