Hybrid Installations

In 1991 Casavant Fréres completed the  construction and installation of a 4-manual, 67 rank mechanical  action pipe organ, Opus 3689, in the new sanctuary at Bel Air  Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, California. In 1994, the organ was  heavily damaged in the Northridge earthquake.  The console, tracker  mechanisms and chests along with other wooden components were  destroyed by water sprinklers having been set off by the severe  motion of the quake.

In 1996, Robert Tall & Associates,  Inc. was awarded the contract to rebuild and enhance the pipes with  digital additions controlled by a new state-of-the-art Rodgers  4-manual console.  Sixty of the sixty-seven Casavant pipe ranks were  repaired and incorporated in the new specification.  The rebuilt and  enhanced instrument now contains 151 ranks, 118 speaking stops.

This magnificent instrument has lived  to earn its own prestigious reputation among the most hesitant and  discriminating musicians.  It was featured in the 2004 AGO National  Convention held in Los Angeles. We were pleased to receive this  message of appreciation from Nancy Ruczynski, Bel Air Presbyterian  Church organist for the past 11 years.

The Bel Air Rodgers hybrid organ  remains to this date, one of Robert Tall & Associates, Inc. most  visible and prestigious installations.

A Message from  Nancy Ruczynski, Organist

Bel  Air Presbyterian Church

Our  organ at Bel Air has been very reliable during the 11 years I have  served as organist.  And when we need a service call or have any  kind of question, Rodgers responds right away.  The congregation  loves hearing many pieces from the traditional organ repertoire for  preludes and postludes (they always give me great encouragement for  my playing, which I love), but also enjoys hearing novel uses of the  organ, such as a duet we recently did on Easter for organ and  electric guitar.

Because  the organ is about half digital and half pipes, plus midi sounds, we  are able to use some novel effects in "orchestrating"  pieces, such as on our hymnal version of Malotte's Lord's Prayer,  which we did this past Sunday,  using midi strings and harps blended together, plus flute, horn  and chimes, along with the "traditional" organ sound with  full pipes for the big ending.

Because the organ is half  digital, we can adjust the tuning to anything we need (even when the  organ pipes might be flat due to cold weather)  -- so we  are always able to keep the organ perfectly in tune for playing with  ensembles / orchestras, which happens quite frequently at our  church.  Even though our congregation worships in both  traditional and contemporary services, our organ facilitates a  connection between the two styles.

Often  when kids from the preschool on campus are dismissed, they walk  through the sanctuary and hear me practicing.   This  happened a few days ago. The kids are curious about the organ sound  and stop with their parents to listen. I then invite them to the  organ, and they have their first "lesson."  They sit  on the bench and I put them right to work.  They learn about the  different sounds:  the zimbelstern we call the "magic"  button, and I often show them that first.  The 32' bombarde is  loved by little boys for its farting sounds.  Then I have them  push the Tutti II button, because it is a button I have never once  used in church -- too loud.  The children are told that Tutti II  might blow up the windows, so of course they push it.  Next they  learn about the "zero" button (cancel), and that is fun to  do, erasing everything.  Soon after that comes chimes and harp,  etc.  Also the midi sounds such as rocket ship, thunder and  birds.  They are actually able to dial up the midi sounds, even  though in preschool!

So  I would say we have a lot of fun with this organ, and no one knows  more than I (since I have been at the church for 11 years out of the  organ's 20 years of existence) just how reliable our Rodgers  organ is.

Nancy  Ruczynski
Bel  Air Church – Organist and Children's Choir Director

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