From the outset, the design concept of the organ at our home venue Christ the King Lutheran Church was simple and uncompromising — to build an instrument on which to play the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. In the view of its planners and Bach Society Houston, this "Bach Organ" does these things remarkably well, and Fritz Noack and his craftsmen have earned our most sincere and profound respect and gratitude.
In what sense may an organ be called a "Bach Organ", or can one even dare speak of such a thing? To signify the "perfect" organ for Bach, or one which he would prefer to play would be an impossible task. Rather, the appellation is used more modestly, to describe an instrument similar to those that Bach knew and played. There are many possibilities for such an instrument, ranging from North German organs such as those built by Arp Schnitger in the late seventeenth century to the organs of Thuringia and Saxony to the east in Central Germany. The choice of a Saxon-style organ flowed from a series of preferential considerations, and not from any judgment as to what makes the best "Bach Organ."
Gottfried Silbermann (1683–1753) was the best known Saxon organ builder during the time Bach was at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig; Zacharias Hildebrandt (1688–1757) was his pupil, and later an independent builder. Bach and Silbermann, for example, jointly inspected and approved an organ built by Hildebrandt in Naumburg. The organ at Christ the King Church follows the example of Hildebrandt.
Fritz Noack was selected to design and build the organ. Kristian Wegscheider of Dresden, restorer of important Silbermann organs, accepted appointment as a design consultant; Reinhard Schabitz of Dresden, voicer in the restorations, assisted in the voicing; and most of the metal pipes were built near Dresden in the workshop of Günter Lau. The result is an instrument which not surprisingly, but quite remarkably, evokes the look, feel, and sound of an eighteenth-century Saxon organ.
This Bach Organ possesses attributes commonly found in organs built today in historical style — mechanical action (the keys are linked to cause the pipes to speak without the assistance of electricity), mechanical stop action, keys suspended below the pipe chests, a flexible wind supply provided by bellows, and tuning in a historic temperament. The Saxon style imposes a series of additional design characteristics. The entire organ is housed in one case, and its design employs eighteenth-century Saxon conventions; the case is built of pine and painted (blue-green, red, and gold leaf). The pipe scalings are taken from Hildebrandt, and the principal pipes have a high tin content rather than lead.
The Lutheran musical tradition of which Bach was a part is a central factor in his music. The Reformation spread on wings of song due to the outpouring of musical creativity which it spawned. In a single generation thousands of hymns (called chorales) were composed, which became the foundations of a remarkable musical culture spanning two centuries, from Prætorius, Schütz, Buxtehude, Handel, and countless others until the death of Bach in 1750 (subsequently continued by Mendelssohn, Reger, and subsequent composers to the present day). Organists composed and improvised variations on the chorale tunes, and cantatas were written for singers and instruments which incorporated and expanded upon the chorale tunes and texts. Composers also wrote masses, passions, and oratorios, along with preludes, toccatas, and fugues for the organ. The pipe organ developed hand-in-hand with the music in Lutheran lands, leading to the baroque organs built in Bach's day.
Viola di Gamba 8'
Vox Humana 8'
Tertia 1 ⅗'
Quinta 1 ⅓'
Key Action: Mechanical
Valotti Temperament at A=440
One wedge-shaped bellows
Oberwerk to Hauptwerk
Hauptwerk to Pedal