Central Lutheran’s Brombaugh organ is, “One of the Musical Treasures of Western America.” These are the words of Dr. ElRay Stewart-Cook, Central Lutheran’s organist for more than twenty years.

This organ is the result of the foresight of this congregation and a successful fund raising project. A contract to build the tracker action organ was signed with John Brombaugh in 1973 for a cost of $75.000. Lyle Jacobson (1919-1994} served as chairman of the fund raising project; 1974 was called, “The Year of the Organ.” Construction of the entire organ took place in the shop of John Brombaugh & Co. near Germantown, Ohio. The organ was installed and dedicated in the fall of 1976.

Peter Williams, in his book The History of the Organ, writes “For some 2,200 years it has been possible to define the organ as an instrument with four basic components: 1) a wind-raising mechanism worked by lever or pulley, sending air under pressure to 2) a ‘chest’ storing the wind until it is admitted by 3) a mechanism worked by some kind of ‘keyboard’ to 4) one or more rows or ‘ranks’ of pipes.”

A tracker action pipe organ has a mechanical linkage between the keyboard and the wind chest. A thin strip of wood conveys the movement from key to pallet, resulting in high quality of sound and increased control for the organist. This Baroque style organ is similar to those constructed in the 17th and 18th century and located in European churches and cathedrals.

The tracker action pipe organ at Central Lutheran has 38 stops, 60 ranks with 2728 pipes.

Each set of pipes rests on a wind chest. A wooden box, called the chest has holes bored in it so that air can move into the pipes. The wind system includes a small electric blower, an air reservoir located between the blower and the wind chest that is necessary to maintain the appropriate pressure at all times.

Pipes are made of metal cast in a melting pot that is an alloy of tin and lead. Most pipes are ca. 98% lead + 2% tin, though some pipes are 23% tin with lead. To make a pipe, sheets of pipe metal are hammered, painted, wrapped on a mandrel and the strip is soldered. John Brombaugh explains, “The pipes are all hand made, no machines; it is a work of love.”

Flue pipes look like a flute, the sound is made by a current of air striking the opening in the pipe. Reed pipes resemble a clarinet; the sound is made as the reed vibrates against the pipe. Pipes of the Pedal Posaune have a base sound like a trombone. The front “Principal” or “Praestant” pipes are the main pipes of the organ.

Some pipes are made of wood. Small wood pipes produce a unique sound that is different from metal pipes. The large pipes are 32 feet long, they must be strong as they stand up back of the organ. Douglas fir and white oak are the wood of choice. If pipes are well voiced (for vocale sound), an expert can tell the difference between the woods.

The organ case is made of fumed oak; woodwork of the case was built by John Brombaugh and his twelve assistants. White keys of the keyboard are covered with cow shinbones; they do not yellow with age a ivory does.

Nearly all early organ builders were ecclesiastics, usually monks with a mechanical aptitude. It was not until the 15th century that organ building became a profession. For many centuries organ building was developing in various parts of Europe, especially in Germany, France and England. One of the most noted schools of organ building from 1359-1780 was in Germany. Johann Sebastian Bach played upon organs of Arp Schnitger, a master organ builder who worked in Hamburg.

Since the time of Martin Luther, Christian worshipers have been devotional, and many had strong musical voices. To support enthusiastic congregational singing, organs have come to us as a result of their use in the Christian church.

The history of the organ in the United States dates back to the Spanish mission days of the 17th century. Spanish missionaries were eager to convert the New World Indians to Christianity. These missionaries recognized the value of music in religious rituals and ceremonies. Under supervision, the Indians built organs and played them in monasteries and convents.

The first recorded use of an organ in the British colonies was in a Swedish Lutheran church in a settlement along the banks of the Wissahickon river near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s.

To the organists, Peter Williams writes,” ... consider yourselves participants in an instrument with the longest history of all, with a repertory larger than that of any other instrument and with a magnificence beyond any other musical invention from the time of the Greeks to the present day.”

