The Church of the Gesu has been blessed by several incarnations of pipe organs over its history. The earliest foundation for the instrument we have today was a pipe organ built in 1899 by the Kimball Company. Fr. Thomas Fitzgerald, S.J., pastor of Gesu from 1899 to 1922, obtained this instrument for Gesu in 1908. This organ had approximately 50 ranks
in four divisions
, totaling perhaps 2,500-3,000 pipes.
The Kilgen Company of St. Louis, MO, rebuilt and enlarged the Kimball instrument in 1955, retaining a high percentage of the original Kimball pipes. The Kilgen edition of the Gesu pipe organ contained over 5,000 pipes in six divisions (five in the loft, plus the Echo division in the front right of the church), and a 4-manual console
. The oak case of the Kimball was retained, slightly modified to accommodate the larger footprint of the Kilgen rendition.
Likewise, the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, OH, rebuilt and enlarged the Gesu pipe organ in 2011. This is a new pipe organ which preserves the heritage of its predecessors—including the Lower Church Johnson/Wangerin organ—by integrating a significant number of their pipes. The Kimball case was minimally altered by Schantz, however the non-speaking façade pipes
were created anew. The main 20HP motor and blower were rebuilt. All other mechanicals and infrastructure of the organ were created new by Schantz. Pictures of the installation are available here
The Schantz-built pipe organ contains 115 ranks/6,804 pipes divided into 90 stops
in six divisions, and a 4-manual console based on the Peterson ICS-4000 control system
. While the pipe organ was in Orrville, several other projects were completed in the loft: The stained glass of the Rose Window was restored, the organ blower room was transformed into a “clean room” with its own HVAC
and humidification systems, the electrical service in the loft was updated, and the loft floor was reconfigured to permit maximum flexibility and accessibility.
A challenge which affects all spaces—especially worship spaces—is the variety of climatic conditions: Temperature and humidity can vary widely from week to week, and from season to season. To counteract the drying effect of winter’s low humidity, Kurt Mangel—curator of the Wanamaker pipe organ—devised a method of humidifying the organ space using the organ’s own windlines as a conduit for bringing humidity to the instrument. A large humidifier is installed in the blower room. When the organ is not in use, and humidity levels drop, an HVAC control system signals the humidifier to run, and the organ’s main blower to turn at low speed. This pushes humidified air into the organ. “Dump valves” located on the windchests open when the blower is not running at full speed, providing an outlet for the treated air. (When the organ blower is at full speed, air pressure inside the windchests pushes these valves closed.) Thus, there is a single place for humidifier maintenance, and a plumbed water supply. Schantz implemented this “Mangel-style humidification” in their design of the Gesu pipe organ. Gesu Parish invested in this system, and other HVAC systems, to help prolong the life of internal organ parts and to provide choirs and musicians with relief from the heat in Wisconsin summers.