In early 2015 we received a call from the Music Director at Grace United Methodist Church in Hagerstown, Maryland, to discuss a possible organ rebuild project. Normally this would not have been anything much more exciting when compared to any other request for a proposal, however this call was particularly striking as Hagerstown was home to M.P. Moller, the largest producer of pipe organs in the world. Between 1875 and 1992 the company produced well over 12,000 instruments. Every church in Hagerstown had an organ built by Moller and, to our knowledge, there has not been a new instrument by a non-factory organ builder installed in the town for well over a century.
The pipe organ at Grace Church was originally installed by Moller in 1929 as their opus 5452. The company returned in 1974 to releather the wind chests, make several major tonal changes, and install a new rocking tablet console. At this time the front of the church was "modernized" and wall to wall carpeting was laid over the oak floors. The instrument proved problematic almost immediately, sometimes requiring factory technicians to undertake repairs immediately before services on Sunday morning. The few tonal resources were overextended, and the character of the 1974 pipework clashed with that of the 1929 pipework. Furthermore, the vast expanse of carpet degraded the acoustics of the space so that much of the organ's impact was minimized. Over the years the organ performed decently in spite of its limitations, however after 40 years of service the mechanism had deteriorated to the point that multiple ciphers would disrupt Sunday services on a regular basis. Given the severe limitations and long-term liability of the present mechanism, it was decided by the church to pursue a more comprehensive organ building project. After several meetings, a tour of several instruments, and much thoughtful discussion, the organ committee selected Luley & Associates to carry out the task of building a new instrument utilizing much of the pipework and select mechanical components from the existing organ. Following the dismantling of the existing organ the carpet was ripped out, and the vintage oak floors have been restored to their original glory.