The Rodgers Pipe Organ at Second Baptist Church, Houston
Thirty-six years ago, the largest pipe organ in Texas was inaugurated with a series of celebrations in August of 1987. That organ is a Rodgers pipe organ, installed in the 6,000-seat Worship Center of the Woodway main campus of Second Baptist Church in Houston. The organ has 193 ranks and 10,412 pipes!
Engineers at Rodgers spent two years in research and development on this massive project. Rodgers had long been acknowledged as the leader of the organ building industry in the use of microprocessor control for pipe and electronic organs. The system at Second Baptist Church surpasses all previous achievements.
From woodworking to console fitting to software programming, each step involved thousands of man hours and the equivalent experience of centuries of learning. To exploit all the resources available in this technological time, and yet focus on the intended purpose, represented a fine effort on everyone’s part.
Allen Harrah, President of Rodgers Organ Company during the proposal and contract negotiation period, inspired the design and scope of this instrument. Ken List, Tonal Director for Rodgers during this initial period, imparted his experience and wisdom gained from many years of study in organ design.
Later, Allan Van Zoeren, Tonal Director, and Steve Adams, Pipe and Custom Administrator, shared the monumental task of finally putting together the people and thousands of pieces of this giant puzzle to make it one of the finest organs in the world today. Bill Smith was the onsite project manager seeing that everything from the smallest screw to the largest pipe was in its proper place.
Bill Ulery, then President and Chief Executive Officer of Rodgers Organ Company, following his initial visit to Second Baptist Church, commented “we have the good fortune to build this magnificent organ in an acoustically ideal worship center. The result will likely be a new musical benchmark for instruments of this scope and specification. As the tonal finishing begins in the coming weeks, the excitement will also start to build in anticipation of hearing the final product. I am confident the vision seen by the initial designers will be fulfilled, with God’s help and our hard work.”
Gary Moore, then Minister of Music at Second Baptist Church, shared the inspiration that created this instrument. His concept of the church’s needs, even before the building’s construction, clearly guided all in the direction necessary for the scope of this project.
Frederick Swann, internationally acclaimed concert artist, brought to this project the artistic experience of the master performer. His work at The Riverside Church in New York City and continuing at the Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California, is well known throughout the world. A man of his caliber was essential to the project’s success.
A list of personnel involved in each phase of this undertaking is placed inside the chambers of the organ, each signing his or her name in evidence of participation in creating this monument. No less important to the manufacturing of this instrument is the dedicated crew finishing and regulating the organ onsite. They have worked endlessly on the precise regulation, adjustment, voicing, and tuning of the thousands of pipes. While many of these adjustments were made at the factory during manufacturing, many still must be made when the instrument is finally installed.
Here are links to videos of Dr. Fred Swann demonstrating the Second Baptist Church Rodgers pipe organ:
And here are links to videos of Diane Bish playing the Second Baptist Church Rodgers pipe organ for a national AGO convention concert: https://youtu.be/d9wgoxjT6XU?feature=shared