First, a personal note...  If you have to work away from home, there are few better places to have to do it than Bardstown, KY.  And, there are few nicer peopler to work with than Karl Lusk and David Pratt at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension.


When Dave Pratt first made contact with us, it was to inquire about repairing the control systtem on their small (9 ranks) pipe organ.  The system had suffered at least three lightning strikes over they years, which Dave, an electrical engineer by trade, had worked to repair.  Clearly, though, a more permanent solution was needed!

 

When we first visited the church, we found that Dave and Karl Lusk, the pastor, had done their homework.  When we explained some of the problems with the existing installation, Karl told us, "I''m not and electronics expert, but I know what a giant capacitor is!"  We talked about what this little organ could be, as well.  Space and budget for large additions were not an option, but with some creative thought, we came arrived at a new design that has turned what was built as a little pracitce organ into a capable and versatile church organ.

 

The Ascension organ got a full makeover.  Pipes were rescaled, repurposed, and revoiced.  Major portions of the windchest actions were replaced.  The console was rebuilt with a new Peterson ICS4000 control system, new controls, and keyboards.  And finally, we added a few digitally-generated stops to each division to provide greater variety.

 

 

Previously, the organ was strictly a collection of principals and flutes, all of very narrow scales.  Because the scales were so narrow, the effect in the room was a bit thin and harsh.  By broadening these scales and increasing the cutup (the heights of the upper lips of the pipes), we were able to give the organ more warmth and body.   To make the instrument more functional, and given space limitations, we added digital stops to provide strings (of which there were none before), and reeds.  With very careful voicing of the digital sounds, we made them knit successfully with the pipes.  Key to this process, of course, was knowing WHICH stops work well digitally, and which DO NOT.  The flexibillity of the integrated control system allowed us to custom-program the organ to take full advantage of both the pipe and digital stops.  And, as icing on the cake, chimes were also added to the instrument!

 

Martin Ellis played the concert rededicating the organ at Ascension Episcopal Church.Martin Ellis played the concert rededicating the organ at Ascension Episcopal Church.Martin Ellis played the dedicatory concert on the Ascension organ on Friday evening, May 20, 2010.  His program, which included everything from the Bach "Jig" Fugue in G Major to William Walton's ceremonial "Crown Imperial" would have tasked even a much large organ.  But organ and organist were both superb, playing for the standing-room only crowd.  On Saturday, May 21, the church hosted a workshop for church organists (see more HERE), conducted by the Martin Ellis, with help from Thad Reynolds of Reynolds Associates.

 

Since then, the Ascension organ has been heard in several concerts, and organist Hobie Humphrey says he has a new eagerness to practice and to explore new music.  Karl Lusk and Dave Pratt are both enthusiastic about the difference their "re-imagined" organ has made in the quality and spirit of the church's worship services.

 

Bardstown is the Bourbon Capital of the World, and rich in history and culture.  It also has some of the best eateries around, including a terrific Bosnian restaurant just across the street from the church.  Do, however, watch your speed when you're driving downtown (but that's another story)....

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