It is always interesting to examine a new-to-me instrument and I had this opportunity when I accepted an invitation to serve as a substitute organist at a Methodist church in Kent. The organ is a 50- year-old Wicks of 15 ranks. Instruments by this builder have direct electric action with a magnetic valve under each pipe. This lends itself to unification and flexibility in the reuse of voices, but can cause issues since pipes are not optimally scaled and voiced for the many roles in which they may be selected to function. An organist must register carefully. When I first visited the church, with a stack of music from my files, I found a live room with good acoustics. This always helps!


The service was for World Communion Sunday, so I selected quieter Prelude and Offertory music and was expected to play a Postlude as well as accompany 3 main hymns and the communion hymns.


Upon arrival for practice a few days before the service, I found that the original Wicks switching and combination system had been replaced by a more modern Peterson digital system with 100 memory levels. Since there were only 5 general pistons, this was most welcome! However, I found that it was not possible to set any pistons! In a quick call to Bond Organ Builders, it was suggested that the combinations would not set if the Crescendo was cracked even a bit, and indeed that was the case. Having resolved that issue, I was able to register the instrument for the service.


The morning of the service, the piano accompanist for the choir that had heard me practicing took me aside and advised that there might be “too much organ” for many members of the congregation. I took this under advisement, but decided that I was not going to change anything from what I had planned. As I started the Prelude I was somewhat taken aback by the congregation of about 200 continuing social conversation over the music. The opening hymn was Nicaea (Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty), so I played an alternate harmonization for the last verse. The choir and congregation followed well.


To my surprise, the congregation remained seated and silent and listened to the entire Postlude. After the service I was pleased to hear from the choir director and several other members that they appreciated the leadership of the hymns and the service music. I guess in the end there was not “too much organ”.

Howard Wolvington Dean


November AGO Event 


AGO Chapter Event Friday, November 18, 7:30 pm Joseph Adam, organ. César Franck Bicentennial Celebration -St. James Cathedral 804 9th Avenue Seattle, WA 98104. Suggested donation of $20, $12 students/ seniors. Tickets are available at door and in advance, This will be the Seattle AGO chapter program for November. In this series of four recitals, Franck’s major works are surveyed along with major works by his most important successors at St. Clotilde in Paris. This third program includes Franck’s Cantabile in B Major (1878) Fantaisie in C, op. 16, and Choral III in A Minor, as well as Symphonie d’aprés »Media vita« (1932) by Joseph Ermend-Bonnal (1880-1944).