The “new organ” at Star of Bethlehem actually has a rather long history. This is the instrument’s third home, and some parts of the organ are older than others! The oldest pipes in the organ were built by the Wangerin Organ Company of Milwaukee for the First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cedarburg, Wisconsin sometime in the 1920’s. These pipes are the 16’ Subbass (the Pedal – bass flute) and the 8’ Salicional and Celeste (the violin or ‘string’ sounds of the organ).
In the 1970’s the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Illinois , built a ‘new’ organ for First Immanuel Church in Cedarburg with a total of 16 ranks or sets of pipes. These 16 ranks included the three ranks (Subbass, Salicional and Celeste) from the church’s Wangerin organ.
When First Immanuel congregation built a new church building during the 1990’s the Wicks organ was moved from the old building to the new church until such time as a new, larger organ could be built and installed. Indeed, in early 2004, a new organ built by the Robert L. Sipe Organ Company was dedicated in the Cedarburg church. Star of Bethlehem congregation purchased the former Wicks organ from First Immanuel Church .
The instrument has been moved, repaired, remodeled, and now installed in the new Star of Bethlehem Church building by the Robert L. Sipe Organ Company of Dallas, Texas . In addition to moving and reinstallation, the organ has been completely ‘re-voiced’ by Mr. Sipe. This re-voicing process adjusts the tone color, musical speech and loudness level of every pipe to fit and blend with the acoustical environment at Star of Bethlehem Church.
Further, the ‘Mixture’ pipes (the highest pitched notes in the organ) have been replaced with new pipes in order to produce the correct balance of pitch and tone in the room.
The Star of Bethlehem organ, modified to meet the acoustical and liturgical needs of the congregation, today contains pipes built by the Wangerin, Wicks, and Sipe Organ Companies. The firm of Scott Riedel & Associates, Ltd, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin served as consultants and technical advisors for the organ and acoustical design of Star of Bethlehem Church.