Pasadena Presbyterian Church, CA, USA
The Harry and Helen Ehrich Organ at Pasadena Presbyterian Church (PPC) is one of the largest and finest instruments of its kind in Southern California (USA). It plays a major leadership role in English-language worship and is used in Korean-language worship, as well. The organ is also one of Southern California’s most important teaching instruments and is used several times each year for organ recitals as part of the church’s Friends of Music series.
Built by the Æolian-Skinner company of Boston, and recently renovated by local organ builder Robert Turner and the Schantz Organ Company of Orville, Ohio, the organ has in its current state 4 manuals and pedal, and includes more than 6,000 pipes arranged in 111 ranks. It is an excellent example of the “American Classic” school of organ design. An American Classic organ design attempts to include sounds suitable for the performance of music from the various historic and national schools of organ compositions in one large, comprehensive instrument.
This organ was built for PPC’s 1908 sanctuary and replaced an older instrument built by the Murray Harris firm of Los Angeles. It was designed in the late 1940’s by G. Donald Harrison of the Æolian-Skinner Company and then-organist David Craighead. In 1947 the four-manual console was purchased, but funding for the pipework was preempted by the building of the Parish House and Freeman Chapel.
For almost fifteen years this new console was used to play the old Murray Harris organ.
In 1961 the new organ was finally installed—108 ranks—with some revision of the original stop list by Joseph Whiteford, president of Æolian-Skinner, and Robert Prichard, PPC’s organist at that time. The new organ included the large main organ, much as it is now installed, along with a small “echo organ” of 14 ranks in the rear gallery of the church. Most of these echo pipes were retained from the old Murray Harris organ, as was the 32-foot Flute Ouverte, part of the main organ’s pedal division.
The organ was a gift of Della O. Martin, a Pasadena resident who had attended PPC as a child. Upon reading in the Pasadena Star News that PPC had signed a contract with Æolian-Skinner for a new organ, “Miss Della” announced that she wanted to purchase the instrument for the church. A delighted congregation gratefully received her gift and named the organ in her honor. Since its installation, the organ has been used in hundreds of recitals played by prominent local and internationally known musicians, and on more than a thousand radio and television broadcasts played by Mr. Prichard and his successors.
The 1971 Sylmar earthquake badly damaged the church’s 1908 sanctuary, but the organ was salvaged and stored while the congregation built the present sanctuary. In the mid-1970s the organ was reinstalled in PPC’s current sanctuary by Casavant Frères of Montreal, and an additional 2.5 ranks of new pipes were built to create the striking façade. The organ currently bears the names of the donors who made this reinstallation possible, Harry and Helen Ehrich.
In 2002–2003 a successful campaign was undertaken to fund the completion of the organ and to do much-needed mechanical restoration and overhaul of parts of the organ that show signs of wear and decay over time. More than 175 individuals made three-year pledges and one-time gifts as part of this effort. Special gifts were given by John and Elizabeth Herrick, whose generosity made possible the reinstallation of the Echo organ pipes in the rear of the sanctuary, and by Herb and Elizabeth Hezlep, whose kind support made possible the addition of a Trompette-en-chamade (horizontal trumpet) stop in the re-installed Echo organ. Several foundations contributed to the organ endowment fund; a very generous grant from the Ahmanson Foundation brought us to our campaign goal of $350,000.
The pipes for the Echo organ, which were re-installed by the Schantz organ company, are now visible at the rear of the balcony. During the summer of 2003, the releathering of the organ and rebuilding of the console were also completed. The newly rebuilt instrument was formally rededicated in a recital and a special worship service on November 1 and 2, 2003.