An Impressive 4-Manual Hybrid Organ Leaves a Lasting Legacy
Written by Peggy Bartunek, President of Rodgers Classic Organs
Rodgers Instruments proudly announces the installation of a Rodgers hybrid organ at Annunciation Catholic Church, in Minneapolis, MN incorporating the church’s Wicks 30 rank, 1962 pipe organ with a Rodgers Infinity four-manual 484 digital organ. This beautiful 84-stop organ will be remembered by the Rodgers community as the culmination of the outstanding career of Barbara Gensmer, president of Rodgers Organ Studio, who retired in June of 2019.
Beginning in sales with Rodgers in the 1970’s, Barbara was recognized multiple times throughout her career in Minnesota and Wisconsin as a top U.S. Rodgers dealer, evident by having sold and installed over 1,200 hybrid and digital organs. Barbara made countless friends with her clients and Rodgers colleagues and was respected and admired as personable, knowledgeable, and tireless. Chris Jordan, Annunciation organist said, “I worked with Barbara Gensmer when I played at St. Ambrose of Woodbury, MN where we installed a 4-manual Rodger's Trillium organ. It was a completely digital organ, so working on a hybrid project was even more exciting. Barb has been great to work with. She really helped us achieve our vision for a world-class instrument at Annunciation.”
The organ committee consisted of Jordan; Nick Chalmers, Director of Music; Fr. Brian Park, Pastor; and Jim Wieland, Business Manager. With initial study provided by Jordan, the committee determined that the best solution for an organ that would support congregational singing and enhance prayer with music for Masses, weddings, and funerals would be to replace the failing Wicks console with a four-manual Rodgers Infinity 484 to complement the solid foundation of Wicks pipes. The organ installation was designed and supervised by Denny Davis and the voicing was done by Jim Hockins. The pipe interface was completed by Brian Sullivan.
The organ project proved to be an opportune time to discuss solutions to a myriad of problems which affected the music ministry: The organ console and pipes were behind the chancel screen and the choir sang from the right side of the chancel, causing sight-line difficulties for all musicians, and a delay in sound for the choir in hearing the pipes. The committee decided that although the pipes with 20 Rodgers speakers would be in the front of the church, the best solution would be to place the choir and organ console with antiphonal speakers in the rear loft. Modifications were made to the balcony including removing the front 3 rows of pews, adding an additional railing, and building up the flooring to create a large, open, flexible space for the choir, the organ console on a moveable platform, the grand piano, and for other instrumentalists.
Jordan said, “In the previous location, the organist was completely disconnected from the choir, so we could not accompany choral arrangements with organ. The idea to move to the rear solved every issue. The acoustics from the loft are out-of-this-world, the choir’s sound projects beautifully, the choir and organist are together, and all musicians can now actively participate in the Mass by being able to see the altar.” Choir director, Nick Chalmers said, “We love the flexibility that the organ provides. Grand and celebratory, while also dulcet and subtle. This agility allows for support of congregational singing, and at the touch of a piston, a new sound appropriate for accompanying light, choral or solo singing.”
The hybrid organ at Annunciation is an example of the magnificent possibilities when a good foundation of pipes is combined with a fine Rodgers digital organ, in a space with excellent acoustics. Jordan said, “The acoustics at Annunciation might be the best in the Twin Cities. The organ is the king of instruments, and the size of our church dictates the use of an organ. Piano is used, as well, but it simply doesn't fill the space like the organ. Easter, Christmas and wedding celebrations are far more energetic with full organ.”
Jordan added, “There is a big difference in how I play the new instrument. The previous console sat underneath the pipes, so playing Bach was great but the console placement didn't allow me to hear the ambient organ sound. From the rear loft, I can now hear the organ in the natural acoustics - and it's fantastic! While it took some time to get used to the console in the loft and the pipes and main speakers in front, with the loft antiphonal speakers, playing this organ is a dream.
“The new installation has re-invigorated my love for playing organ, using repertoire that the old organ really didn't allow, and is now expanding my repertoire to fully utilize this new instrument. The pipe organ has solid depth with a strong principle chorus, flutes, and strings, but it lacked color because the reeds and mixtures were limited. I could never do a solo trumpet for a wedding procession. The Rodgers four-manual console, giving Annunciation the full use of the Wicks pipes plus the Rodgers digital stops was simply the best choice because it offers far more flexibility and options for arranging and registering music, making it easier to play.
Although this organ is first and foremost an instrument for worship, during the pandemic shut down, we streamed Masses over Facebook, which allowed many people locally, nationally, and internationally to hear this beautiful organ. Our original vision was to have a dedication recital, but due to the pandemic, we are unable to do that for now. Instead, we hope to host some online events and post some great music via Facebook or YouTube.”
Rodgers Instruments congratulates Barbara Gensmer and Annunciation Catholic Church for this new Rodgers hybrid organ. Following Barbara’s retirement, Rodgers Instruments authorized Rodgers Classic Organs as the new dealer. Peggy Bartunek, president, is grateful to Barbara Gensmer for the legacy of Rodgers organs she established throughout her career and particularly appreciates Barbara’s final outstanding Rodgers hybrid installation at Annunciation Catholic Church.