Lance Luce - Central Woodward Christian Church,
Troy, Michigan
Allen Q410 digital
console with 79
digital stops over
24 audio channels.  
Interfaced with 22
ranks of Casavant
pipework from
1928.  The organ
has 7 voicing suites
including 2
American, 2
German, French,
English and an
Orchestral suite.  
The organ also
includes MIDI with
optical sensing
keyboards.
Click on
these small
pictures to
view them
bigger.  Use
your "back"
button on your
browser to
return.
This is the "Third Life" for
Casavant Pipe Organ Opus #
1286 from famed Casavant
Freres Organ Co. of Quebec,
Canada.  This organ began it's
life in 1928, as an 80 rank pipe
organ, built for the massive
church on Woodward Avenue in
Detroit, Central Woodward
Christian Church, Disciples of
Christ.

The church on Woodward
Avenue was very large, and the
large Casavant organ filled it
with ease.  There are some
recordings of the organ that
show what an amazing sound it
had in a tall church made of
limestone.

In 1979, after 51 years in
Detroit, the church decided to
move out of Detroit and build a
new, smaller church, in the
suburbs.  The city of Troy was
chosen and a church was built.  
The members of the church did
take some of their most beloved
possessions with them.  One of
them was the organ.

Unfortunately in the new church
there was not enough room to
house all 80 ranks (rows) of
pipes.  The pipe organ firm of
Burger & Shafer was contracted
to disassemble, move and
reassemble the giant organ in
it's new home.  Only about one
half of the organ would fit in the
new location.  Decisions were
made, and 40 ranks of pipes
were installed in the new church.

The organ chambers were
totally full, there was no space to
even walk into them, you had to
crawl or climb.  When you
opened the door, the wind chest
was right up to the opening.  
The organ was difficult to tune
because of the overly compact
installation.

And there was another
problem.  The pipe "scaling"
(the ratio between the diameter
and the length) was made for a
BIG church.  The new building
was much smaller than the
original church, and even at 40
ranks, the organ was
overpowering.

Over the years there have been
many fine organists that have
played this organ, and the latest
to take the helm is Patrick Kuhl.

Patrick Kuhl is an accomplished
organist.  He has been a church
musician for many years in the
metro Detroit area, as well as
"Up North" in the summer.  He
assumed the job as Minister of
Music at Central Woodward
Christian Church in January
2009.

Patrick's last position was at
Meadowbrook Congregational
Church in Novi where he had
enjoyed playing a newer 3
manual Allen organ.

The Casavant console was
wearing out with many things not
working on it, as well as having
limited resources.
An Organ Committee was formed, and
meetings commenced.  Jim Evola and I
took the committee to see and hear some
pipe/digital combination organs in the area
that we have done.  We went to First
Congregational in Rochester and then First
Baptist in Birmingham.  The committee was
suitably impressed with the sound of the
Allen's digital stops and ruggedness of
build quality, as well as flexibility and
versatility in it's musical ability.

Next came the design phase.  Patrick and I
determined that the pipes in the Swell and
Choir divisions were beautiful and not too
loud for the room.  Whereas the pipes in the
Great and Solo were too powerful and
almost non-usable due to their scaling.  The
committee was presented with several
options for the new console, and the 4
manual Q410 was chosen.

After that came the investigation of how the
pipes would interface with the new
console.  As you can see by the picture of
Ken Holden to the left here (yes, that's Ken
in the blue jeans and red sweater - sorry for
the angle Ken) access was difficult at best.  
I measured voltages and took notes as to
what pipes were on "main chests" and
which ones were on "offset chests" or on
their own unit chests.  I found that the Choir
division was on one pitman chest with one
primary magnet per note drawing 100ma of
12vdc and the Swell division had two
pitman chests drawing about 200ma.  The
16' Gedeckt and 16' Bourdon and the 8'
Trumpet in the Pedal were all on their own
actions.  The swell shades and the
tremulants also need their own drivers.

Given that information, I ordered the pipe
interface board from the Allen Organ Co.  
They built it to those specifications, a
picture of it is on the left.  We mounted it to
the wall of the organ chamber just above
the old wiring "spreader boards" so that
connecting the two would be easier.

Ken Holden and Stephen Warner of Holden
Pipe Organ Co. were a great help to me
with the wiring of the interface.  Pictures of
their handiwork are shown here.  The Pedal
Gedeckt needed a new cable run, and
that's what Ken was doing in that picture I
mentioned above.

In 1979 when the organ was installed, they
had used many 50-wire cables to wire the
console to the pipes.  Organ ranks have 61
notes, so it made for some confusion.  Ken
and Stephen unbundled all of the cables,
and re-bundled them into proper 61-note
groups.  A lot of extra work, but in the end it
made for a neater and more logical
installation.

Ken and Stephen are to be commended on
their fine work and attention to detail.  To
the left are pictures of Ken Holden and
Stephen Warner tuning the pipes in the
Choir division.  The picture of Ken was
taken through the expression shutters !

Rial Hamman, organ search committee
chairman, and a helper built the shelves to
hold the speakers.  They did an excellent
job making the shelves sturdy by using
construction adhesive as well as screws.  
There are 22 main speakers on the shelves
and 2 large sub woofers on the floor.  Rial
also cut two new openings and improved
on the two existing openings allowing
access into the lower Choir and Swell
chambers.  Even with the new openings, it
is still a challenge to crawl into either
chamber.

This has been a big project, but well worth
it.  The organ makes a much more musical
and satisfying sound now, and has a vastly
improved range of both tonal colors as well
as expression.

Stay tuned for information about concerts
on this "new" Allen / Casavant digital pipe
combination organ!!
Back to Church page
Back to Church page
This organ was featured on the Allen Organ Company's web site as one of their "Organs of the
Week."    We made headlines again  :)    
click here to see!