About Our Organ
Chevy Chase, MD – M.P. Möller Opus 8839, 1954
Rebuilt by Lewis & Hitchcock, 2005-2006
Perhaps no other single facet of a worship service provides at once so much pleasure as so great an inspiration as does its music. The traditional musical foundation in Christian churches is the pipe organ. It creates an atmosphere of reverence aurally, much as Gothic architecture – often aptly called “frozen music” – does visually. Chevy Chase Methodist Church can be as proud of its inspiring new organ as of the sanctuary itself. In the words of a music critic writing of the thrilling dedicatory concert on December 5, 1954, our organ “is in every respect worthy of its attractive surroundings… It sounded like one of the best organs in Washington.”
This organ represented the height of organ building for its time. It had just about everything an organist could want then. But this was a time when music in the church was much less varied than it is now fifty plus years later. In addition several things conspired against the organ.
When the sanctuary was complete, it was judged to be too reverberant, and the organ to be too shrill. Curtains covered the organ chamber, and acoustical treatment was applied to the ceiling. We like to say that the most important stop on the organ is the room in which it is located. The organ became a jewel in a velvet box; many of the tone colors were swallowed up.
The organ was also built at the beginning of the “Organ Reform Movement”, when organs were being designed to have more clarity. One of the fashions then was to make the unisons thin and the octaves larger, which, while making the organ a bit more clear, often made them lack body. So many times in trying to accompany a soloist or choir the organ was either too soft or too loud; there was a missing medium level of sound.
Also many stops seemed better suited to other divisions than where they were located. Couplers helped tie sounds together, but the organist had to do lots of strange maneuvering to make that happen, and it tied up manuals that were needed elsewhere.
When the age of the organ made a mechanical refurbishing necessary, we made up plans of how to make the organ be the best it could be. The first thing was to fix the room, and that was done to great effect. All music benefits from the wonderful new floors and ceiling.
Then stops needed to be relocated to where they fit best. As the original console could not be expanded, a new console was designed, with all the latest technology available to the organist. Then new stops were added to fill in missing sounds, all capped by the commanding Trompette en Chamade in the rear gallery.