David Tannenberg

I/4     1776

Moravian Historical Society
Whitefield House
Nazareth, PA

8' Flaut Amabile (51 wood pipes, 16 stopped and 35 open)
8' Viol da Gamba (39 metal pipes, shares bottom octave with 8' Floete Amabile)
4' Flaut (51 wood pipes, 24 stopped and 27 open)
2' Principal (51 metal pipes, bottom 16 in facade)


The organ in the museum of the Moravian Historical Society is a one-manual, four-stop positive. It is undoubtedly the work of Moravian organ builder David Tannenberg, the construction being like his other instruments. While the early history of the Nazareth organ is undocumented, it is possibly the organ built in 1776 by Tannenberg for the Bethlehem Moravians. Tannenberg arrived in Bethlehem on November 25, 1776 to set up this organ, which was used in the saal of the Single Brothers' House. The back panels of the organ were signed by several persons including "Geo. F. Beyle, South Bethlehem, Pa, 1873." This indicates the organ was probably in Bethlehem at that time. A pencilled inscription on the low E pipe of the 8' Flaut Amabile stop records that the organ was moved from Bethlehem on April 6, 1922 by E. Schuelbeli and L. J. Wimberly.

The organ is very similar in appearance to the 1793 Tannenberg instrument built for the Moravian congregation in Graceham, Maryland. This organ is now at the Single Brothers' House in Lititz, PA. A significant difference between the two organs is that the facade pipe mouths are straight across on the Nazareth organ. Known Tannenberg organs after 1787 all have stepped mouths, indicating the organ was built prior to that date. The casework of a third Tannenberg positive organ exists in Lancaster at First Reformed Church, the organ which was built for St. Mary's Roman Catholic congregation in 1775. The casework of this 1775 organ is much different from the Nazareth and Graceham organs, being shorter with heavier features and a lower pediment. Since the organ at Nazareth is stylistically closer to the 1793 organ, it would seem that it had to have been built between 1776 and 1787. The only other small positive organs built by Tannenberg in this time period were the 1777 organ for the Moravian -chapel in Lititz and the 1782 organ for the Moravian congregation in Hope, New Jersey. The fate of these organs is unknown, so it is conceivable that the organ at Nazareth could be one of these.

The Nazareth organ is built in a Chippendale style case, which can be separated for transport. The lower part of the case contains the cunieform bellows with a single feeder operated by either an iron foot pedal or by a pull strap at the bass end of the organ. The upper part of the case contains the windchest, keyboard, pipes, and facade. The pediment is removeable as well. Folding doors which cover the facade and a fallboard can both be closed and locked for security. There are carved and gilded pipes shades above the facade pipes, and there may have been a carving or ornament of some kind at the top between the broken pediment. The three center facade pipes are nonspeaking dummies while the remainder are the bass of the 2' Principal.

The casework is made of white pine and is painted. The original color of the case appears to have been a grayish white, still visible under the fallboard. It 'was later painted a forest green color, and eventually given its present grain painting. The grain painting inside the doors and around the facade is different from the external graining and may have been done at a different time.

The windchest is made with a maple grid frame, walnut bars and sponcils, and white cedar toeboards. There are five notes starting with low C* offset at the treble end of the windchest, with iron rollers under the keyboard to transfer the action. The order of stops from front to rear on the windchest is 2' Principal, 4' Flaut, 8' Viol da Gamba, and 8' Flaut Amabile. The two metal ranks are supported by wood rack boards and the flutes have short tapered pipe toes which fit into tapered holes in the toeboards. A curious feature is that the toeboard for the 4' Flaut is drilled for rack pins as if metal pipes were intended for that position and wood pipes were used instead. The keys are walnut, with brass guide pins. Natural keys are ebony plated and have moulded fruitwood nosings. Sharps are walnut with ivory caps. Wood pipes in the organ are made of cedar for the larger basses and walnut for the trebles. The organ has survived in mostly original condition, having had few repairs or modifications over the years. An early modification was made to the winding system by moving the opening in the pallet box bottom from the bass end of the windchest to the center. A horizontal section of wind trunk was made to convey the wind from the bellows opening at the bass end to the center of the pallet box. Exactly why this was done or by who is uncertain, but was perhaps an attempt at achieving steadier winding. Another modification which was probably done sometime in the 19th century was the addition of a pedalboard. There still exists a metal guide plate under the bass end of the keyboard for pulldown trackers and there are holes on the underside of the lowest 13 keys where the trackers were attached. The 13-note pedalboard must have sat on the floor in front of the baseboard. The pulldowns may have been string or flexible wire to allow for the alignment change from key scale to pedalboard scale, unless there was a rollerboard mounted on the outside of the organ. It must have been a crude affair which probably explains why it was discarded.

