Organ Acquistion Process

Organ Acquistion Process

Acquiring a Church Organ at Streetsville United Church – 2002

The receipt of a significant donation in the summer of 2002 triggered a series of events that, within five months, resulted in the execution of a contract for the acquisition of a new Phoenix ‘digital pipe’ church organ to replace a traditional wind-driven pipe organ which had become somewhat unreliable and expensive to repair – when spare parts could be located. Furthermore, it turns out the acquisition or rebuilding of an organ is one of the highest value purchases most churches will make, beyond the basic church structure itself.

This document provides a brief overview of the entire acquisition process, including: issues we faced, determining options, generating congregational acceptance for what amounts to a relatively new technology in some respects and obtaining congregational approval to acquire an organ that will provide new levels of versatility and reliability. The bottom line is that we feel our acquisition of a Phoenix ‘digital pipe’ organ will make, with relatively low financial outlay, a significant enhancement to our worship accompaniment and inspire new directions for our music ministry.

Beyond our desire to provide accompaniment in the form of both traditional and contemporary church music, we started out with little experience and information; it was difficult to locate any information on the Internet that could provide assistance. We have generated this report in the hope that it will assist other churches who are searching for recommendations on proceeding with an organ purchase. Download the complete Acquisition Process report describing how we proceeded to select an organ, determine a supplier, get the necessary congregation buy-in and approvals and arrange financing. Then download our post-installation Reflections report reviewing our experience and especially the benefits we found (many unanticipated) as we gained experience with our new organ.

Contents (Acqusition Process Report)

  • Our Musical Heritage
  • Triggering the Search for a New Organ
  • Background Research Findings
  • Issues and Concerns Raised and Addressed
  • Obtaining Congregational Buy-In
  • The Recommendation
  • Final Approvals


Feature Phoenix Organ2003 Keates Organ1960/1980 Canadian Pipe Organ1920
Manuals 3: Great, Swell, Choir 2: Great, Swell 2: Great, Swell
Stops 51 x 3 21 7
Stop Format Drawstop knobs Tabs Tilting Tablets
Pedal Keyboard Yes Yes Yes (30 pedals)
Pipes ~3100 (digital pipes) 825 (wind driven) 396
Voicings 3: English, Baroque, English with Instrumental 1 1
Ranks Effectively 51 per Voicing 13 7
Longest “pipe” Sub Bourdon 32’Contra Violone 32’ Bourdon 16’ plus 2 other 16’ Bourdon 16′
Couplers 15 (including 4 to MIDI) 7 7 plus “Bellows Signal”
MIDI Interface Yes No What’s MIDI?
Cost <$100,000 $7,200 (1960); $75,000 (1980) $2,400

Key Recommendations

Review and assess the role of an organ within your overall church mission , especially its role in worship, and its priority relative to other activities being carried on at the church

Ensure that an authentic pipe organ sound is being obtained – visit reference sites and obtain CD samples

Involve a range of congregational personnel on the committee, including a qualified organist and at least one financial/business person

Keep the congregation fully informed as the evaluation proceeds

Build a complete contract outlining not only the organ specifications (as an Appendix) but also the business conditions of the purchase

Keep financing independent of any other church financial funds and operating budgets

Tolton Organ Installation Diary

Follow the construction and installation of the Tolton Organ from Phoenix Organs through our diary accessible from the link above.  Includes photographs.

What Is a Digital Pipe Organ?

The terminology digital organ, digital ‘pipe organ’ and ‘digital pipe’ organ can cause no end of confusion. Follow this link for an explanation and why it can deliver authentic pipe organ sound.

Keates Organ Components

Our Keates pipe organ components — a 2-manual console with pedalboard, about seven ranks (mostly reeds) — have been sold. Follow the link above for more details and photographs.