Rodgers Hybrid Infinity 489 in Salina, Kansas

Relationships … Uniting Tradition and Innovation … This is the story of the organ at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina, Kansas. We are grateful to David Rankin for writing and submitting this story.

In 1915, the Ladies Guild of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salina, Kansas, started a fund drive for a pipe organ. In 1926, at a cost of $10,000, George Kilgen & Son installed their Opus 3655, consisting of two manuals and pedal and 13 ranks of pipes. In 1945, the Diocese was moved to Salina and Sacred Heart Church was designated the Cathedral. When the new Cathedral was completed in 1952, it was a modern marvel of innovation designed to look like the hundreds of large grain elevators found throughout Kansas and the Salina Diocese. The Kilgen Pipe Organ Company rebuilt, enlarged, and moved the pipe organ into the new Cathedral. The organ now had 17 ranks playable from a new three manual console behind the main altar, as well as the original two manual console located in the side chapel.

The rich, majestic sound of the Kilgen organ filled the 1,000-seat church week after week until it began to show its age in the mid-1980s. Serious mechanical problems began to occur, causing dead notes and ciphers. A local organ builder was chosen to renovate the Kilgen. At this time, the original windchests were rebuilt using direct electric style chest magnets, the old relays were changed to solid state switching, and both consoles were completely rebuilt. Some tonal modifications were made, and the work was completed in 1987. 

Also in 1987, David Rankin, the current Rodgers Organ dealer for most of Kansas, moved to Ellsworth to teach band and choir at Ellsworth High School 35 miles from Salina. It so happened that one of the Cathedral organists, Judy Weber, was teaching music at the middle school in the Ellsworth district and told David all about the organ project. David and Judy formed a strong relationship then, continuing for 36 years.

Relationships are key to every Rodgers Organ project, and as you will see, relationships have played a major role in this new Rodgers installation as well.

Under David’s leadership, the high school music program nearly tripled in size and by 2000, included 236 out of the 260 students in the school. One of those students was Preston Sauers, now the current Organist and Music Director at Sacred Heart Cathedral. As a student, Preston was not very happy with Mr. Rankin when he decided to change jobs, leave teaching, and begin a new career representing Rodgers Organs and servicing pipe organs. In 2001 David began tuning and servicing the Kilgen pipe organ at the Cathedral … relationships …

In August 2002, the Cathedral was struck by lightning, causing significant damage to computers, telephones, the electronic carillon, and to the Kilgen pipe organ. David Rankin, the Rodgers representative, provided a proposal to rebuild, restore, and upgrade the historic Kilgen pipe organ. This innovative proposal included replacing the Kilgen console with a new three manual Rodgers Trillium 957 digital console with a custom Rodgers pipe interface system controlling the 18 ranks of pipes. The two manual pipe organ console in the side chapel was replaced by a new Rodgers Trillium 787 digital console. The Rodgers 957 pipe/digital combination organ was used nearly everyday for 20 years until the Cathedral once again experienced electrical issues that damaged the organ again!

Relationships played a significant role in what would happen next. David continued to take care of the Cathedral organ, Judy, David’s mentor and good friend, had continued playing the organ and piano at the church, and David’s former student, Preston, started playing the organ at the Cathedral in 2015.  When Preston texted David on Christmas Eve 2022 saying the organ was dead and he was having to play the Chapel organ, the seeds for the new Rodgers four manual Infinity 489 installation were planted. In February 2023, a contract for a new Rodgers Infinity 489 four manual mechanical draw knob console with wood core keyboards was signed. A new Rodgers Pipe Integration System would run all 18 ranks of pipes, blending the historic Kilgen pipe organ with the most innovative digital technology in the organ industry. The majestic Cathedral organ played again for the first time since Christmas on Sunday August 27, 2023. This was possible only because of important relationships. Technology, Innovation, and Integrity are important, but relationships are what bind everything together. The people who make up Rodgers Instruments LLC and The Global Organ Group understand how important this is and strive to build deep-rooted relationships with each and every customer. The new Rodgers/Kilgen Organ at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina, Kansas is a shining example of Tradition and Innovation … and Relationships!