Organ History

Our pipe organ leads and supports congregational singing and provides music from the sacred solo organ repertoire as preludes, offertories and postludes. Built by the Reuter Pipe Organ Company in Lawrence, Kansas in 1955-1956, it has undergone three significant renovations and expansions, most recently in August of 2021 under the direction of J. R. Neutel, Reuter President and CEO. All are welcome to visit the organ following worship services, and organist Rebecca te Velde is glad to schedule personal tours as well.

New Trompette pipe autographed by Reuter’s reed voicer, Sean Estanek

First Presbyterian Church
Stillwater, Oklahoma
Reuter Pipe Organ Co.
Op. 1125

2 manuals
30 ranks
25 stops
1,826 pipes
Renovations and additions by
R. A. Banks and Associates
Pipe Organ Co. in 1996 and 2009;
2021 by Reuter Pipe Organ Co.

Organ Specifications:

Great Swell Pedal
16′ Violone (Pd.)*** 16′ Rohrgedeckt** 32′ Quintbass (resultant)**
8′ Principal** 8′ Rohrflöte 16′ Bourdon**
8′ Gedeckt 8′ Viola 16′ Violone
8′ Erzähler 8′ Viola Celeste 16′ Rohrgedeckt (Sw.)
8′ Erzähler Celeste 4′ Spitzprincipal** 8′ Octave***
4′ Principal*** 4′ Nachthorn 8′ Bourdon**
4′ Spillflöte 2-2/3′ Nazard 8′ Rohrflöte (Sw.)
2′ Flachflöte*** 2′ Doublette 4′ Octave
III Mixture*** 1-3/5′ Tierce 4′ Rohrflöte (Sw.)**
8′ Liturgical Trumpet 1′ Zauberflöte III Mixture (Gt.)***


Tremolo III Plein Jeu** 16′ Bombarde (Gt.)
  8′ Trompette**** 8′ Trompette (Sw.)****
  8′ Hautbois*  
  8′ Vox Humana  

Ernest & Betty Hodnett Cymbelstern (2005, on toe stud)

Couplers:  Sw./Gt. 16’, 8’, 4’; Gt./Gt. 16’, 4’, unison off;

                Sw./Sw. 16’, 4’, unison off;

                Gt./Pd. 8’; Sw./Pd. 8’, 4’

Ten general pistons, eight duplicated on toe studs

Six divisional pistons; Pedal divisionals on toe studs only

Full Organ reversible thumb piston and toe stud

General Cancel thumb piston

32 memory levels

Crescendo pedal


*replaced 4’ Schalmei in 1993, formerly 16′ Fagott from the old Moody Bible Institute organ
**added in 1996 renovation: used pipes except for new Gt. Principal 8′; Sw. 4′ Spitz Principal and Plein Jeu                  out of Westminster Presbyterian Church organ in Oklahoma City
****2021: new keyboards, refurbished pedals, new Sw. Trompette rank, cleaned and repaired Sw. Hautbois,

moved and raised windchest in the Swell chamber; all work done by the original builder, Reuter Organ Company, Lawrence, KS

Listen and Watch

Virtual demonstration, short performance, and virtual tour of the organ chamber

note: this was recorded in 2020, prior to the 2021 renovation

Hear and watch organ music being played on this instrument, visit “A Little Monday Music” playlist

Hear Rebecca te Velde’s Anniversary Organ Recital, recorded live on Oct. 24, 2021

2021 Organ Renovation

New keyboards and refurbished pedal keys

New Trompette pipes (the bigger ones) and
cleaned/repaired Hautbois pipes, Swell division

The Organ History of First Presbyterian Church, Stillwater, OK

Compiled in 2021 by Rebecca te Velde, Organist Sept. 1, 1991–present

Read Full History Here

Reuter Pipe Organ Op. 1125, II/30 [25 stops, 1,826 pipes]

[Note: All information and quotations from 1890 to 1991 are from A History of the First Presbyterian Church, Stillwater, Oklahoma by Dr. Eric I. Williams, ©1991 First Presbyterian Church, Stillwater, Oklahoma.]

FPC Stillwater was organized on Nov. 2, 1890 and incorporated on Feb. 11, 1891. Sacred music in general, and organ music in particular, have been important to the congregation of FPC Stillwater from its inception.

After first meeting in an upstairs room of a downtown building, the fledgling congregation built a framed structure nearby. It possessed an “ancient organ”, presumably an old reed organ given by one of the first church members which was played by the daughter of the first pastor:

“Rev. Myers had a lovely daughter who could make beautiful music on the reed organ. Iowa Indians would come from south of the Cimarron River to hear her play almost every Sunday. They would file in and stand at the back of the sanctuary to enjoy the music, When the preaching began, they would leave––and come back when they heard the organ music again!”  [p. 32]

In 1906, “Dr. A. C. Scott, President of Oklahoma A & M College…went to New York to select and buy an organ for the church, which he regularly played for worship services.” [p. 50-1] The church and its contents were moved to the present site at 6th and Duncan in 1907. The new sanctuary was dedicated on Sept. 14, 1924.

