December 2017 TAO Cover Feature

The New Organ at Pilgrim Lutheran Church
Carmel, Indiana
Buzard Pipe Organ Builders

by John-Paul Buzard

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The console

Pilgrim Lutheran Church’s former building was located on land that the State of Indiana purchased to create a new entrance ramp for I-465; their parking lot was purchased by another institution. The congregation was therefore able to relocate and erect a new building without the need for fund-raising, although the process occupied more than ten years. Early in their planning process, Pilgrim’s organ committee selected Buzard Pipe Organ Builders for their hoped-for new organ in what was then their hoped-for new building. Imagine my delight and surprise when many years following our initial conversations Pilgrim’s cantor, Sarah Gran-Williams, called to tell me that they were “ready for the organ!”

The instrument at Pilgrim Lutheran Church is the 45th new pipe organ built by Buzard Pipe Organ Builders of Champaign, Illinois. It comprises 31 independent speaking stops and 37 ranks of pipes, distributed across two manuals and pedal. The instrument is housed in a freestanding case made of poplar and red oak measuring 24′ wide, 12′ deep, and 35′ tall. It was designed to marry with the new church building’s Prairie-style architecture. The pipe shades relate to geometric shapes in a large window at the front of the church and in all the architectural woodworking in the building. The splendid acoustical environment of four seconds of reverberation was achieved through close collaboration between the Buzard Company and architect Jack Munson of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Behind the facade

The Great and Pedal divisions are located in the top level of the case. The Swell is located in the center above the impost. The lower level contains the winding and mechanical systems. The blower and static reservoir are installed in a closet located away from the sanctuary. The upper facade is comprised of polished tin pipes from the Great 8′ Open Diapason; the copper Festival Trumpets bisect the case in its center; the lower facade and two towers are the Pedal 16′ Open Diapason from low E upscale and the 8′ Pedal Principal. We housed half of the Great in an expression box to provide additional expressive quality and tonal flexibility to this two-manual organ.

Buzard organs are custom designed, scaled, and voiced for each individual congregation’s musical tradition and acoustical environment. This means they differ one from another in execution, but the Buzard style is an unmistakable musical thread that runs through every instrument. Our organs are works of functional art, designed and crafted to each and every client’s identity, and are identifiable by their tonal and artistic style.

Winding system showing curved wooden ducts, schwimmer regulators, and tremulant action

This instrument honors its Lutheran patrimony by a slightly brighter outlook in the Principal choruses, the German Romantic Clarinet and Oboe, and the slightly lighter 16′ Pedal registers. But it is a Buzard organ in the enveloping warmth and majesty of full organ, and its delicacy and sensitivity of tone in softer registrations. It has been called “a cathedral organ” in a parish church.

Buzard organs utilize electrically operated slider and pallet windchests to eliminate leather in the playing mechanism, and to provide an action that encourages sophisticated tonal results. In our organs even the unit stops (pipes that play in multiple locations or at multiple pitches) and Pedal stops are played on actions just like the slider chests—but without the slider stop actions. They provide an expansion chamber for the wind in a key channel as the pallet is opened, giving the unit stops the same speech and repetition characteristics as the main slider chests. We are pioneers in the development of sensitive and responsive electric key actions; one can feel the difference.

English horn in European-style reed racking system

Our pipes are made of thick high-tin-content metal (as well as wood and copper) rather than zinc in both flues and reeds, and we support them in felt-lined traces and European racking systems that prevent the pipes from collapsing and further firm the tone.

We regulate our wind supply using single-rise reservoirs, schwimmer regulators, and concussion bellows to deliver a copious steady wind supply with a fine degree of flexibility. Our tremulant actions send an adjustable timed pulse to electric solenoids under the schwimmers that both push and pull on the schwimmer plate to provide a perfect sine wave much like the human voice singing with vibrato. These actions are absolutely silent in their operation and extremely effective in both flue and reed stops.

Unit and slider chest pulldown magnets

We build all of our organs in sound reflective and protective cases, even when they are installed in chambers. We do this to provide excellent projection of sound into the room (especially when chambers are located off the axis of the room) and to protect the organ from severe temperature fluctuations and potential building failure (such as leaking roofs).

The expression shutters are made of 2″-thick poplar, laminated to prevent warpage during seasonal changes, with heavily felted sound traps. Our expression boxes’ walls and ceilings are made of 1″ MDF (the equivalent of 2″ of solid hardwood) with 1½”-thick poplar stiles and rails, to produce an extremely effective Swell expression. The shutters are moved by adjustable electric servomotors.

Buzard consoles are intuitive in their layout and solidly built to last for generations. Their proprietary ergonomics of manual-to-pedal alignment allow for many playing hours without fatigue. The logical layout of drawknobs and couplers, toe studs and expression pedals, encourages both technical accuracy and musical playing. Keyboards are plated in thick bone and ebony; the cabinets are made of 1½”-thick hardwoods.

Sarah Gran-Williams, cantor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church, said it best: “Buzard organs sing, and they help us sing!”

John-Paul Buzard is founder, president, and artistic director of Buzard Pipe Organ Builders. He is a certified master organbuilder with the American Institute of Organbuilders, a member of the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America, and a member of the Worshipful Company of Musicians of the City of London.

Hear this organ on YouTube


  1. Gary G. Lickfett says:

    What an honor to have one of the early Buzard works (Opus 5, I think) at our St. James United Methodist in Danville, IL, and to see his continued success at building amazing instruments!

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