Our Approach

Above all, an Ortloff organ is designed to make you stand up and sing.

A church organ has one primary function: the accompaniment of the human voice, for it is in singing that the congregation unites in worship and praise. The successful church organ, therefore, provides not just support for congregational and choral singing, but an ensemble that energizes and compels worshippers to sing, and serves as a partner in that singing. It must have a wide dynamic range to support everything from a single child’s voice to a large congregation. Ortloff pipe organs are designed with these requirements in mind, from the point of view of the liturgical organist.

Broadly speaking, our organs are based in the best romantic traditions. Warm, lush foundations and a great variety of color are mated to sparkling classical choruses. Click below for some audio examples of our work.

Lobe Den Herrn - Nathan Davy, organist: Opus 1, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Penfield, NY

Duruflé - Choral varié sur le thème du 'Veni Creator' - Nathan Davy, organist: Opus 1, St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Penfield, NY

Harris - Solemn Procession - Susanna Valleau, organist: Opus 2, St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, Shoreline, WA

Pipework:

Most of our new pipework is made of an alloy of 94% lead. High-lead pipes have a rich, warm sound well-suited to American church acoustics. This alloy, combined with our individual scaling of chorus work makes for a glittering ensemble, infused with a scintillating, yet restrained energy. Secondary choruses are often constructed from spotted metal, whose higher tin-content (roughly 50%) yields a contrasting sound.

Reeds are voiced on higher pressure for noble power, solid tuning, and prompt speech. Brass wedges are used for longevity and tuning stability.

When vintage pipework in included in a new instrument, each pipe is painstakingly restored and/or rebuilt to be the equivalent of our new pipework.

Mechanism:

Ortloff organs use primarily electric slider windchests. This style of windchest has fewer moving parts and is more compact than other types of electric-action chests, never needs releathering, and engenders good pipe speech and tight tuning. Electro-pneumatic pouch windchests are frequently used for reeds for better speech and tone. Access to all components for tuning and maintenance, and ability of future restoration are considered just as carefully as any tonal decisions.

Voicing:

Each stop in an Ortloff organ is voiced with unforced natural beauty to engender good tone production as a solo stop, but also in combination with others. Prior to beginning construction on a pipe organ, we voice sample pipes of several key stops in the organ’s final location. These pipes then inform the scaling and voicing of the rest of the organ in the shop.

The final step in any organ project is tonal finishing – the painstaking on-site voicing that matches each pipe and stop to the room. This two-person process can take weeks to months to complete, and requires careful listening from different places throughout the building. Hearing the organ in context accompanying worship during tonal finishing further informs the process. When complete, every single pipe in the organ will have been individually voiced to sound its best in the room.