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Pipe Organ Renewal

Consulting services to guide churches through the process of installing their own King of Instruments.

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What is a pipe organ consultant?   If you're reading this, you likely are committed to your church community and curious about acquiring pipe organ.  Where do you start?  Googling "organ builders" and asking for proposals can be time consuming and intimidating. Do you accept the first proposal?  Do you ask around? Do you fall for the myth that a digital organ is just as good and easier to install? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not anti-digital, I'm simply pro pipe organ.  A digital organ is by definition an imitation pipe organ.  There is no substitute for the glory, power, and subtlety of a real pipe organ, and it is my hope that every church seeking a new instrument would explore this option thoroughly. We owe it to God and our parishioners to at least try.  I can tell you that a pipe organ installation is not only possible, but easy and exciting, if you know what to do!  If you are inclined to look into it, your first instinct might be to talk to a music director who has done this before.  I am delighted to be that person for you. Find out more about this below!

About the Consultant:  My name is Luke and I am a Catholic Professional Organist and hymn writer. For 3 years I have shared settings of the antiphons for Mass on this website. Perhaps you have used some.  For over 20 years I have served as a Catholic Music director.  I live with my wife and 4 children in Cleveland, Ohio, where I serve St. Joseph Parish.  One of the more thrilling aspects of my career in liturgical music has been helping local churches find beautiful pipe organs. I can help you along this journey and find you the best options for a stunning and beautiful pipe organ for your church. In addition to my love for Sacred Music and pipe organs, I also work as a Speech Language Pathologist with my wife, Melissa.

Unbiased and Fair

Not associated with any organ builder.  Familiar with the most reputable organ builders, and knowledge of fair market prices.  

Organist

With a Masters in Organ Performance and 2 decades as a music director, I understand tonal design and what to look for in a liturgical pipe organ. 

An Advocate

I will help you discern what is best for your church, listen to you, and ensure that you are matched with the right organ builder. 

Catholic

I've devoted my life to Sacred Music, so I know how much a good instrument can mean on a spiritual level.  I also know what sounds are best suited to liturgical playing. 

Experienced

I know what speed bumps to expect and how to navigate them, with proven experience helping churches find the right organ. I understand the ups and downs and the bureaucracy of parish life.  

Love for Organs

I do this mainly because I care about the Mass, love pipe organs, and want to see true sacred music flourish.  That's why my fees are so low.  We've all experienced the awe and solemnity that a powerful organ can add to the Mass.  I want all Catholic Churches to have that opportunity. 

Here's how Pipe Organ Consulting Works

Free Consultation

Discuss where you're at with the process for about 15 minutes, and gather ideas or ask questions.  

Schedule your

consultation here

Plan

$99.  Zoom meeting inside your church to show me around.  Take photos and measurements.  Then I'll craft and submit to you a plan with various options for how you can get a pipe organ that complements your church, and inspires the others to be invested in supporting it and singing along with it!

Request for Proposal

$299.  When you're ready, I can reach out to an organ builder, or create a formal "RFP" that I send out to many builders.  My recent RFP elicited 10 proposals in or near the client's budget. I'll manage all communication with prospective builders, stay in frequent contact with you, and provide a summary report for your committee. Contract award fee and billable hours after RFP negotiable; e.g. 2% of total contract, $20/half hour.

Fundraising

$99.  Either before or after a builder is chosen, I can adapt my fundraising flyers, price graphs, and bulletin inserts to your specific organ to create attractive materials for your church. 

