LDS Conference Center will have new organ

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    By DIANA VAN ORDEN

    Most people receive a new organ only when an old organ is no longer functional. Not so for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The new pipe organ underway for the LDS Church’s Conference Center will be in addition to, not replacing, the Tabernacle organ.

    Jack M. Bethards, president and owner of Schoenstein & Co. Pipe Organs of San Francisco, which was awarded the contract to build the instrument, emphasized, “This organ is not in any way, shape or form meant to replace the Mormon Tabernacle organ.” He added, “The Mormon Tabernacle organ is still the church’s premiere instrument.”

    In fact, the weekly broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word will continue to originate from the Tabernacle after the Conference Center is completed.

    Even though the new Conference Center is more than three times as large as the Tabernacle, the organ for the center will only be about two-thirds the size of the one in the Tabernacle.

    “President Hinckley expressed a desire that we not make any attempt to eclipse the Tabernacle organ,” said senior Tabernacle organist John Longhurst.

    Nonetheless, the new organ is no small instrument. Bethards estimated the pipe organ will take a total of 25,000 man hours to complete and will weigh approximately 150,000 pounds. Its 7,667 pipes will range in size from 38 feet to three-eighths of an inch.

    The new pipe organ will also have a few added features not found in the Tabernacle organ. It will include additional non-organ sounds such as chimes, bells and a harp as well as a digital play-back feature that will allow organists to sit in the audience and hear their playing.

    Schoenstein & Co. is in the middle of production on the instrument, Bethards said. However, the new organ will not yet be functional when the building opens for April 2000 General Conference, even though the visible front of the instrument will be in place. Installation is expected to be finished for the organ to debut during October 2000 General Conference.

    Dale Bills, LDS Church spokesman, said the church is looking at several options for how to provide music for April 2000 General Conference in the center because the organ will not yet be complete.

    Other firms in addition to Schoenstein & Co. are also involved in the construction of the organ. Salt Lake City company Fetzers Inc. is building the cherry wood case that will be 75 feet wide and 42 feet high. A. R. Schopp’s Sons of Ohio is building some of the organ’s pipes and wind chests.

    The earliest Tabernacle organ was begun in 1866 with 1,662 pipes. It premiered during the 1867 General Conference with Joseph J. Daynes as the first organist. Throughout the years the organ has been replaced and gone through several restorations to reach its current size of 11,623 pipes.

    By comparison, the world’s largest pipe organ is in Atlantic City and has 33,112 pipes, according to the Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Society’s Web site.

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