In 1928, Rev. Allen S. Davis, pastor 1919–1940, proposed that the church acquire a pipe organ, and an organ committee was established to promote the project and raise money. However, in spite of strong support and gifts to the organ fund, nothing was done until a Hammond Electronic Organ was purchased for $1,535 as part of the church’s 45th anniversary celebration. It was dedicated on Nov. 3, 1935. Pastor Davis’s son, Seymour, apparently served for many years as organist and eventually came into possession of the 1906 reed organ.

Before 1948, the Hammond had deteriorated and was needing repair. In 1952, a committee was formed to study the issue, and an organ committee was finally formed in 1954. Three organ companies were invited to submit plans and visit the church. The design by the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas for a two-manual instrument at a cost of about $17,000 was the committee’s first choice. However, in spite of wide agreement that “a high quality of church music was in the Reformed tradition”, there was dissension among committee members about whether to purchase a pipe organ or an electronic instrument, which would have saved about $10,000. Eventually, the committee asked to be relieved of its duties. In the course of a “long and lively” congregational meeting, church member Mrs. Harry (Ruth) Orr successfully argued for the value of choosing a pipe organ. A “Memorial Organ Fund” was established, fund-raising promoted, and the Reuter company commissioned.

In 1955, FPC hired Margaret Rickerd Scharf and Warren Scharf to lead the music program. Newly married, this was their first shared position after each had earned the M.Mus. degree and Performer’s Certificate in Organ at the Eastman School of Music where they had met. But shortly after coming to Stillwater, Warren had to leave to serve out his military duty, and Margaret took over all playing and directing until his return in 1956. Although it appears she never held the title, Margaret was in essence the church’s first full-time director of music and organist. When Warren returned in 1956, they served jointly until 1957, having cultivated a thriving music program with Warren doing most of the directing and Margaret most of the playing.

Reuter’s records show that their Op. 1125 was built in 1955. One rank was apparently not successful upon installation and was taken back to the factory to be re-worked at no extra cost. In a service of dedication on Nov. 18, 1956, Margaret Scharf played the inaugural recital. The organ of two manuals (keyboards) and 21 ranks had the following specification:

            Great                                       Swell                                  Pedal  

            8’ Principal Conique                   8’ Rohr Flöte                        16’ Violone
            8’ Gedecht                                8’ Viola Pomposa                  16’ Bourdon Dulce (Sw.)
            8’ Kleine Erzähler                       8’ Viola Celeste                    10-2/3’ Quinte (Sw.)
            8’ Erzähler Celeste                     4’ Nachthorn                        8’ Octave Violone
            4’ Octave                                  2-2/3’ Nazard                       8’ Rohrgedecht (Sw.)
            4’ Spillflöte                                2’ Doublette                         5-1/3’ Violone
            III Plein Jeu                              1-3/5’ Tierce                        4’ Choral Bass (Gt.)
            8’ Liturgical Trompette               1’ Zauberflöte                       16’ Bombarde (Gt.)
                                                           8’ Vox Humana
                                                           4’ Schalmei

In 1970, an elder “reported that the pipe organ was in need of service which would cost about $35,000. This would entail doubling the number of stops, relocating the pipes and adding a new reed-bank. No action was taken.” And “Another report on the state of the pipe organ by a Dutch organ manufacturer recommended not to repair it but to replace it as soon as feasible.” [p. 169] In 1974, the roof leaked and the organ suffered water damage. Both roof and organ were repaired. In 1985, a cleaning of the pipes was undertaken, with members of the choir and congregation assisting.

My tenure at FPC began on Sept. 1, 1991. It was clear that the organ had been lovingly maintained by William Stephens of Lawrence, Kansas, who was Reuter’s regional service representative for many years. However, it was showing its age in a number of ways, including its tonal concept that was “of its time”: what was considered “cutting edge” in the mid-50’s was a “neo-Baroque” plethora of “skinnier”-sounding pipes, counteracting the typically “tubby”-sounding American instruments of the first half of the 20th century. But the results proved insufficient for leading and supporting congregational singing, or for adequately rendering solo organ music. The console was in dire need of upgrading. The organ desperately needed additional pipes to add “weight” in the Pedal division, more “singing” foundation tone in the Great, and more clarity and strength in the Swell. Accompanying the choir was frustrating: either the organ was too loud or the choir couldn’t hear it well enough. It was soon evident that the constraints of the small organ chamber and its surrounding lode-bearing walls (including those of the north and south sanctuary stairwells) precluded extensive additions or relocation of pipes. Thus began a series of targeted additions, renovations and repairs that have occurred over the last three decades.

In May of 1992, a swarm of honey bees followed their queen through an open window in the upper southeast room off of the choir loft and into the organ chamber. They made their presence known by making the lights in the organ chamber arch appear to flicker. They died out almost completely within 48 hours but left a lot of dust and dirt in and around the pipes that caused tuning and maintenance headaches and random dead notes for months.

