First United Methodist Church
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Casavant Frères, Opus 3932 (2020)
While our organs have not appeared on the cover of this magazine for some years now, nevertheless, we have not been inactive! Significant new Casavant organs have been installed in North America and in Asia, and we have been involved in a number of important projects to either restore or rebuild existing pipe organs, by Casavant and other notable builders. Our new website, which you can visit at Casavant.ca, is a great source of information about our latest work.
Casavant’s new four-manual organ at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is the result of a truly creative collaboration between organbuilders, musicians, and designers. From our first meeting at the church with Lamar Drummonds, Dan Talbot, and Richard Webb in June 2013, it was clear that this was to be a very special project, as all were very enthusiastic about the idea of seeing a new pipe organ installed in the church.
We developed this project with the musicians of the church over a period of five years. From a visual standpoint, the new organ had to complement the elegant architecture of the beautiful sanctuary, as if it had been installed when the current structure was built. Tonally, the instrument had to be designed to serve the extensive music program of the church—especially congregational singing and choral repertoire—and be complete enough to become the premier concert organ of the Baton Rouge area. Interestingly, this is our fourth new organ installation in Baton Rouge.
When the church leadership decided to embark upon a comprehensive renovation of the historic sanctuary, the organ became part of a much larger project that included a significant chancel remodeling (under the expert guidance of Terry Byrd Eason) and major improvements to the acoustics of the room (proficiently directed by Scott Riedel). This creative dialogue with all parties involved in the sanctuary project has been key to the success of this remarkable installation. Isn’t the room the most important stop in the organ?
The organ was built entirely in our spacious workshops in Saint-Hyacinthe, Canada. A large delegation from the church visited us in November 2019 to see, hear, and play the new instrument. For all of us at Casavant, everyone’s appreciation of our dedicated work has been most rewarding. Merci beaucoup!
The organ has 57 ranks of pipes over four manuals and pedal, for a total of 3,334 pipes of metal or wood. The organ facade conceals the Great and expressive Solo divisions. Speaking along the main axis of the room, these lead congregational singing effectively. The Great is based on a 16′ Principal, with the tallest pipes in the facade, and is crowned with an 8′ Trumpet and a 4′ Clarion. The Solo contains a soaring 8′ Harmonic Flute, a set of pungent strings, and a commanding 8′ Tuba.
The expressive Swell and Choir divisions, along with the Pedal, are installed in the existing organ chambers. The large Swell is placed on two levels in the right chamber. In the left chamber, the Choir is on the lower level, the Pedal on the upper level. In that position, these robust expressive divisions can support the choirs optimally.
The organ features complete choruses in all divisions—manuals and Pedal. It also includes an impressive number of color stops—for example, a large Cornet in the Great, a 16′ –8′ English Horn in the Swell, a set of Flutes Celestes, a Clarinet and a French Horn in the Choir, and an 8′ –4′ Harmonic Flute in the Solo. The well-furnished Pedal division provides an impressive undergirding to the tonal architecture of the entire organ.
The organ is controlled by a state-of-the-art four-manual console that can be moved in and out of the chancel area.
We at Casavant are truly honored to have been entrusted with this commission of a new pipe organ for First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge. On behalf of all our colleagues, we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the people we have worked with in the last six years for their outstanding confidence and collaboration, especially Mr. Drummonds for his clear vision, his inspiring determination, and his generous guidance through the entire process.
Photography: Shelby Lewis