In 1776 Tannenberg was living and working in Lititz, and this organ was constructed there in his workshop. Two Moravian brethren went to Lititz to pick up the organ on November 17, 1776. Tannenberg himself arrived in Bethlehem a week later to install it in the Saal of the Single Brethren's House. The cost of the organ was 60 pounds, and 10 pounds of that was deducted for their old organ, which they used as a trade-in.

On December 3, 1776, within a week of the completion of the installation, Bethlehem received word that the Single Brethren's House was to be used as the hospital for the Continental Army. The army needed the largest building available, and that was it. For the next 15 months, the organ was witness to the confusion, excitement, panic and disease which took over the building during the American Revolution. Although the hospital did not take over the entire building at that time, it did require all available space and more in September, 1777, one of the worst months in Bethlehem's history. We can only assume that, because it was located in the Saal, the organ had a small measure of protection that other furniture in the living quarters or workrooms did not have. In April of 1778, the hospital was removed from Bethlehem, and some semblance of normal life could resume.

In 1782, the organ saw another historic moment. On July 25, General George Washington paid an unexpected visit to the community. The organ remained in the Single Brethren's house until 1814, when the Single Brethren moved out and the Young Ladies' Seminary moved in. The organ was removed to the second floor behind the new sanctuary, what we now call the "Kleine Saal" of Central Moravian Church, where the Single Brethren met.

At this point, the history of the organ becomes a little uncertain. Partly this is because the Bethlehem Diary or the records occasionally refer to "the old organ," but we are not entirely certain how many old organs were in Bethlehem, or to which one they were referring. Vernon Nelson's research indicates that an old organ was eventually transferred from the main church to what is now the red brick Moravian Academy building on the same grounds. In the mid-1800s, the Single Brethren noted that the old organ should be refinished, and some weeks later it was noted that it had been done. We do know that Tannenberg's organs were usually white, and in places where the finish has chipped away, this organ shows white paint. The current finish is a false (,rainina, or paint that looks like wood cyrain, and that helps to support the case that this is the Single Bretluen's organ.

Something apparently happened to the organ on March 26, 1883, although we do not know what. That date and four names are written on the back of the organ. That may have been when the organ became part of the Young Men's Missionary Society museum, and the movers wanted to memorialize the date. From there it was moved to the Whitefield House. Inscribed in pencil on the wood E pipe, visible only from the back of the organ after removing the case, are the words, "moved from Bethlehem April 6, 1922, E. Schneebeli, L. J. Wunderly." I assume this was Ellis Schneebeli, one-time organist of the Nazareth Moravian Church.

Various inscriptions inside the bellows document its repairs. In pencil there is recorded the following: "Repaired by S. C. Chutty, Paul D. Laurback [?], May, 1894, Rooms of the ------- [illegible]." The organ was worked on in more recent times as another inscription states: "Repaired by M. P. Moller, by Donald Baker, Lead Man, Aug. 17, 1954." The Moller firm replaced the bellows ribs with fir plywood and also designated the organ their opus M-8633.

Tannenberg never signed his work but various others have signed the organ over the years. The metal tuning shade from d#3 of the Flaut Amabile has the following scratched in it: "J. C. Till, C. Jacob Till his son." The reverse side of this metal shade has their names repeated and that they tuned the organ. On the inside of the case at the treble end are the following names written in pencil: Wm. Riegel, A. E. [O?]erter, A. G. Rau, M. H. Fehnel, March 26, '83. The handwriting appears to be from 1883. Various names on the rear of the organ case Include John K. Furnstuck, 1880 and other members of this family including Julius and Gustavus. A. Bishop signed the back in 1861.

The organ was restored in 1997 by R. J. Brunner & Co. of Silver Spring, PA. Work included releathering of the bellows with new pine ribs, restoration of the windchest which included new pallet valve leather and refitting of sliders, repairs to wood and metal pipework, and replacement of some missing original ebony and ivory key platings. Replacement pipes were replicated for three missing original pipes, c4 of the Gamba, and f2 and top d of the Principal. Repairs were made to the casework and damage to the grain painting was touched up. A new leather strap and oak handle were made to allow the organ to once again be pumped from the side and the telltale was replaced.

The organ was tuned in equal temperament at a pitch of A-430 and the wind pressure was set at 50 mm (2"). It appears that the original pitch may have been slightly lower. Although some pipes have been shortened over the years, it was never brought up to modern pitch and is essentially near its original lower pitch.

Information from Raymond J. Brunner, March, 1997 and Susan Dreydoppel

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