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Plymouth replaces organ and renovates sanctuary

Easter Sunday was Plymouth UCC Seattle’s second Sunday back in its sanctuary after 10 months of renovations and replacement of its organ.

plymouth seattle sanctuary

Worshipers gather for one of the first services in Plymouth Seattle’s renovated sanctuary. Photos courtesy of Plymouth Church

The 3,400 pipes, organ  and organ installers from C.B. Fisk Organ Co. in Gloucester, Mass., arrived on March 8.

Two 53-foot semi-truck trainers parked on Sixth Ave., in front of the church.

At noon, 131 members of the Plymouth congregation lined up to help unload the trucks and carry in the pipes, ranging from .75  of an inch to 32-feet tall, and the rest of the organ.  They moved a total of 60 tons in eight hours.

The $2.4 million organ is modeled after the Cavaille-coll organ at St. Francoise Church in Lyon, France.

plymouth floor tiles

A contractor lays tile for the new flooring, part of the acoustical enhancements.

“It will be the only purely authentic French Romantic organ in the Pacific Northwest,” said Douglas Cleveland, Plymouth’s music director.

Following the installation the organ goes through a three-to six-month voicing process to completely tune it to be playable. 

“By fall 2015, we plan to offer many free concerts for our downtown neighbors and visitors,” said the Rev. Brigitta Remole, senior pastor of Plymouth UCC.  “We are thrilled to introduce this ‘king of instruments’ to our community.”

The C.B. Fisk Organ Co. installers said they never experienced such enthusiasm and community spirit with an organ delivery.  C.B. Fisk makes only two organs a year and has a three-year backlog, because each organ is made by hand.  The organ took nearly six weeks to assemble.

“The organ’s funding was generously donated by several anonymous donors, and renovations were covered by a church-wide capital campaign last year,” said Janice Randall, communications director for two years and now an enthusiastic church member, too.

The new organ was needed because the sound of the old organ had changed after the Nisqually earthquake in 2001. 

The renovation was needed to install the new organ, extend the chancel for space for more choir members—up to 100—to sit for worship and for the many concerts given there.

Renovations also included improving the acoustics with curved wall board, installing tiles to replace carpet, replacing pews with chairs and replacing lighting. 

In the process of replacing the lighting with a halo fixture that would hang from the ceiling, the roof was found to be weakened and was sinking because of snow loads.  It needed to be shored up to hold the lighting.

“The present church was built in 1967 at the same site. 

“Plymouth is celebrating its 145th anniversary this year.  It has been in several sites and buildings, all downtown, over the years,” Janice said.

The church worshiped in its Hildebrand Hall auditorium, which seats 220, so there were four Christmas services instead of three.

“The congregation came together and adapted to the temporary changes in the time of transition,” she said.

In the auditorium, there were chairs that could be used to worship in the round or set up with a central aisle for weddings. 

The same will happen with use of chairs in the renovated sanctuary.

Brigitta encouraged switching to chairs so there could be flexibility in the sanctuary for worship, and for use of the sanctuary by groups who rent the space.

“Ministry and arts are a key piece of Plymouth’s life and worship,” said Janice.  “The congregation and staff now have more space for our own choir and for other choirs.  Along with the organ and acoustics, we can offer more concerts as a gift to the community.”

A Ribbon Cutting Celebration for the Plymouth sanctuary renovations will be held at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 3, at the church.

The organ dedication and inaugural concert will be held in the fall when the organ’s voicing is complete.  The voicing or tuning of each pipe is done one at a time. 

Adjusting the tone of each is based on an aesthetic evaluation.  It can take 30 seconds to two days for each pipe.

For information, call 206-622-4865, email


Copyright © April 2015 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


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