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Pickle Piano Co. In the News


March 14, 1997


David Sharos


Chicago Tribune


Metro Chicago, pg. 8


Church ready to unveil a 3,500 pipe 'Blessing,' A unique organ that combines more than 5 centuries of technology will be making its debut at Sunday's services at Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle

It was more ample seating, not more dramatic music, that Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle was after when the congregation launched a major renovation of its sanctuary in the early 1990s.

But when officials of the northwest suburban church learned that it would cost $350,000 just to move the old organ, they decided to buy a new one.

Now, after two years of design, one year of building, three weeks of assembly and six weeks of tuning and tonal voicing, Trinity Lutheran Church is about to unveil one of the largest and most unusual organs in the country.

Sunday will mark the official debut of Trinity Lutheran's 5-ton, 3,500-pipe organ, which will be featured for the first time at the regular services. The instrument will be dedicated in April.

The Czech-built organ combines more than five centuries of technology into a package that has drawn from around the world.

Half of the organ was built according to a 15th Century "tracker" design, in which the keys move a series of rods to open and close the pipes. The other half uses a resonance design that dates to 17th Century France.

Hidden inside is a 20th Century computer system that not only can control the stops on the organ but includes "musical instrument digital interface" technology that can store a performance, play it back or coordinate it with other computerized instruments such as a synthesizer.

"It's the first double organ of this type in Chicago and possibly all of North America," said Matt Bechteler, a parishioner and the head of the Pickle Piano and Organ Co. of Bloomingdale, which helped coordinate the project.

Rev. Charles Mueller Jr., pastor of Trinity Lutheran, said that as word of the new organ spread, the church has begun receiving letters and calls from musicians around the country who want to see, hear and play it.

"This instrument, like it's historical design, should last for hundreds of years," Mueller said. "It gives us an opportunity to add to our excellent tradition and contemporary worship."

That wasn't originally part of the plan.

"At first, we thought we'd move the old organ, but we learned it would cost around $350,000 just to do that," he said. "Then we considered starting from scratch, but we weren't sure where we would get the money."

Mueller said two factors made obtaining the organ possible. The first was the bequest of a parishioner, Fred Kruse, who made it known before he died two years ago that he hoped his gift would go toward an organ.

"The other key to this was Matt Bechteler, a parishioner who works for Euro Musik, the sole representative in the United States for the Reiger-Kloss firm, which built the organ," Mueller said. "He and Jeff Davis (the project's consultant) really helped make this happen."

The organ was manufactured in Krnov in the Czech Republic, the home of the Reiger-Kloss company, which has been in business since 1873. The instrument took more than two years to design and a year to build.

In December, Bechteler and Davis flew to Krnov to test the instrument, making sure it complied with specifications.

It was then taken apart and shipped to Roselle, where a five-man crew from the factory arrived Jan. 20 to begin a reassembly process that took about three weeks. The tuning and tonal voicing of the organ has lasted more than six weeks. The final price tag was $450,000.

For Trinity music director Brian Milnikel, obtaining an instrument of this caliber was "the icing on the cake."

"I was working last year in Houston, and I got a call from Pastor Mueller asking if I'd be interested in the job here," Milnikel said. "He told me about moving the front of the church toward the road and the new seating they were adding.

"Then sort of off the cuff, he dropped this line about the new organ. I felt like a kid getting a Christmas present he didn't deserve."

Mueller and Milnikel see the organ as a powerful addition to the ministry of Trinity Lutheran, a church that has grown to 5,000 members.

Mueller hopes the instrument will rekindle the interest of musicians in the organ.

"Few people are taking the challenge to learn about the instrument," he said.

Milnikel said the organ fulfills a twofold purpose.

"People today have become so visually oriented, and they receive a lot of their religious message through songs," he said. "Years ago, the music here was produced in the balcony and sort of floated down over people. This organ will be a blessing to the congregation to use for generations as people's children get married here and for those not yet born."

Milnikel said he also believes the organ will benefit Roselle and the surrounding area by attracting world-class musicians.

"It's also a great gift to the fine arts and the musical community," Milnikel said.

Mueller said he believes the organ enhances the church's nationally recognized school and music program. He said the members of Trinity Lutheran have looked forward to Sunday with great anticipation.

"This was an arduous project at times," Mueller said, "but it was not done without the will and direction of the congregation. I think this will be the heart and spirit of those that attend services here.

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Bloomingdale, IL 60108

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