In the Spring of 2003 I was asked to be the advisor for a huge church wanting a monumental pipe organ for their 4000 seat church, then under construction. I flew down to memphis (please note I will NEVER capitalize memphis again) to do a brief inspection of the stored 5 manual organ, show it to the church pastor, and try to get the memphis people and the church to deal. I also brought a recording of the organ I made in the 1970's for the church to hear. They had a good stereo in the car, and after listening, and about an hour walking around the storage area listening to my explanations, the church rep attempted to pay $50,000 for the organ on the spot. I gather he actually had the check book with him!
As they were dealing with government officials the acceptance of the offer took several months, and I gather then the only reply sent to the church was an invoice for $50,000. So, several months after the first visit we went back to memphis, this time with time and help to do as best of an inventory as we could. We were in a good mood when we arrived, thinking we were actually going to save this monument to music, but that quickly changed.
Now, we need a little background for the up coming paragraphs. A number of weeks earlier memphis had had the worst storm in their history, with straight line winds in the 100 MPH range. This storm had taken a huge toll on the city's population and businesses, requiring many months for recovery.
Back to the story. We discovered when we arrived at the storage area that the organ had been water damaged, and presumed it was by that storm. We did our inventory, stepping over cat shit, (there was wild cat living in the organ storage area!) took photos, and talked to the manager in charge. He acted suprised at our report on the damage. We of course could not talk the same purchase price now as there was so much to repair or replace. A bit into the conversation I suggested the damage was caused by the storm and the reply was that it was earlier, a slip suggesting they knew the organ was damaged and about when it happened. So we left dejected.
I was wishing a second witness, impartial, was available for the timing of the storm, and at a stroke of luck ran into a maintenance person I knew from way back, who, when questioned about the storm and the organ said "we had water coming in all over the place".
I tried to convince memphis to come down to a lower price and was given the brushoff. I tried to comfort the church that we could deal with it. The last I heard the church was considering a $300,000 electronic.
While it is true the 4 manual organ has found a new home in a Bartlett Tennessee church the fate of the large instrument certainly seems, if not sealed, certainly in jeopardy.
The photos here represent one of the bigger disappointments of my life.
This shot shows water damage from water wicking up from the floor. Swell engines are visible standing on end. At left is a percussion action on end. Three guesses what the black spot (lower center) is, if you need them.
Closeup of percussion action end plate.
Water damaged 30" pressure pedal reed offset chest. Note the back pressure box covering the magnets. That is how Kimball got 400 ohm magnets to pull on the high pressure.
Manual chest bottom boards exibiting severe damage.
Another offset ruined.
The rear Solo manual chest. A reservoir is visible behind.
Ruined shutter blades. Once these kept the mighty Kimball under complete control. Now they are firewood.
The walnut 5 manual console as we last saw it.
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Fenton, MO 63026-4169