Church website

Organ of the First Baptist Church, Penn Yan, NY
Wm. A. Johnson, Opus 345 - 1871
Marr & Colton - 1931
L. Peckham - 1983

The organ at the Penn Yan First Baptist Church has a heritage which dates back to 1871.

At the time of the construction of the present church building, William A. Johnson of Westfield, Massachusetts was selected to furnish the church with a new pipe organ. Johnson had been building organs for 28 years, and had earned a reputation as a builder of fine quality instruments, both musically and mechanically. (See this Wikipedia article.)

The organ, Johnson's opus 345, was originally installed in the archway at the rear of the sanctuary. It was a two manual "tracker" (mechanical action) organ containing around 1,000 pipes in about 18 ranks. An 1871 news article stated "And to make the church even more attractive, a large and very melodious organ has been added, at a cost of $2,100, which gives entire satisfaction, and has been pronounced by competent judges a fine instrument."

In 1904, as a part of a major remodeling of the sanctuary, the organ was moved from the rear to the front arch. It may have been at this time that a "water motor" was added to pump the organ's bellows. Before that, the wind supply was provided by man power - or often boy power - by the operation of a long lever attached to the bellows. No other changes in the organ have been found in church records until 1931.

In 1931, a "new" organ was built by the Marr and Colton firm of Warsaw, NY. However, it was not completely new, as the majority of it's pipework came from the 1871 instrument. The tracker (mechanical) action was replaced by electro-pneumatic action chests, and a new console was provided. The entire structure of the organ was changed by the removal of the 1871 casework and the installation of the pipework in three chambers across the front of the sanctuary. This 1931 rebuild resulted in an instrument with three rather weak divisions, Great, Swell and Choir, all of which were under expression.

In 1983, Lauren and David Peckham of Breezeport, NY reorganized the organ back into a two manual configuration by using the Choir windchest to enlarge the Great division. A "unit" flute chest was moved from the Choir to the Swell chamber to augment that division, and several other ranks were reshuffled. In addition, swell shades were removed from the Great and former Choir chambers to allow those sections to speak into the sanctuary more freely. The results of this work produced an organ whose tonal design is very close to the 1871 organ, and restored a full diapason chorus to the Great division.

One of the nicest ranks of pipes is Johnson's 4' Rhor Flute, which, along with his 8' Viol d'Amour is directly behind the thin curtain in the archway. This curtain replaced the former Choir chamber's "wall with a hole in it", and was done as a part of a major redecoration of the sanctuary in 1995. In addition, a section of the wall between the Great chamber and the central archway space was removed. These changes allowed an even more open speech for the entire Great division.

The present instrument contains around 1200 pipes in 22 ranks. It's character is more Johnson than it is Marr & Colton, a theater organ company which had moved into church organ construction with the advent of the "talkies". This explains the "horseshoe" console, typical of theater organs. Any resemblance to a theater organ stops there.

Since the greatest share of the pipework is from the 1871 organ, it's quality of tone retains much of the character of the highly respected organs built in the 1800's by Wm. A. Johnson.
Here are three YouTube videos made by Robert Welch - a 17 year old organist
from Indianapolis who played for us while vacationing at Keuka Lake:
Bach - "Liebster Jesu Wir Sind Hier-BWV 731" (part)
Hymn: "Break Thou The Bread Of Life"
"Communal Improvisation in d minor"

Photos
~ Photos of sanctuary and organ ~
~ Photos of console and pipework ~


Specification
Ranks indicated * are, as far as can be
determined, from the 1871 Wm. A. Johnson organ
  Great
*Open Diapason 8'
*Melodia 8'
*Viol d'Amour 8'
*Dulciana 8'
*Octave 4'
*Rhor Flute 4'
*Twelfth 2 2/3'
*Fifteenth 2'
  Trumpet 8'
  Chimes
  Great to Great 4'
  Great to Swell 16'
  Great to Swell 8'
  Great to Swell 4'
  Swell
*Lieblich Gedeckt 16'
*Open Diapason 8'
*Stopped Flute 8'
  Salicional 8'
  Viox Celeste 8'
*Flute 4'
*Flute d'Amour 4'
*Piccolo 2'
*Oboe 8'
  Tremulant
  Swell to Swell 16'
  Swell to Swell 4'
  Pedal
  Resultant Bass 32'
*Open Diapason 16'
*Bourdon 16"
*Lieblich Gedeckt 16'
  Open Diapason 8'
*Flute 8'
  Great to Pedal 8'
  Swell to Pedal 8'
  Swell to Pedal 4'
Manuals - 61 notes
Pedal - 32 notes, concave, radiating
Presets - Great & Pedal, 4 - Swell & Pedal, 4 - General, 3
Swell unison off, Crescendo pedal, Szforzando, Wind = 5"
Background photo - 1904. The decorated pipes
seen here are now hidden in the Great chamber.

Comments / questions / more information: email me!