Roy Redman and his crew are no strangers to big jobs, but the building of the Opus 100 pipe organ for a North Texas church is an especially large-scale project.
The organ, bound for Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills, fills a three-story-tall work room at Redman Pipe Organs, southeast of downtown Fort Worth.
Inside the old brick building, a massive wood frame takes shape that will hold about 3,500 pipes ranging in length from a couple of inches to 16 feet.
Three keyboards are linked to those pipes by over 2,300 feet of carbon fiber threads and hundreds of small parts that guide the threads through the mazelike structure. Several hundred feet of wires connect the electric parts that couple the keyboards together (or not) and assist in configuring the organ.
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All of this, to ensure that air gets to the right place when an organist presses a key.
When each key is pressed, air is moved through a finely tuned opening in a pipe, resulting in a very specific vibration. The length, diameter and material of each pipe amplifies the sound and gives it tone, like a flute, horn or string.
The Opus 100 (Redman’s 100th major project) has been over a year in the making. After is it fully assembled in the workshop, it will be taken apart, cataloged by meticulously noting the placement of each of the thousands of parts, and reassembled in the church.
Redman said that process should take about a month. It may take six more weeks to “voice” the organ so that it sounds right. The music should come later in the fall.
Redman, who has been building organs all his adult life, became interested when he was a student at the University of North Texas. He worked with several organ builders who were exploring how to build organs in the traditional ways. “It’s pretty much something you have to learn from somebody,” he said, “there is no official school. There are some attempts to begin having something like that in this country, but there is no licensing.”
The craft of building organs “challenges about every aspect of knowledge and ingenuity that you can think of,” he said.
The end result has a profound impact on the builders, some of whom work on the organs for nearly two years.
“When you finally get to hear it play in the church, it’s really an emotional thing for me,” said Redman employee Jake Morris.