The Antiphonal Organ

The pipes of the organ of Third Baptist are hidden from view, but it’s generally pretty obvious where the main chambers are, and from the sanctuary, one can occasionally glimpse a reflection of light off of the pipes in the front two chambers. However, the Antiphonal division is hidden away, and when sounds come down from the ceiling of the church, it often surprises listeners. The Antiphonal is made up of 6 ranks of pipes, and it is believed that some of them actually came from the 1920 Kilgen and managed to survive the 1928 fire that started in the front of the church. To get to them, one takes the stairs or elevator to the 4th floor of the west wing of the church, up to where Memorial Chapel is. There’s a closet off of the first room you come into, and in that closet you’ll find a small hatch in the wall. Looking in, you’ll see air conditioning ducts, and lots of lighting equipment. This takes you from the west wing into the attic of the original church building. It’s a tight fit.
Attic hatch

Once in the attic, a network of plywood flooring indicates the safe places to walk. The Antiphonal chamber stands in an area shared with some electrical equipment, so it’s easy to get into once you’re in that area. It’s a free-standing room dedicated to just this organ chamber.

Inside is one main chest and an offest, as well as a set of chimes. The chimes were originally installed high in the Great chamber on a pneumatic action. When that action failed, the chimes were removed rather that deal with an airborne releathering job. A new set on electric action replaced them. Those new ones are still in the Great, and we moved these to the Antiphonal, now known as the Echo Chimes.

The Antiphonal, like all of the organ, is expressive. In order to accomplish that, there are shades installed in the wall of the chamber, and the pipes speak into a tone chute on the other side. This opens into the church via three rather small openings in the ceiling of the church.

Despite those small openings, the Antiphonal is clearly heard in the church, and makes for some nice effects and variety in registration. The division is winded by a long line that runs through the attic from the main chambers, so temperature control is tricky. During the hottest and coldest months of the year, the Antiphonal generally needs to be tuned to match the rest of the organ, but it’s easy to get to, and it doesn’t take long to tune 6 ranks.

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