  • 1993: Swell 4’ Schalmei replaced by 8’ Hautbois, swell shutters repaired, organ chamber cleaned; work done by William Stephens of Lawrence, KS for $4,950 (Session voted to use $3,000 of a budget surplus from 1992 for the organ)
    • used pipes from the 16’ Fagott rank in the old organ of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, an organ that my father knew well (according to Roger Banks, this stop was nicknamed the “Moody Bassoon”); purchased from and outfitted for our organ by William Stephens
  • 1994-95: in consultation with Bill Stephens, a plan for additions, repairs and upgrades to the organ was drawn up
    • three bids were secured; Roger Banks & Associates of Edmond, Oklahoma was chosen (also recommended by the Reuter Co.) with a plan for a two-phased project, allowing for fund-raising time for each phase; fund-raising commenced for Organ Renovation and Enlargement Phase I; Bill Stephens relinquished care of the organ to Roger Banks
  • 1996: a contract was signed with Roger Banks & Assoc. for $42,529
    • new pedalboard and pedal action, new keyboards, new 32-level solid state combination action; new used and reconditioned pipes: Ped. 16’/8’ Bourdon, Sw. 4’ Spitzprincipal, Sw. III Plein Jeu (from Westminster Pres. Church organ, OKC), new windchest in Swell chamber; brand new Gt. 8’ Principal made by the Reuter company (the original one eventually became the 8’ Principal in the Choir division of the organ at First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City)
    • making way for the new Swell ranks (more critical for congregational singing), Sw. 1’ and Vox Humana removed and stored in the organ blower room, awaiting reinstallation in Phase II; with two ranks removed and six added, the organ now stood at 25 ranks
    • funds raised by the congregation, with large gifts from Presbyterian Women and Ernest and Betty Hodnett
    • Allen electronic organ rented from Gillam Music in Edmond for six weeks ($750) while the console was removed to the Banks shop in Edmond; the Allen was placed on the floor of the nave near the north transept–a tricky sight-line between organist and Chancel Choir Director Dr. Robert Ward
  • also in 1996: a new adjustable organ bench was purchased from the Organ Supply Co. for $1,450; our old unstable bench went to First United Methodist Church of Pawnee, where organist Katherine Pogue needed a lower bench and could place it solidly against a wall
  • 2005: a new Cymbelstern given by Ernest and Betty Hodnett after the original one quit working and could not be repaired; the cost was over $1,000 as I recall
  • 2006: a Pipe Organ Project Committee raised funds for the organ’s 50th birthday celebration, to include Phase II renovation and additions and a 50th Anniversary Organ Recital by organists Margaret and Warren Scharf on Nov. 12, 2006 [after a 49-year absence, they were reunited at a gala luncheon with FPC members who had sung in their choirs 50 years earlier; they generously gifted FPC their recital, foregoing their concert fees; the church covered their travel and lodging expenses]
  • 2008: contract signed with Roger Banks & Associates for Phase II additions and renovations: $44,950
  • 2009 (January): Phase II additions and renovation completed by Roger Banks & Associates [Edmond, OK] (work was delayed due to Roger Banks’ health)
    • New windchests for Swell and Pedal divisions built to house new pipes: used and refitted 2’ flute rank for the Great, Trompette 8’ for the Swell, repurposed Octave and Principal from the Great division to the Pedal (8’ and 4’), new (used) Gt. 4’ Octave; Sw. 1’ Zauberflöte and Vox Humana pipes removed from storage in the organ blower room and reinstalled in new windchest; new console wiring, new stop tablets, new “concussion winkers” (quieter wind sound), misc. minor repairs, tuning and voicing
    • Large gifts from Presbyterian Women, the Allene Brown Foundation, Second Mile Sewers, Chancel Choir (Dir. of Music Heather Lanners); $23,345.08 raised by the congregation and friends (12/6/2006)

In 2011, honey bees once again invaded the organ chamber, this time entering through an opening under the roof of the south transept. They set up shop on the back side of the swell box against the south transept wall. They were discovered after they had already produced quite a lot of honey, which oozed out over the top of the swell box, down the back, and finally out over the floor beneath the swell box. Bee experts were consulted, but sadly the only solution was to seal the opening they had entered and allow them to die, which they did in about a week. Many died in or fell into pipes, causing maintenance and tuning issues for quite some time. Three years later, a pedal pipe that suddenly quit speaking was found to have bee remains lodged in it.

Our long-time organ technician/builder Roger Banks died on June 5, 2019 (born 1940). JR Neutel, President of the Reuter Organ Company, personally assumed the care of our instrument a couple of months later. He planned and oversaw the 2021 renovation, addition, and repairs made by Reuter personnel.

  • 2021: Organ Renovation Project, celebrating its 65th anniversary year; 
    • $6,000 from #8175, $9,000 from #8180, $3,000 from  #9670, $20,000 from Allene Brown Foundation
    • Swell division reconfigured for better maintenance and easier access to all pipes, new Trompette rank built by Reuter and installed, new keyboards for the console (high quality, estimated to last 50 years), refurbished pedal keys and action, tuning and regulating of pipes
    • Reuter personnel removed the Swell Hautbois for cleaning at the shop, reinstalled and re-regulated it, all at no charge.
    • Onsite work completed Aug. 24-27, 2021.

The organ now consists of 30 ranks on 25 stops with 1,826 pipes. It’s replacement value stands at $725,000.