The Joan S. Godsey Pipe Organ
About The Joan Stockstill Godsey Organ
Joan S Godsey
Portrait commissioned for the dedication of the Joan Stockstill Godsey Center for Keyboard Studies at Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music. (2015, Yvonne Gabriel, artist)
This pipe organ—given in honor of Joan S. Godsey by her family—was designed and built by the A.E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company of Lithonia, Georgia. The relationship between the Schlueter family, First Baptist Church of Christ, and the Godsey family began more than 30 years ago when Arthur Schlueter, III, attended Mercer University. Arthur did not know that three decades later he would have the opportunity to build a new instrument for First Baptist Church, fulfilling the call at graduation from then-President Kirby Godsey to go out and do his part to make the world a more beautiful place.
As an accomplished musician and dedicated congregant, Joan Godsey has served as organist, choirmaster, Sunday School teacher, and deacon. Her deep devotion to the music ministry of First Baptist for more than 40 years, combined with her encouragement of music and music education throughout the Macon community, is one of many reasons her family has given this gift in her honor.
In 2016, the church and the Schlueter organ company initiated the discussion of the church’s existing organ and how to improve it for worship. The existing Schantz organ consisted of 35 ranks of pipework, and, while a good, basic service instrument, it did not have the depth of resources to fully support the music program as it has evolved at the church.
The vision was to design a new instrument that would follow the precepts of American eclectic tonal design while supporting the great organ works by luminaries such as Widor, Franck, Bach, and others. In the interest of the stewardship of previous organ gifts, it was decided to re-use portions of the pipework (re-pitching, re-scaling, and/or re-voicing) from the existing instrument, where beneficial and practical. This was achieved in a positive, cohesive manner that still allowed the creation of an instrument that stands under the Schlueter name and tonal design.
The design of the new organ case pays homage to the architecture of the 1887 sanctuary and includes a rich brocade of carvings and custom moldings that harken to other ecclesiastical elements within the church. The case and pipes rise over 30 feet from the raised choir loft for a commanding visual and tonal location in the worship space. It is an instrument conceived first and foremost to solidly support the choir and congregation in worship while also allowing the varied repertoire written for organ across the span of time to flourish.
As a token of gratitude for the commission to build this new instrument, several stops were donated by the Schlueter family to the church. These include several sets of strings and the woodwind-class reeds, including a restored orchestral 1920s-era Clarinet from the renowned pipe organ builder, Ernest M. Skinner.
The Schlueter organ consists of three manual divisions, a pedal division, 51 ranks of windblown pipes (approximately 2,900 pipes), and 9 digitally-reproduced ranks.
For additional information on the organ, including organ registration specifications, please CLICK HERE to contact Hunter Godsey