  • Why get a pipe organ instead of a digital?
    Because it will invigorate your music program and enhance your worship. Because God deserves our best. I firmly believe EVERY church CAN get a successful pipe organ. Nothing against digital, but there is no comparison in my book. Pipe organs are real, and use the same air that we breathe to sing God’s praise. We always use real things in the liturgy: Bread, wine, flowers, candles, books, vestments. Why not a real instrument? Pipe organs fill the space with an omnidirectional sound that wraps around and supports the assembly. Digital installations, with sound coming from a handful of speakers, tend to be highly directional and sound completely different in various areas within the church. With the real thing, each pipe is like it's own unique speaker. At my church, I used to get complaints all the time about the digital organ being too loud. Now, with a pipe organ, I have not had that complaint once. Pipe organs are an acoustical phenomenon, with higher pitches and deep bass pipes giving the impression of immense sound without a damaging decibel level. They are traditional, powerful, and totally awesome. Organ builders are masters of an ancient art who have devoted their lives to their incredible craft. The Church needs to support and benefit from this art.
  • What about used organs, can’t I get one of those for free or cheap?
    Maybe! Repurposed organs can be a significant cost savings, but even a free organ takes many labor hours to refurbish, upgrade, and install. Also, the organ itself has to be the right size and fit for your church. Sometimes a new build makes more sense for a building, and sometimes a repurposed one does. These are considerations I can help you work through.
  • How many ranks do I need? (how big should the organ be?)
    I'm an advocate for modest size instruments. It’s my experience that a smaller pipe organ can be beautiful and more than enough. I would rather play a 10-15 rank real instrument, with beautiful combinations of sound suitable for chants and hymns, than 120 digital "ranks." This can also keep the price lower. Some builders are more willing to build smaller instrument than others. But I also understand how small is too small. An underwhelming instrument without sufficient power could be a disappointment.
  • I want a pipe organ, but isn’t a digital one cheaper?
    This is not necessarily true. Two recent pipe organ projects for which I was consulted had quotes for beautiful pipe organs for the exact same price as another local digital installation. Even a more expensive pipe organ is cheaper in the long run, as it lasts a lifetime. Digital organs last approximately 20 years and have to be replaced. At that point, you've now spent more than the cost of a pipe organ. Experience has shown that pipe organs are far more appealing as a fund-raising endeavor.
  • What if there’s nowhere to put an organ in my church?
    These are my favorite kinds of projects. There is always a way, if you are creative. At my own church, 2 builders told me an organ would never fit. Now we have a gorgeous 15 rank organ. Another local church for whom I consulted had absolutely no room for a pipe organ. Now they are on their way to installing one in a very creative location.
  • We don't have a trained organist, so who would play it?
    There is indeed a shortage of organists, however, a competent pianist would sound better on a pipe organ than on a digital organ. That's partly because pipe organs simply sound better. But also, modern pipe organs can contain features that enable competent pianists, with a bit of training, to sound more like an organist, without needing to play the pedals. Also digital organs often contain 3 or 4 manuals with over 100 stops, even in small churches. Acoustically, this is ridiculous and unrealistic. Such a keyboard belongs in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and makes no sense in your average church. This would overwhelm any pianist. With a smaller pipe organ, the number of choices is manageable and memoizable, enabling the player to become intimately acquainted with each rank. Furthermore, (speaking from experience) many trained organists don’t want to play digital instruments. A nice pipe organ will draw better candidates and inspire future learners of the organ.
  • What is the cost of a pipe organ?
    It depends on many factors. For the same project, one builder quoted less than $100,000, and another quoted $1.2 million. Both were for the same church. Obviously, each builder had a completely different organ in mind. So it depends on the builder, the size of the instrument, the size of the church, whether the organ is new, partially repurposed, or fully repurposed. In this case, the larger quote was for an immense new organ, the smaller quote was for a little repurposed instrument that could fit without refurbishment. There were also many quotes in between these extremes. I can help you understand these differences and the pros and cons.
  • What about hybrid organs?
    A pipe/digital organ can be successful, but it depends on the ratio of pipes to digital. A primary pipe organ with a handful of digital ranks can be very nice. It can save space on the larger stops and add an extra musical flavor to the pipes.


Recent Project Stories:

My own church had a digital organ from the 80s.  I started looking into replacing it with a digital.  I listened to new installations in the area and was not excited about it. We formed an organ committee and heard some pipe organs. Everyone was sold on the idea of a pipe organ, except some of the organ builders I contacted.  A few told me the ceiling was too low for an organ in the loft.  Fortunately, we found a builder with a similar vision, and now have this glorious organ cantilevered off the loft.


https://www.sjohio.org/pipeorgan


At another local church, the pastor expressed a desire for a pipe organ.  The challenge: no loft, and no room in the music area. Builders said that an organ within the stated budget was impossible. I created a detailed request for proposal, with blueprints, videos, photos, ideas, and a deadline. The response was extraordinary.    As a result of my assistance, the committee received several excellent proposals within their budget. That church is now on its way to a having glorious new instrument in a creative location, utilizing one of the HVAC chambers in the wall. I look forward to sharing more about this project when the contract is officially signed. 
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