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Pipe Organs

History of the National City Christian Church Pipe Organs

The National City Christian Church congregation has been in the forefront of musical activity in the city of Washington D.C. since its founding in 1930. The present Möller pipe organs are two of the many magnificent features of this glorious sanctuary and are the foundation upon which the church’s music ministry is built. Concert organists from across the United States and around the world have performed recitals upon this grand instrument which is housed in one of the finest acoustical spaces in our nation’s capital.  The organ is used weekly to support congregational singing in worship and sensitively accompany choral ensembles and vocalists. It is used to collaborate with orchestral instruments and ensembles, teach students of all ages and perform organ solo literature in weekly recitals and demonstrations. Its comprehensive and flexible “American Classic” design make it an a magnificent example of universality; an instrument that is “French” when needed, “German” when desired, and more than capable of accurately, and musically, playing repertoire from Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary eras.


The Pearl Neugent Nordan Gallery Organ
National City Christian Church’s first pipe organ was built by the Ernest M. Skinner Organ Company of Boston, Massachusetts and installed in 1930 upon the completion of the church. The organ, Op. 824, had four manuals, 54 ranks, and 3,514 pipes. It was quintessential E.M. Skinner, with its large scale diapason stops, lush strings and an array of colorful orchestral reed stops. The renowned concert organist Virgil Fox practiced and played recitals upon the organ while serving in the Air Force during the Second World War while he was stationed at the chapel of Walter Reed Medical Hospital. This organ was used to accompany the great operatic soprano Leontyne Price at the state funeral of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, one of its last major musical offerings before being reworked in later years.
After 45 years of faithful service, the firm of M.P. Möller of Hagerstown, Maryland, extensively rebuilt the Skinner organ in 1976. Under the direction of Donald M. Gillette and Ronald F. Ellis and the guidance of Minister of Music Lawrence Schreiber, Möller created a new 105-rank instrument of five divisions (Great, Swell, Choir, Positiv and Pedal) and 5,391 pipes controlled by a new four-manual console. At that time, some 30 ranks of the Skinner organ were revoiced and used in various divisions within this new instrument. Of those 30 ranks, only eight (English Horn, Flute Triangulaire, Flute Harmonique, pedal Principal and Contra Bass, among others) were retained in their original and untouched condition. Hundreds of donors, both local and nationwide, contributed funds to Möller’s landmark instrument, one that featured the best of the “American Classic” organ building ideals. It was celebrated widely for its variety of colorful flute and reed stops and its formidable 30-rank pedal division, including Möller’s signature “harmonics” stops meant to produce the effect of 32’ and 64’ ranks. Recitals the first season featured Virgil Fox, Marilyn Mason, Albert Russell, Clyde Holloway, Robert Baker and Lawrence Schreiber.



The Chancel Organ


In 1980-81, a major renovation of the sanctuary surpassed not only the original splendor conceived by architect John Russell Pope, but achieved a superb acoustical environment ideal for both music and the spoken word. Into this jewel-like setting was added the Pearl Neugent Nordan Gallery Organ in the rear balcony. This independent instrument of 16 ranks, with its towers of shining silver pipes and separate two-manual console, stunningly crowned the visual impact of the building. Because of its skillful design and placement, the Gallery Organ’s full and direct sound suggests an organ of many more pipes than it actually possesses. This instrument includes a brilliant, horizontally mounted Trompette-en-chamade on 10 inches of wind pressure. This trumpet stop, at its first hearing, was described by The Washington Post as “the most commanding Washington has ever heard.” The instruments’ most famous and popular feature, though, is its 61-note set of Whitechapel English handbells, custom designed and built for this organ and the first of its kind in the world. Ten small doors open when the Handbell stop is drawn to display the bells, which are elegantly lit for all to see.
In March 1985, an additional 20 ranks of pipes and a new five-manual, 271-drawknob console were added to the chancel organ, further enriching its tonal palette and artistic flexibility. These additions brought the total resources to 141 ranks, nine divisions, and 7,592 pipes, making it the third largest pipe organ in Washington D.C. and its only one with a five-manual console. The new “state of the art” console is able to play the full resources of both chancel and gallery instruments. Visible from the nave, directly underneath the cross, are the silver pipes of the five-rank Mounted Cornet stop, whose piquant and powerful sound is rich in overtones. Also added were new solo stops (Clarinet, Doppelflote, and a Tuba stop named after Rev. Dr. William Howland, then senior minister of the church), complete sets of French-style chorus reeds and additional flue pipes. The great British organist, Simon Preston, who gave the organ’s dedication recital in 1985, commented: “Once you have played this organ, it spoils you for all others.”
In 2003, a renovation project was undertaken to upgrade the electrical systems of both organs and install a new multi-memory, solid state computerized operating system to control the organs’ vast resources. The new system was designed and built by Solid State Organ Systems of Alexandria, Virginia, and to accommodate the new system, both chancel and gallery consoles were refurbished, with the gallery organ console given the ability to play, through “blind pistons”, the full resources of the chancel organ. Significant alterations were made to the layout of the draw knobs and controls of the five manual chancel console.
In 2007 and early 2008, the Pearl Neugent Nordan Gallery Organ underwent significant mechanical renovation work, including rebuilding and cleaning the Handbell stop’s playing mechanism and the replacement of swell expression shades and motors. The chancel organ received four digitally produced 32’ stops and one 64’ stop, designed by the Walker Technical Company of Zionsville, PA, to replace the unsuccessful harmonic mixture stops installed by Möller. The immediate future will see the addition of a new independent Solo division, increase and stabilization of wind pressures, the addition of several more ranks of pipes throughout the organ, the cleaning and revoicing of the chorus reed stops, and significant tonal refinement of the entire instrument.