From the Op. 19 Dedication Brochure

The new Brombaugh organ, Op. 19 at Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon was dedicated at Vespers on the XXIIIrd Sunday after Pentecost, i.e., 14 November, of 1976 with a statement:

. . . . from the Builder

The pipe organ as the principal musical instrument in the western Christian Church is the result of development extending for more than a thousand years. Requirements varying with the musical needs and liturgies of the various ethnic groups from country to country resulted in many styles. Congregations influenced by the Reformation led developments for the organ to support singing of chorales, psalms and hymns, the liturgy of the Church, and for music of the type Johann Sebastian Bach composed to inspire the people in their offering of praise and thanksgiving to God.

The organ John Brombaugh & Associates made for Central Lutheran Church in Eugene, Oregon is strongly influenced by this historical development of the organ, especially as found in northwestern Europe in the 16th through 18th centuries. That influence notwithstanding, this organ was entirely made in the United States in the year of America’s bicentennial celebrations of 1976, and consequently must be considered to be an American organ designed for the spiritual enrichment of a Christian congregation in the America’s Pacific Northwest.

This organ’s musical resources are disposed over three manuals and pedal that control the slider windchests by the means of suspended tracker key action with a mechanical stop action. The Great division has a plenum, or chorus, of open Principal pipes extending from the low pitch of 12’ F seen in the center tower of the main case to very small pipes of pitch of over 8Khz in the Mixture registers. Intermeshed in the upper main case with these and the remaining flute and reed stops of the Great are, on the same windchests, the pipes of the Pedal division that play from the pedalboard and form the supporting bass as well as a variety of solo sounds for the entire organ. The pipes and windchest comprising the Brustwerk (or Echo) division are located below the Great and Pedal divisions just above the manual keyboards. In addition to the needed variety supplied for a wide range of solo organ literature, this division has the important task of being the continuo instrument required for the great Christian choral music. Projecting from the west gallery railing at the back of the organist is the Ruckpositive. This division functions as a musical foil to the resources in the maincase and consists of a wide variety of plenum and flute registers as well as the Dulcian reed stop.

The organ contains 2728 pipes in 60 ranks for its 38 stops. The Brustwerk Oak Gedackt 8’ and Blockflöte 4’ are made from fine-grained American white oak in a form used by Berendt Huss, a significant north German organbuilder of the mid 17th century; a set of open oak pipes in the Great sounds somewhat like a quiet stringed instrument. All remaining pipes are made of metal cast and hammered in the builder’s shop that is comprised of approximately 98% lead alloyed with tin, antimony, copper and bismuth following ideas used in 1539 by Hendrik Niehoff for his instrument for Schoonhoven, Holland; this is quite likely the first use in modern times of this significant pipe alloy. The scaling and building concepts used for the pipes and the reed shallots as well as the architectural design of the case was much inspired by close studies of work by the Niehoff, de Mare and Schnitger families, builders in Holland and north Germany from 1530 through 1730. The organ’s temperament (i.e., the tuning of its musical scale) was developed in the 20th century by Herbert Anton Kellner from ideas of Johann Sebastian Bach and is similar to those described by Andreas Werckmeister, a friend of Schnitger and Bach’s precursor organist in north Germany, Dietrich Buxtehude. An electric blower supplies wind to the organ regulated by a large wedge-shaped bellows to a windpressure supporting a column of water 87 mm (3 3/8”) high. The tremulant built in the manner used by Arp Schnitger can be adjusted by the organist to create a wide degree of trumulation to the wind.

