The Swift Memorial Organ
by Gerald Furi, Guest Organist
The Fort Street Presbyterian Church Organ has drawn regional, national and international attention to the church. The organ has grown and evolved since its 1876 beginning, becoming a rich and capable instrument that allows true artists to express their deep talent.
Among those who have performed in concert on the Fort Street Organ are Thomas M. Kuras, James Abbington, James Hamman, David Higgs, Huw Lewis, Peter Hurford, Steve Schlesing, Ray Ferguson, Richard I. Purvis, Virgil Fox, David Palmer, Pierre Cochereau, E. Power Biggs, Hector Olivera, David Wagner, Marilyn Mason, Ray & Beth Chenault, and Karl Richter.
In 1915, the Wangerin-Weickhardt Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, built and installed a four-manual and pedal organ at Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Detroit, Michigan, incorporating 50 percent of the pipe work from the 1876 J.H. & C.S. Odell Opus #155, which had been located in the rear gallery of the church.
The new organ had 46 ranks, 2940 pipes, cathedral chimes, harp, and 50 stops.
The 1915 façade remains the same, today, and all but two of the façade pipes are speaking pipes. Much of the present voicing, particularly in the principal choruses, is by the Charles W. McManis Co., Kansas City, KS, which did the following in a 1955 renovation:
Swell Organ | Installed a new 2-foot Fifteenth and a new three-rank Plein Jeu. He also moved the Choir 8-foot Diapason inside the Swell, in place of the Swell Diapason.
Pedal Organ | Provided the old Swell 8-foot Diapason with a new wind chest and made it playable in the pedal with 8-foot and 4-foot couplers.
Choir Organ | Installed the old 4-foot Fugara and added the wind chests and pipes for the 2/3-foot Nazard through Cymbel and, also, installed a new Swell engine.
Great Organ | Installed mechanism to make it possible to play the 16-foot Great Diapason, also, in the pedal.
The new pipe work installed by McManis was from J. Stinkens in the Netherlands.
The Fort Street Organ underwent major renovation and additions in the early 1990s to repair the damages of time, which had made some of the stops unplayable, and to add some features, including a 32-foot bass, which is installed transversely, high behind the façade pipes
Elder Robert Garvin, a mainstay of the organ renovation project, provided much of this information in a 2005 letter to Carl Zimmerman, nephew of Charles McManis.