The Story (and Fireplace) Behind our Organ

If you’ve been to our Church, you’ve seen and most likely heard our Organ. It’s one of our most significant and distinct treasures and is our own “little gem” amongst the Glatter-Götz organs of the world. Although many have seen and heard our organ, few know the story behind it. Luckily, Ruberta Weaver is here to share the story with us all! Below, Ruberta shares a recounting of the story of how our organ came to be...

What’s so special about the organ?  It’s just a church organ, isn’t it?

Well it IS a church organ, but let me tell you about it…

A very lovely lady wanted to make a gift that would honor the long, faithful service her husband had given to Neighborhood Church, and she wanted the gift to be something she could see.  Rev. Dr. Karl Johnson, Senior Minister at the time, was aware the ancient organ that our long-time organist, Rebecca Ogle, had to play was inadequate, so he suggested to the lovely lady and her husband, “What about a new Organ?”  

Well, that started it.  The Trustees formed a committee who in time hired a consultant knowledgeable about organs: Ladd Thomas of Pasadena.  Thomas had just completed the purchase of an organ for the UCC Church in Claremont, California, and in fact the organ builder was in town seeing to the installation. Caspar von Glatter-Götz, from a long recognized firm of organ builders, came to Neighborhood Church and the result was a contract pleasing to all, and especially to the lovely lady and her husband, Sandy and Barney Barnett.

Workers begin construction on the organ at the Glatter-Götz workshop in Owingen, Germany.

Workers begin construction on the organ at the Glatter-Götz workshop in Owingen, Germany.

But that wasn’t all.  The Chancel would have to be redesigned. Pipes would need to be fitted into the sanctuary, which had been the living room for a classic Italian-styled Renaissance home.  The Scottish firm of Campbell and Arnott from Edinburgh was commissioned to make a design which was compatible. The sweeping scallops of their design for the organ façade beautifully fit the large instrument into the sanctuary.b

Once installed, the pipes needed to be voiced. Voicing is a meticulous process where each pipe is individually adjusted to produce the best tone quality, or timbre, possible. Luckily for us, Manuel Rosales, master voicer, was right here in Los Angeles to do this over a nine-month period. Manuel was also part of the design team from the beginning, and created the tonal design of the instrument,  The instrument took a year to design and build in Germany and another four months to construct the chancel to house the 1900 pipes of the “tracker” organ which mechanically links the keys to the air valves for responsiveness and compact design. It took four men over two months to install the five-ton organ, and nine months to voice; about 2 and a half years all together…but what a treasured result.  We call it a “little gem.”  It is the best organ money could buy and it is the baby sister of the massive Disney Hall organ which was built and voiced by the same firms.

So yes.  It’s JUST a church organ but since Easter Sunday, 1999, there’s never been another like it.

Becky Ogle, seated, surveys the new organ in its “birthplace” in Owingen, Germany, shortly before it was disassembled and shipped to the U.S. Behind her are owner, Caspar von Glatter-Götz (left) and his partner, Heinz Kremnitzer, who headed up the installation of the organ once it arrived in Palos Verdes.

Becky Ogle, seated, surveys the new organ in its “birthplace” in Owingen, Germany, shortly before it was disassembled and shipped to the U.S. Behind her are owner, Caspar von Glatter-Götz (left) and his partner, Heinz Kremnitzer, who headed up the installation of the organ once it arrived in Palos Verdes.

Now that you know the story, want to hear our organ in action? Join us February 17, 2019, for our annual Organ Concert featuring renowned organist Adam J. Brakel!

All photos in this post Courtesy of Neighborhood Church Historical Archives / Fran Bock, Historian

Lauren Hardin