The organ casework is made of hand planed white oak fumed in strong ammonia that has accelerated what would have been accomplished by natural aging. The upper back panels of the organ are of western red-cedar, a very stable wood with lively acoustical properties. The façade pipes, shades, moldings and key nosings are gilded with 23-carat goldleaf. The naturals of the manual keyboards are plated with cow shinbones prepared by the builder. The manual sharps, stop knobs and keytable molding are from African ebony. The keycheeks are from zebrawood, the pedal sharps from Brazilian rosewood, the pedal naturals from maple, the black strip in the music rack from oak sunk in a North German peatbog for many centuries, and the stop rods of beech. The keyboards and trackers are from sugar pine. The windchests and bellows are made of white oak, western red-cedar, sugar pine and sheep and cow leather. The reed shallots and tongues are of brass, some covered with lead plates and leather.

Many have contributed to the conception and execution of this Op. 19 from our shop. Those to whom special credit is due are Pastor Philip Natwick, organist Gregory Teeter, committee chairman Lyle Jacobson, the church men who have aided in the gallery construction and the church families who have taken care of us during installation. My appreciation for their inspiration and advice to our organbuilding teachers and friends: Fritz Noack and Charles Fisk here in the United States, Rudolf von Beckerath, Jürgen Ahrend, Bram Edskes, Dirk Flentrop, Hans Steketee and Maarten Vente in Europe and the musicians: John Hamilton and Margaret Irwin-Brandon here in the Pacific Northwest, David Boe and William Porter at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, and Harald Vogel, Gustav Leonhardt and Klaas Bolt in Europe. Very special thanks are due to my shop associates: George Taylor, John Boody, Herman Greunke, Michael Bigelow, Anderson Dupree, Theodore Marks, Steven Boody, David Carkeek, Bruce Shull, Karl Oehrtman, James Morse, Shari Porter, Anne Beattie, Roger Hornung and Ralph Richards whose blood, sweat and tears made it possible to bring this project to completion after more than 15,000 hours of hard work, and finally to my dear wife, Christa, and our children, Eric, Arp and Adrienne, for the enormous encouragement and support they have given throughout this project.

It is the hope of all of us who have participated in building this instrument for Central Lutheran Church in Eugene that it will bring musical and spiritual inspiration here in the Pacific Northwest and Praise and Thanksgiving to our Lord and Savoir for many generations to come.

John Brombaugh, Organbuilder
November 1976

The World of Master Organ Builder John Brombaugh
John Brombaugh is one of the world’s most distinguished organ builders; he represents the present and immediate future of organ building where scholarship is matched with personal experience.

John was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1937. His ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, tradesmen and pastors who had settled west of Dayton, Ohio about the same time Ohio became a state in 1803; his father practiced optometry and automotive engineering; his mother was a homemaker.

As a child and teenager, John’s interests were electrical things, all kinds of science, classical and popular music, cars, girls and organs. His fascination with organs began at an early age. By age ten, he had made friends with the organist of his church who let him stand at the console, watch as she played and turn the organ off at the end of the service.

John Brombaugh holds an Electrical Engineer degree from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and a M.S. in Electrical Engineering specializing in acoustics from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Between his schooling at UC and Cornell, John worked for the Baldwin Piano Co. in Cincinnati doing research and development on electronic organs; he won 7 patents during his 2 years at Baldwin. He also met his wife-to-be, Christa Pöppe, in Cincinnati.

Listening to recordings by the English-American organist, E. Power Biggs, and Johann Sebastian Bach’s works by Carl Weinrich and German organist, Helmut Walcha, persuaded Brombaugh to build pipe organs with mechanical “tracker” key action. In the 1960’s, there was a growing list of tracker organ builders in the United States. A point of particular interest was that a significant number of organs were being installed in educational institutions or their chapels. As a result, countless students had firsthand experience with modern tracker action organs. The Episcopal and Lutheran churches have been most active in installing tracker organs.

So upon completing grad school at age twenty-seven, John, Christa, and their new son, Eric, moved to the Boston area where John apprenticed with America’s two most prominent tracker organ builders, Fritz Noack, in Andover, and Charles Fisk, in Gloucester, for 3_ years. The family, now 5, moved in 1967 to Christa’s home country so John could work in Hamburg as a journeyman with Rudolf von Beckerath, where he learned the art of reed-pipe making; he also took every opportunity scouring the North German countryside studying historic organs. A year later, the Brombaugh family returned John’s hometown, Germantown, Ohio, where he established his organ building shop in 1968 on a farm owned by his dad. In 1977, they moved to Eugene, Oregon where John’s workshop is now located on the south bank of the Willamette River.

