Founded in 1897, Piedmont College is an independent liberal arts institution located in the northeast part of Georgia.
The 1971 Georgian-style chapel is also used as the main music venue on campus. The generous cubic volume, shoebox geometry and 38-foot-high ceiling of the room provided the basis for a fine acoustical setting, which was significantly improved as part of the new organ project.
Piedmont College has been known for many years for its fine choral program. Therefore, the new organ needed to serve the requirements of this active choral program as well as fulfill its role as a solo instrument. Interestingly, this was Casavant’s 160th installation in a university or college since 1898.
The new organ is located on a raised platform at the front of the room. The location of the divisions in the case follows time-honored practices with the Grand Orgue positioned at the top, above the Trompette en chamade. The expressive Récit and Positif are below the Grand Orgue, and the Pédale is divided on either side of the manual divisions. The 16-foot façade pipes are from the Grand Orgue Violonbasse.
The instrument’s tonal orientation, while rooted in the French tradition, is decidedly eclectic. Complete principal choruses are found in all manual and pedal divisions. Each of the three manual divisions contains a cornet with tonal qualities that are distinctly different. The considerable variety of color found in the reed stops is imparted by using no less than four basic types of shallots, combined with various treatments to the surfaces and openings of each, in order to provide maximum tonal variety.
Reservoir winding has been used throughout the organ, producing a gentle pipe speech that is especially pleasing with the breath-like quality and flexibility.
The action is mechanical throughout with the exception of the Trompette en chamade, the 16’ pedal stops, and the basses of the two 16’ manual stops that are transmitted to the pedal. In addition to the traditional mechanical coupling alternative, assisted coupling can be selected by the organist.
The color of the organ’s oak case was selected in deliberate contrast with the otherwise light colors in the chapel in order to highlight the instrument as the focal point of the room and to provide some warmth to contrast with the painted surfaces. Hand-carved pipe shades, highlighted with gold leaf, feature garlands of ivy leaves that take their inspiration from the text of the Piedmont College Alma Mater.
During the entire process of designing, building and installing this organ, we had the distinct pleasure of working collaboratively with Dr. James Mellichamp, College Organist and now President of Piedmont College. The friendship we developed then has been cherished over the years. Dr. Mellichamp wrote about the project:
Throughout the length of this project, which at times seemed to have no definite end in sight, the patient assistance of Casavant Frères was a constant. The finished instrument is a tribute to their faithful interpretation of my goal to build an organ of lasting significance for the college and community. My hope is that all who see, hear, or play it will be awed by its visual beauty and moved by its musical elegance.