Pilcher Pipe Organ

E.M. Skinner, Inc. Pipe Organ of First United Methodist Church, Manchester, GA

The organ of First Methodist was built and originally installed by the E.M. Skinner, Inc firm of Lake City, Florida in 1960. A workman of the world-renowned E.M. Skinner firm of Boston started the E.M. Skinner, Inc Company with his wife and son. The Skinner firm was long known for its solid, dependable workmanship and the beautiful tones which sold their instruments the world over.

First Methodist organ is of 12 ranks, or sets of pipes. A rank is one set of pipes, which are made and voiced to sound like each other, allowing the organist to play from the bottom of the keyboard to the top with the same sound throughout. The different sounds in a pipe organ come from the judicious design of different types of ranks, and how they are used together. Here is the disposition for the Manchester organ:

Great Organ
16' Gemshorn (73 pipes)
8' Diapason (61 pipes)
8' Gemshorn (ext)
8' Erzahler (61 pipes)
8' Gedackt (Swell)
4' Octave (61 pipes)
4' Flute (Swell)
2 2/3' Twelfth (61 pipes)
2' Super Octave (61 pipes)
8' Trumpet (73 pipes)
4' Clarion (ext)

Swell Organ
16' Bourdon (97 pipes)
8' English Diapason (73 pipes)
8' Salicional (73 pipes)
8' Voix Celeste (61 pipes)
8' Aeoline (73 pipes)
8' Gedeckt (ext)
4' Flute (ext)
2' Flautino (ext)
8' Trumpet (Great)

Pedal Organ
16' Gemshorn (Great)
16' Bourdon (Swell)
8' Gemshorn (Great)
8' Flute (Swell)
4' Flute (Swell)
8' Trumpet (Great)
4' Clarion (Great)

Let's explore these words on the page and try and explain what they mean and how these stops function in the organ.

First, the Great division is where the family of organ tone is found. These stops: 8' Diapason, 4' Octave, 2 2/3' Twelfth, 2' Super Octave are all of the same type sound. The 8' Diapason is the backbone of any pipe organ. While other stops on an organ may sound like strings, flutes or even trumpets, the Diapason is the tone that is unique to the pipe organ. It is the first stop designed for any new instrument, and all other stops are based around it. The Diapason leads congregational singing, provides warmth and foundation to the organ, and fills the room with tone. The other stops: 4' Octave, 2 2/3' Twelfth, 2' Super Octave stack on top of the 8' Diapason to add brilliance and brightness, but not shrillness. When played together, these four stops provide the core of organ tone, which supports everything else.

Also on the Great we find the 8' Gemshorn. The Gemshorn is a foundation stop of conical construction, having a tone that may be classified as a flute/string hybrid. It is a softer stop than the Diapason, but still capable of being used to lead some singing, and especially to help accompany the choir. The 16' Gemshorn is the 8' stop being played one octave lower, to add weight to the ensemble.

E.M. Skinner himself personally developed the 8' Erzahler stop as we know it today. The term Erzahler defines as literally story teller. It is shaped conically like the Gemshorn, but with a much stronger taper from bottom to top. It serves as a binding tone between bright and dull stops, high-pitched and low-pitched stops, and in this organ is voiced very softly and gently to provide a beautiful, soft tone to the great organ.

The 8' Trumpet and 4' Clarion are one stop playing at two pitches. The 8' Trumpet can function as a noble solo stop to lead a bride down the aisle, or is this organ, it also blends very nicely into the ensemble to provide a little extra sparkle and fire to make that "Joy to the World" all the more joyous.

The Swell organ is found completely enclosed within a large wooden box, with shutters or shades attached to the front to allow the organist to control the amount of tone released from within, making the sounds softer or louder.

The 8' English Diapason is of similar construction as the 8' Diapason on the Great, but it is voiced more gently, providing contrast to the Great organ.

The 8' Salicional is a string tone, which is to say it is keener, almost sharper than the Diapasons or flutes. The Salicional provides a interesting foundation of tone which can support singing, aid a choir, or provide background to a solo stop. It's mate in the organ is the 8' Vox Celeste, which is exactly the same in construction as the 8' Salicional, but it is tuned in such a way to provide a gentle, undulating, almost rolling sound which is very beautiful, especially when used softly and sweetly.

The 8' Aeoline is another string stop, which is voiced very, very softly, and is used it the most contemplative and meditative moments of a service or recital.

The 8' Gedeckt is a wooden, stopped flute. All but the very smallest pipes are made of wood, and have stoppers inside which alter the tone and pitch. The Gedeckt, (and it's derivations 4' Flute, 2' Flautino), are the flute tone of the organ, these can provide the singing solo tone which can soar above the soft accompanying stops such as the 8' Erzahler or 8' Aeoline.

The Pedal organ has stops that find their homes also in the Great and Swell organ, but extended down to provide the deep, round bass upon which all other organ tone finds a solid foundation. The Tremulants on the Great and Swell organ provide a way to shake, or add a vibrato to the wind, which transfers to the pipes to help them sing even more sweetly.


By 2003, many of the mechanical parts of the organ had begun to wear out. The leather pouches that are found under each individual pipe had begun to fail, resulting in ciphers (pipes that will not stop playing), and the organ console itself was beginning to show the ravages of time and use. It was decided that Widener & Company, Inc. of Grayson, Ga would be responsible for restoring the organ to it's former glory. In late July, a crew removed all the pipe work, leather pouches and reservoirs and the console for repair. The console was refinished and refitted with a state of the art, solid state switching system and new combination action that allows the organist to have up to 32 levels of distinct and different memory. That all allows the organist to store many more combinations of stops.

The organ was completely rewired, to bring it up to current electrical code, and to provide for easier troubleshooting and longer life. In addition to the electrical and leather repairs, every pipe in the organ was checked and restored to it's original, beautiful tone, allowing the organ to speak as it did originally.

By December, all the components were in place, the organ was reinstalled, rewired, all the pipes replaced, regulated and tuned. The Skinner / Widener organ of First United Methodist Church has provided 43 years of faithful service, and with this restoration should easily provide many more into the future.

Widener & Company, Inc.
John Widener, President - Thomas McCook, Vice-President
John "Bud" Taylor - R. David Fortner
John Pritchard - Robert I. Coulter

Review other projects.

Review other articles.