The organ was originally built by the Austin Company in 1963 (Opus 2419). It was designed for accompaniment purposes and voiced on the mild side. The 1960s reflected a tonal era in organ history that was intentionally meant to "lean out" any fat sound in an instrument. This included pedal. The organ had 14 ranks of pipes and because it was both a performance and teaching instrument, these were spread over 3 manuals. Perhaps its most unique feature was that the entire instrument was on casters, and except for the console, it was entirely self-contained.
In those days, a relatively young, John Holtz was the head of the Hartt School Organ Department. A new builder (and friend of Holtz's) was one, G. Edgar Gress (Gress-Miles Organ Co., Princeton, NJ). Gress' tonal thinking was, in a nutshell, loud! In about 1963, he was hired by Hartt to revoice Opus 2419 to make it much bolder and loud enough to be used in solo performance (something for which Austin had never intended). Gress significantly loudened all the stops of the Great and Positiv. Just a few years ago, the church enlisted help to tame and soften some of the instruments stops. This made a nice difference.
In 1982, Holtz, decided to upgrade the Hartt School’s and Opus 2419 was available for purchase and relocation. Rev. Don Miller was contacted, and along with a committee immediately went, looked at, and acquired the instrument ahead of a fast-growing number of interested buyers.
When the church was totally rebuilt in 1976, pipe organ chamber space was created in the form of two shallow, long chambers. We were able to modify the organ's layout to nicely fit the space and the organ installation came out quite well. There was a dedication service for the organ on November 18, 1984. The recent sanctuary enlargement created two ideal chambers into which the Austin was moved. For a complete list of stops and specifications click here.
Rachals Grand Piano
Our grand piano was originally built in 1928 by the Rachals Piano Company of Hamburg, Germany (Serial #35933). Not much is known about the Rachals Company. It is presumed that it was dissolved at the time of World War II as many companies were commandeered for the war effort. This along with the fact that it was in competition with the Steinway company, also of Hamburg, has assured that the instrument is quite unique and rare. It is six feet long and even a cursory glance reveals that it is an instrument of very high quality.
Brent Evans, a gifted piano technician from Madison, CT, restored the piano over a period of years. It was completely restrung with all new tuning pins, and the original soundboard was preserved and restored. Mr Evans also stripped and refinished the entire surface of the piano. An interesting feature is the elegant craftmanship of the keys themselves- they are "waterfall" key tops, meaning that the front edges of the white keys are slightly rounded so there is no overhang of the ivory.
I can testify to the very high quality of the instrument. It is a joy to play for it has a responsive action and possesses a beautifully nuanced tone, with especially deep richness in the tenor range. It has good power in the bass and a very clean top.
The piano came to UCCT in May of 2020 through the generosity of an anonymous donor. It is a true treasure that will serve to richly enhance the music ministry of the church for many years to come.