Fritz Noack was born near Greifswald in east Germany in 1935; his family escaped to West Germany during WW II, and Fritz entered the organbuilding profession as an apprentice with Rudolf von Beckerath in Hamburg. Noack moved to America in 1958 and after working several years with Charles Fisk, established his shop near Andover, Massachusetts.

Charles Fisk (1925-1983) grew up in Boston, studied Physics at Harvard and Stanford, and participated in the Manhattan project that developed the a-bomb for WW II. After getting his MS at Stanford, Fisk moved back to New England to help found the Andover Organ Company, one of America’s first 20th century tracker organbuilders. An avid musician, his work became renown throughout the organ world.
Rudolf von Beckerath (1907-1979) grew up in Hamburg and entered a career in mechanical engineering. He became interested in North German organbuilding, in particular the work of Arp Schnitger. Beckerath’s training in organ building took place in France near Paris in 1929 with organ builder Victor Gonzalez. In 1936 he returned to Hamburg where he was a freelance consultant for organ building. He moved to Berlin, and was called up to the Wehrmacht in 1941 and was taken prisoner by the American Army in 1945. After returning from captivity in 1946, he resumed his work as an organ expert and established his own firm as an organ builder in 1949. From the very beginning, he strove to manufacture organs as much as possible on his own. His use of slider windchests and mechanical key action was remarkable and sensational. Through the use of the best woods and material, the construction of sensitive actions and through the highest degree of fine pipe voicing, organs of high quality were built, techniques which have contributed to a revolution in modern organ building were perfected. Today, Beckerath organs are found worldwide in the United States, Australia, Canada, Croatia, South Africa, Japan, Poland, India and Russia.

Historic organs from all over Europe have influenced John Brombaugh’s professional career. At various times, particularly in 1971 upon obtaining a grant from the Ford Foundation, he has done considerable research in Europe, especially in the northwestern region between Amsterdam and Lübeck.
In Holland, Hendrik Niehoff established a great organ building family in the early 16th century. John Brombaugh has several pipes built by Hendrik Niehoff’s shop in 1539. From studying these surviving examples, today, pipes are built to reproduce voice techniques of a mild singing quality that was characteristic of organs in the early era. The first modern examples are in the organ John finished for Central Lutheran Church in 1976.

In the Hamburg region of Germany, Arp Schnitger was the most renowned 17th century organ builder. It has been said that the typical Schnitger organ best corresponded to the requirements of Johann Sebastian Bach’s organ music. Although Schnitger’s role was building or rebuilding organs for churches all over north Germany and Holland, he was conservative and retained most earlier pipe-work available for his instruments. His organs reproduced the historic organ-tone that was natural, unforced and powerful. The Brombaugh organ at Central Lutheran Church is more like an organ built by Arp Schnitger than any organ in the United States today.

Peter Williams, the noted English organ historian, writes “For although the 1972 organ made for Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio by John Brombaugh, which for the first time followed certain characteristics of the sixteenth-century Dutch master Niehoff in case design, hammered lead pipes, short keys - was no more expensive than most 19-stop organs, the ideas opened up by such an instrument seemed to be able to flower only in a luxurious economy.”

Brombaugh also studied in Italy and France, and finished a new organ for Duke University Chapel in 1997 patterned after 16th century organs in Tuscany, something unique in the Western Hemisphere.
Peter Williams continues, “Advanced organ builders such as Fisk and Brombaugh are obviously related closely to the past - a position that it has taken time to reach.”

Sixty-one Brombaugh organs are found in the United States in twenty-seven states and internationally in Göteborg, Sweden, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and for a new concert hall in Toyota City, Japan.