Messiah United Methodist Church home to largest Johannus organ in North America
More than a year ago, Robert Rudolph, music director of Messiah United Methodist Church in Springfield, began the search for a custom-built organ that would reinvigorate the music program at the 2,500-member church.
Built in 1965, the church had a solid but dated music program when Rudolph became the music director two years ago.
"The physical instruments had aged," Rudolph said, "and we needed to make the music relevant to this diverse congregation. More than two-thirds of our congregation could not hear our old organ, which doesn't encourage singing during our services."
Passionate about music, Rudolph had doubled the size of the music ministry, from 200 to 400 people, by encouraging "anyone and everyone to participate," and including a vast array of Christian music, from traditional hymns to Christian rock. He currently oversees 15 active choirs for parishioners of all ages -- from the Messiah Orchestra Project to Joyful Noise and the Cherub Choir for three and four-year-olds.
"We wanted to make the music ministry relevant for older folks, young families, teens and children. Once that happened, and we got people involved, we realized we didn't have the instrument for the sanctuary," he said.
AFTER TOURING several companies in the United States, Rudolph visited The Johannus Company in Ede, and found exactly what he was looking for. Located in a soaring neo-classical building, Johannus employs a team of designers, musicians and audio-technical specialists who create customdesigned organs that can be found in churches, cathedrals and concert halls all over the world.
Although the price was steep -- church members wanted something that would support the thriving music ministry and last for years. The 5,000-pound organ is the largest Johannus Monarke in North America, Rudolph said.
"Our new organ is an important investment in our music ministry both to enhance our worship and as the foundation instrument for our vocal and instrumental choirs," said Rev. Ralph Rowley, Messiah's senior pastor. "Messiah has long had a reputation for excellence in our music ministry as evidenced by our recent presentation of Handel's Messiah, which featured four soloists from the Washington National Opera, a professional orchestra, and a festival choir of 100 voices drawn from our church and the greater Springfield community."
"It's amazing to hear the sound now," said parishioner Steve Severt. "The sound is so full and robust compared to what it used to be. There's an incredible energy in here now when everyone is singing." The new organ can provide accompaniment for a soloist or a choir of 100, and the variety of sounds include such instruments as flute, gospel organ, tuba and trumpet.
"It's also capable of meditative music or a large, brassy heralding sound which announces the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning," Rudolph said. "The singing of this instrument radiates throughout the entire sanctuary. It doesn't matter where you sit now, you will hear it," Rudolph said. "This is way beyond our expectations. It's a tremendous joy for us."
The organ has 78 channels that play through the 225 speakers located all over the sanctuary. In the overhead cases above the altar are the great, swell, orchestral and pedal divisions. In the faux pipe case work beside the pulpit is the choir division. In the cupola, high in the ceiling, is the ethereal division. In the back of the room are two faux pipe cases that are the solo division.
"In the pit, located to the right of the pulpit, live the brains of the organ and two 850-watt sub-woofers that you will most certainly feel, especially when we play the Cathedral music." "I am definitely looking forward to weddings," Rudolph said, smiling.
MESSIAH UNITED METHODIST CHURCH is located at 6215 Rolling Road in Springfield. For more information on upcoming concerts and services at the church, go to www.messiahumc.org.