The organ was prominently featured during the 2010 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists.

The organ is tuned monthly, and all tuning, maintenance, and restoration work is overseen by the firm of Lawless & Associates Pipe Organ Company in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, which include Irving Lawless, Cindy Bachtell, Trevor Timmons, and Daniel Chase.

***This history of the organ includes information from program notes written by Dr. Lawrence Schreiber for the present organ’s dedication on April 14, 1985 and an article written by Dr. Schreiber for the November 1985 issue of The American Organist magazine.

National City Christian Church Chancel Organ Specification

Great Organ (Manual II)
16’           Diapason                                 Digital
8’             Principal                                  61 pipes
8’             Violone                                    61 pipes
8’             Flute Harmonique †                 61 pipes
8’             Bourdon                                  61 pipes
4’             Octave                                     61 pipes
4’             Spitzflöte                                 61 pipes
2-2/3’       Quint                                       61 pipes
2’             Octavlein                                 61 pipes
2’             Waldflöte                                 61 pipes
1-3/5’       Terz                                         61 pipes
Mounted Cornet V (c2-c5)       185 pipes
Mixture IV-V                             257 pipes
Scharf III-IV                             currently unavailable
16’            Kontra Trompete                     12 pipes
16’            Bombarde                               12 pipes
8’              Trompete                                 61 pipes
8’              Trompette                                61 pipes
4’              Klarine                                     12 pipes
4’              Clairon                                     12 pipes
8’              Festival Trumpet                      SOLO
8’              Trompette en Chamade           GALLERY
Chimes                                     Digital
Great Unison Off
Gallery Swell on Great 8’
Pedal on Great 8’

Gallery Great Organ (Manual II)
16’           Bourdon                                     12 pipes
8’             Principal                                      61 pipes
8’             Gedeckt                                      61 pipes
8’             Gemshorn                                   GALLERY SWELL
8’             Gemshorn Céleste                      GALLERY SWELL
4’             Octave                                        12 pipes
4’             Gedeckt                                      12 pipes
2’             Super Octave                              12 pipes
2’             Flute                                           12 pipes
Cornet V (derived, t.c.)               49 notes
Sesquialtera II (t.c.)                    98 pipes
Mixture III-IV                               227 pipes
English Handbells (Whitechapel)
Handbell Doors Open/Close
Gallery Great Unison Off
Swell Organ (Manual III)
16’            Bourdon †                                   12 pipes
8’              Gambe                                         61 pipes
8’              Gambe Céleste                            61 pipes
8’              Flûte á Cheminée †                      61 pipes
8’              Flauto Dolce                                 61 pipes
8’              Flauto Dolce Céleste †                 61 pipes
4’              Prestant                                       61 pipes
4’              Flûte Triangulaire †                      61 pipes
2’              Doublette                                     61 pipes
2’              Flûte Conique                               61 pipes
Sesquialtera II                             122 pipes
Plein Jeu III-V                               215 pipes
Cymbale III                                  183 pipes
16’            Waldhorn †                                  12 pipes
8’              Trompette                                     61 pipes
8’              Waldhorn †                                   61 pipes
8’              Oboe †                                          61 pipes
8’              Voix Humaine                                61 pipes
4’              Clarion                                          61 pipes
8’              Festival Trumpet                           SOLO
8’              Trompette en Chamade                GALLERY
Swell 16’
Swell Unison Off
Swell 4’
All Swells to Swell
Gallery Great on Swell 8’

