A Joyful Noise
History compiled by Seth Johannsen
HARLAN — Immanuel Lutheran Church in Harlan is planning a free public recital featuring music preformed by organist Stephen Bartelt, current Dean of American Guild of Organists Omaha Chaper on the church’s newly rebuilt pipe organ. The concert will be held at the church, located at 1700 19th St. in Harlan at 1 p.m. Sunday, February 11.
History of the Immanuel Lutheran Church Pipe Organ
As construction on the new Immanuel Lutheran Church building neared completion in 1969, a new pipe organ was being considered. An organ committee was formed and an organ was funded by Herman and Inger Nielsen.
The original dedication plaque remains in place and reads as follows:
THIS ORGAN PRESENTED TO
THE GLORY OF GOD AND
IMMANUEL LUTHERAN CHURCH
HERMAN AND INGER NIELSEN
MAY 6, 1973
A contract with N. Frederick Cool, owner of Temple Organ Company of Lamoni, IA was signed on February 7, 1972, for a new pipe organ totaling $25,568. The new organ was to consist of 22 ranks (sets) of windblown organ pipes, totaling 1,349 pipes.
Like other small organ builders, Temple Organ Company completed the contract by manufacturing many of the parts themselves. Other parts were sourced from other builders. The organ console was built by Klann, Inc., of Waynesboro, VA using red oak in a modified Lindon style that reflected the new building’s architecture.
Some of the new pipes were made by R.V. Anderson Sons of Brattleboro, VT. A late addition was a rank of 44 stopped wood subbass pipes from a pre-existing Moller organ.
It is of some interest to note that many of the new pipes came from the Gebruder Kas Organ Works in Germany. A letter from the company dated August 5, 1972, states a total of eight boxes of pipes for the Immanuel Lutheran Church project had been shipped, with five more ranks to follow in three weeks. The organ blower for the project was also imported from Meidinger Blower of Kaiseraugst, Switzerland. The organ blowers from this builder are recognized for their quiet, reliable performance. This blower continues to serve its function today.
In 1975, Temple Organ Company installed a set of solid tubular chimes playable from the organ.
The organ served the congregation well for many years. However, as time passed, the organ was used less because of both the lack of an organist and an increased interest in other forms of worship music.
In 2013, church member Seth Johannsen, who was interested in pipe organs, researched organ technology to fill the need of an organist. The answer was found in the SOS “Substitute Organist Service” by Church Music Solutions of Marine, Illinois. To make use of this tool, the organ needed to be retrofitted to use MIDI “Music Instrument Digital Interface” technology, and Immanuel member JoAnn Christensen made this possible by her financial support in memory of her husband, Robert Christensen. The ability to play the organ with MIDI technology kept the organ useful and in the minds of church members. Later, as the organ began to fail due to age, the worship committee researched options for organ music.
In January 2023, the congregation voted to rebuild the existing pipe organ, and on May 11, signed a contract totaling $72,000.00 with Temple Organ Company, now located in St. Joseph, MO. The company is currently headed by David Cool, son of N. Fredrick Cool. As a 23-year-old apprentice, David had worked with his father on the original build of the organ.
Now, 50 years later, assisted by his grandson and granddaughter, David would rebuild the organ, making improvements to his father’s design. The organ was removed over three days beginning August 31. At this time, some pews were removed and a platform for the organ console and piano was built to make the balcony a more musician-useful space. The organ rebuild included all pipes serviced as needed, new control systems, and new main wind chests. The organ was expanded by three ranks, and is now 25 ranks, totaling 1515 pipes.
Of the three functional pipe organs in Shelby County, the organ at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Harlan is the largest.
Temple Organ Company began reinstalling the organ October 30 and competed the reinstallation November 30.
Former Immanuel organist Marjorie Ahrenholtz was given the honor of being the first to play the completed organ December 10. Her selection was a prelude of the hymn “Sweet Hour Of Prayer”.
The SOS system programming and testing was completed December 21, and on Christmas Eve, the organ was heard in all its glory as it was used for three services.