With thanksgiving to God, St. John’s Lutheran Church of New Minden dedicated its new pipe organ on Ascension Day, Thursday, May 5, 2016.
The service was preceded by a short dedicatory recital.
The Rev. Dr. Arthur Eichhorn served as guest organist, and the Rev. Dr. Jon D. Vieker preached. Area Lutheran pastors also assisted St. John’s Pastor Tim Mueller in leading the service, as the service was also the joint Ascension service for the congregations of Circuits #7 and #8 of the Southern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
“The completion of the organ is the final piece in putting the church back in order after the tornado,” writes Pastor Mueller. “But much more important than the dedication of a musical instrument is the praise due our Savior on the day marking the completion of His saving work and His triumphal ascension into heaven. He has truly given us much about which to sing for time and for all eternity”
The new 19-rank tracker-action organ was built by Orgelbaumeister (master organ builder) Martin Ott of St. Louis, Mo.
Because of his passion for building organs, Martin, who calls himself “semi-retired,” was willing to build a considerably larger organ for the “replacement” cost of the previous twelve-rank organ, which was destroyed under three or four tons of rock in the 2013 tornado. (That 1907 Kilgen organ was itself a replacement organ for the 1863 ten-rank Wolfram organ repaired after the 1896 “cyclone” and destroyed in the tornado of 1907.)
The new Ott organ utilizes several ranks (sets) of pipes from the 1907 Kilgen, some of the pipes literally rescued from the dumpster after the 2013 tornado. Donations to St. John’s from near and far were used to “upgrade” the acoustics of the church balcony according to drawings by an acoustical engineer that Ott himself hired, Scott R. Riedel of Milwaukee, Wisc.
“The added value is just one thing that drew us to Mr. Ott’s proposal,” comments Pastor Mueller. “We liked the authenticity and reliability of a tracker-action pipe organ. Our house of worship is built out of natural stone, quarried locally. It was here before any of us were ever born. We are pleased that our church will once again be filled with the same kind of sounds that have been heard in churches since the time of J.S. Bach and for centuries before. Mr. Ott set about to build an instrument that will last, not just 30 or 40 years, but for generations to come. Like the old organ, only the blower and lights will use electricity. Everything else will be powered manually. These mechanical-action organs have been known to last for centuries, and yet the newer ones such as Martin builds have a light key action.”
Old world craftsmanship is evident in the New Minden organ, which has 964 pipes, and, according to Martin’s estimate, as many as 100,000 pieces. Martin learned organ building in Germany from his father and uncle and grew up in a town not too far away from (old) Minden, near the villages where the settlers were born who came to this country and settled New Minden more than 150 years ago. Ott came to the United States and set up his shop in the early 1970’s.
Most important of all, Ott was chosen because he is known to build organs that do well in supporting congregational singing. “We know of vibrant and growing congregations that have turned to Martin to build pipe organs for their new churches. His organs are known to be well-voiced to suit the space for which they are designed. By this purchase St. John’s tells the world that we have something about which to sing: the gift of the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation that Jesus Christ has won for us by His life, death, and resurrection. It is a gift that we especially celebrate on Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter, sometimes called the ‘coronation’ of Christ.”
Mr. Ott puts it this way: “For over more than five decades, my company has developed a style of tonal eclecticism. The organ for St. John’s Lutheran Church is an excellent example of the Ott style. The instrument is flexible, supporting congregational singing, choral anthems, and solo organ literature for preludes and postludes; it complements the strong musical tradition of the Lutheran Church.”
St. John’s Organ Committee members are Larry Sachtleben, Dean Sprehe, and three organists from St. John’s: Grace Schuette, Robin Rhine, and Becky Brinkmann. The Rev. Dr. Arthur Eichhorn, Pastor of St. Salvator Lutheran Church, Venedy, and Pastor/Organist at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, New Memphis, served as a consultant to the committee. “Pastor Eichhorn has been here for us since the tornado,” says Pastor Mueller. “It is fitting that he played for the dedication.”