Gallery Swell Organ (Manual III)
8’             Rohrflöte                                           61 pipes
8’             Gemshorn                                         61 pipes
8’             Gemshorn Céleste (t.c.)                    49 pipes
4’             Spitzprinzipal                                    61 pipes
4’             Rohrflöte                                           12 pipes
2’             Spitzoktav                                         12 pipes
1-1/3’       Larigot                                              61 pipes
1’             Kleinoktave                                       12 pipes
16’           Contre Trompette                              12 pipes
8’             Trompette                                          61 pipes
8’             Schalmei                                            61 pipes
4’             Clairon                                               12 pipes
8’             Trompette en Chamade                     61 pipes
Gallery Swell Unison Off
Choir Organ (Manual I)
16’           Quintaton                                           12 pipes
8’             Montre                                                61 pipes
8’             Concert Flute †                                   61 pipes
8’             Doppelflöte                                         61 pipes
8’             Viole Sourdine                                    61 pipes
8’             Viole Sourdine Céleste (t.c.)               49 pipes
8’             Quintadena                                         61 pipes
4’             Octave                                                61 pipes
4’             Flûte Traversière †                              61 pipes
2-2/3’       Nazard                                                61 pipes
2’             Flûte Magique                                      61 pipes
1-1/3        Larigot                                                12 pipes
Fourniture III-IV                                  220 pipes
Jeu de Clochette III                             183 pipes
16’           Contre Trompette                                12 pipes
8’             Trompette                                            61 pipes
8’             Howland Tuba                                      61 pipes
8’             English Horn †                                      61 pipes
8’             Clarinet                                                 61 pipes
4’             Clairon                                                  12 pipes
8’             Festival Trumpet                                   SOLO
8’             Trompette en Chamade                        GALLERY
Choir 16’
Choir Unison Off
Choir 4’
Positiv Organ (Manual IV)
16’           Violone                                                GREAT
8’             Principal                                               61 pipes
8’             Spitzgedeckt                                        61 pipes
4’             Principal                                               61 pipes
4’             Koppelflöte                                           61 pipes
2-2/3       Nasat                                                    61 pipes
2’             Octave                                                  61 pipes
2’             Flachflöte                                              61 pipes
1-3/5’      Terzflöte                                                61 pipes
1-1/3’      Quint                                                     61 pipes
1’             Sifflöte                                                  61 pipes
Zimbel III-IV                              currently unavailable
16’           Petite Trompette                                  61 pipes
16’           Dulzian                                                 12 pipes
8’             Petite Trompette                                  61 pipes
8’             Krummhorn                                           61 pipes
8’             Rohrschalmei                                        61 pipes
4’             Petite Clarion                                       12 pipes
16’           Festival Trumpet                                   SOLO
8’             Festival Trumpet                                   SOLO
4’             Festival Trumpet                                   SOLO
8’             Trompette en Chamade                        GALLERY
Zimbelstern                                          10 bells
Positiv 16’
Positiv Unison Off
Gallery Great on Positiv 8’
Gallery Swell on Positiv 8’

Solo Organ (Manual V)
16’           String Céleste                                       SWELL / CHOIR
8’             Doppelflöte                                           CHOIR
8’             String Céleste                                       SWELL / CHOIR
4’             String Céleste                                       SWELL / CHOIR
8’             Trompette                                             CHOIR
8’             English Horn                                          CHOIR
8’             Clarinet                                                  CHOIR
8’             Waldhorn                                               SWELL
8’             Rohrschalmei                                          POSITIV
8’             Howland Tuba                                        CHOIR
16’           Festival Trumpet                                    12 notes (from Pedal Posaune)
8’             Festival Trumpet                                    61 pipes
4’             Festival Trumpet                                    12 pipes
8’             Trompette en Chamade                         GALLERY
English Handbells (Whitechapel)
Handbell Doors Open/Close

32’           Open Wood*                                       DIGITAL
32’           Contra Violone*                                   DIGITAL
32’           Untersatz                                             12 pipes
32’           Lieblich Gedeckt*                                 DIGITAL
16’           Kontra Bass †                                      32 pipes
16’           Principal †                                            32 pipes
16’           Subbass  †                                           32 pipes
16’           Violone                                                 GREAT
16’           Bourdon                                               SWELL
16’           Quintaton                                             CHOIR
10-2/3’   Quint †                                                   32 pipes
8’             Octave                                                  32 pipes
8’             Gedeckt Pommer †                               32 pipes
8’             Violone                                                 GREAT
8’             Flûte á Cheminée                                 SWELL
5-1/3’     Quinte                                                    32 pipes
4’             Choralbass                                           32 pipes
4’             Nachthorn                                             32 pipes
4’             Flûte á Cheminée                                  SWELL
2’             Hohlflöte                                               32 pipes
Mixture IV                                             128 pipes
64’           Double Ophicleide*                               DIGITAL
32’           Kontra Posaune                                    12 pipes
32’           Contre Basson*                                    DIGITAL
16’           Posaune                                                32 pipes
16’           Bombarde                                              GREAT
16’           Waldhorn                                               SWELL
16’           Contre Trompette                                  CHOIR
16’           Petite Trompette                                    POSITIV
8’             Posaune                                                12 pipes
8’             Trompette                                              GREAT
8’             Trompette                                              CHOIR
4’             Klarine                                                    12 pipes
4’             Rohrschalmei                                          POSITIV
4’             Trompette                                              CHOIR
8’             Festival Trumpet                                     SOLO
8’             Trompette en Chamade                          GALLERY
Chimes*                                                 20 notes
Unison Off
Pedal Divide

