Concern over the condition of the former 1922 Skinner organ prompted the Session in 1970 to seek outside advice. Three consultants working entirely independently of each other, submitted evaluations which concurred that the organ’s tonal design, placement within the sanctuary and physical condition did not merit any major revision or repair. Consultants were Dr. Fenner Douglas, Professor of Organ, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music; Dr. Homer Blanchard, Ohio Wesleyan University; and Kurt F. Ruhland, The Ruhland Organ Co. Cleveland OH. Both Drs. Fenner and Blanchard recommended investigation of a new instrument, free standing and more varied in tonal resources than the Skinner Organ, and one with tracker action.
Session had started an organ fund in 1968 with money from bequests and funds from the congregations 125th anniversary celebration in 1980. On November 2, 1980 a committee was established to set goals, timetables, and raise funds to acquire a new sanctuary organ. The committee reviewed the recommendations of the consultants and established specifications for the new instrument. Bids were solicited from 10 organ builders and selected John Leek’s bid from among them after visiting his workshop in Oberlin. In 1981 a contract was signed with Mr. Leek.
John went out of his way to secure the best components and woods for the pipe organ. 2000 board feet of white oak was obtained from Virginia which was used for the case, 25 year old black walnut was used to contrast with the oak. The walnut screen and the pipe shades covering the upper portion of the visible pipes were designed by Charles Lakofsky. The back panels and doors have white oak frames and redwood panels to make the organ a little darker in sound. The metal pipes were made in the Netherlands, with the composition of the visible pipes 75% tin and 25% lead with the concealed pipes being higher in lead content. Wooden pipes were made in Germany, with the Subbass 16′ in white pine from the German forests and the Bourdon 16′ in Honduras mahogany. The blower was imported from Switzerland. John made the keyboard using North European Beech for the frame, polished cow bone for the white keys, scribed and carved and African ebony for the black keys. Stop knobs are turned in Boxwood from Turkey, as are the decorative inlays on the music rack and panels. The organ’s 17 stops, 22 ranks and 1106 pipes were built using materials from around the world. Construction was completed and a dedication recital was held on April 21, 1985.