Gallery Pedal Organ
16’           Principal                                                 32 pipes
16’           Bourdon                                                 GALLERY GREAT
10-2/3’     Quint                                                     32 notes, borrowed from Bourdon
8’             Octave                                                   12 pipes
8’             Rohrflöte                                                GALLERY SWELL
4’             Choralbass                                            12 pipes
4’             Gedeckt                                                  GALLERY GREAT
32’           Trompette Cornet (derived)                   32 notes
16’           Contre Trompette                                  GALLERY SWELL
4’             Clairon                                                   GALLERY SWELL
4’             Schalmei                                                GALLERY SWELL
Gallery Pedal Unison Off
Gallery Great to Pedal
Gallery Swell to Pedal 

8’             Great to Pedal
4’             Great to Pedal
8’             Swell to Pedal
4’             Swell to Pedal
8’             Choir to Pedal
4’             Choir to Pedal
8’             Positiv to Pedal
4’             Positiv to Pedal
8’             Solo to Pedal
4’             Solo to Pedal

16’           Swell to Great
8’             Swell to Great
4’             Swell to Great
16’           Choir to Great
8’             Choir to Great
4’             Choir to Great
16’           Positiv to Great
8’             Positiv to Great
8’             Solo to Great

8′             Choir to Swell
8’             Positiv to Swell
8’             Solo to Swell

16’           Swell to Positiv
8’             Swell to Positiv
4’             Swell to Positiv
8’             Choir to Positiv
8’             Solo to Positiv

8’             Great to Choir
16’           Swell to Choir
8’             Swell to Choir
4’             Swell to Choir
8’             Positiv to Choir
8’             Solo to Choir

Combination Action
2003 SSOS Multi Level Capture System – 256 levels

General pistons 1-24 (thumb and toe: 1-18 thumbs=left; 19-24 thumbs=right)
Gallery Organ general pistons 1-6 (thumb)
Great divisional pistons 1-12 (thumb)
Swell divisional pistons 1-12 (thumb)
Choir divisional pistons 1-12 (thumb)
Positiv divisional pistons 1-12 (thumb)
Solo divisional pistons 1-12 (thumb)
Pedal divisional pistons 1-10 (1-6 toe=right; 7-10 thumb=left)
Coupler pistons 1-3 (thumb)

Tutti I / Tutti II / Tutti III reversibles (thumb and toe; great right key cheek and right outrigger)

Great to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 4’)
Swell to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 4’)
Choir to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 4’)
Positiv to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 4’)
Solo to Pedal reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 4’)

Swell to Great reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 16’ & 4’)
Choir to Great reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 16’ & 4’)
Positiv to Great reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 16’ & 4’)
Swell to Choir reversible (thumb and toe; cancels 16’ & 4’)

Gallery Great to Pedal reversible (toe)
Gallery Swell to Pedal reversible (toe)
Pedal Divide reversible (toe)
Manual Transfer reversible (toe)

32’ Open Wood reversible (toe; right outrigger)
32’ Kontra Posaune reversible (toe; right outrigger)
Chancel Zimbelstern reversible (toe; right outrigger)
Gallery Zimbelstern reversible (toe; right outrigger)

Miscellaneous Controls
Swell, Choir, and Gallery Swell expression shoes
Crescendo shoe (1 fixed/3 adjustable crescendo settings)
Next Piston (thumb; right key slip)
Previous Piston (thumb; great right key slip)
Next Piston (toe; right of expression shoes)
Previous Piston (toe; left of expression shoes)
Piston Sequencer
(Piston, Auto Step, List in Use, Step Up, Step Down, Insert Step, Delete Step, Piston Up, and
Piston Down thumb pistons)
Transposer (7 half-steps up and 7 half-steps down)
Manual Transfer
(Man. II and pistons move to Manual I; Man. I and pistons move to Man. IV; Man. IV and
pistons move to Man. I)
Cancel piston
Set piston
Chancel organ playable at 2-manual gallery console via blind pistons
MIDI record/playback compatible
Digital voice by Walker Technical Company, Zionsville, Pennsylvania
† Pipework from 1930 E.M. Skinner organ