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  • St Thomas NYC organ project



    I searched around to see if this topic had been covered already and didn't see it, so forgive me if I missed something.



    Any thoughts on St Thomas NYC's decision to replace their monumental Aeolian-Skinner with a new Dobson instrument?



    I know the organ isn't what it was, especially after the Adams rebuild following damage in the 60's during construction at the adjacent Metropolitan Museum of Art. But I have played it once and heard it aplenty, and it's still a spectacular instrument. With the demise of too many other Skinners (including, of course Trinity Wall Street), this just seems like a loss.



    On the other hand, I can't think of anyone who would do a more inspiring replacement instrument than Dobson, and I have no doubt that whatever they build will become an instant classic and icon in the NYC organ community. The only other newer instrument in the city I can think of with the same kind of magnetism is the St. Ignatius Mander, and having played that organ as well on a couple occasions, it is spectacular.



    I'm curious as to others' thoughts? Any idea if this instrument will be mechanical or electric action? How much of the Skinner pipework might be retained?


  • #2
    Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



    There is a great video on YouTube of Fred Teardo, the Associate Organist, playing the Finale from the Vierne Sixth Symphony. It's spectacular. I believe one of the comments about the video was "And they want to replace this organ, why?"



    I feel the same way. I think it's a spectacular instrument. I've heard it many times, and it's one of my favorite organs in NYC. I understand the argument that there is only one enclosed division which makes it difficult to accompany the choir in an Anglican liturgy. Or that the organ is buried and is difficult to hear in the back of the church. Or that there are critical mechanical issues which need to be addressed. All these are valid reasons for doing something -- but replacing it entirely? They seem to think it's the only solution.



    The lovely tracker instrument in the rear balcony of the church is a nice addition. Too bad it wasn't designed so that it could also be played from the main console, thus enabling the use of both organs to enhance congregational singing.



    Just some thoughts.



    Tim




    Comment


    • #3
      Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



      The G. Donald Harrison rebuild did have an enclosed Choir shared with an exposed Positif on Manual II. Adams' rebuild in the 60's unenclosed the Choir section and renamed it Vorwerk, having two unenclosed divisions sharing the same manual, which doesn't make much sense to me, but evidently made some sort of sense in the neo-Baroque fervency that was the 60's for many organbuilders.



      I am sure the Dobson will be a wonderful organ. But I'd love even more to see a restoration back toward the spirit of the G. Donald Harrison instrument. Guess it won't happen.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: St Thomas NYC organ project

        Not much of the skinner actually remains.... So much changed that Aeolian-Skinner asked the church to remove the Harrison name plate.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: St Thomas NYC organ project

          I believe G. Donald came by the church and removed the nameplate himself!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



            [quote user="ponsonby britt"]I believe G. Donald came by the church and removed the nameplate himself![/quote]



            Since he died while rebuilding the St. Thomas organ, he must have REALLY not liked the Adams rebuild to return from beyond the grave!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



              My first encounter at St Thomas was summer 1969 when i was age 15. I entered the church with my aunt and the sound of the plenum was thrilling. Clean clear refined organ tone as soon as we entered from the back. By the time we had made our way up to the chancel the 32 bombarde came on---the first one i ever experienced--thought i would blastoff into outerspace! I crossed o ver the red velvet rope and went right up to the young organist who was practicing for a Sunday 5:15pm recital. he told me it was an Aeolian-Skinner of 188 ranks! The nameplate apparently was still intact.I was unaware that Gil Adams had been doing work on the organ as far back as 1966 when he installed a new Grand Choeur division on a slider chest. The Skinner reeds from the Grand Choeur of the 1956 installation were on 5'' wind and the 8 and 4 reeds were A-S no3 French shallots and the 16 reed was A-s no4 French. These were incorporated into the Riverside A-S 1966-67 Adams rebuild. Either Gil Adams or herb Stimpson of A-S revoiced these stops down to circa 3-3/4'' or 3-1/2'' wind for use on the Great at Riverside and labeled on the rebuilt A-S/Bufano console with german nomenclature and when I played them in 1977 they were glorious in their tone.




              From 1972-84 I attended the St Thomas Sunday 5:15pm recitals and got a good feel for the Adams chancel organ. The full plenum was glorious as was the work at Riverside that Gil Adams did. As time elapsed the mechanical status of the St Thomas organ began to worsen so that a rebuild by Trupiano of brooklyn was undertaken. he had ordered new swell reeds from Jack Steinkampf of greater New York. It is not certain i in fact those chorus reeds ended up there or not.When William Self exited St Thomas to move on to Grace Episcopal in Utica NY on the last day he had knobs replaced to reflect changes that had been made.Today with the Endlish tradition at St Thomas under John Scott it appears that the Adams organ does not work well in the choral tradition and thus a new organ is in the works of similar pedigree as the contracted for WNC chancel organ and Independent Presbyterian in Birmingham AL.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                It's great to hear from some first-hand perspectives!



                My biggest surprise with the Adams rebuild was the removal of the Choir box and unenclosure of the pipework, along with the deletion of a few of the quieter accompanimental stops. It makes an organ this large surprisingly limited for accompaniment purposes, and since St. Thomas has had a strong choral tradition for a long time, that seems a little surprising.



                Some of the other work Adams did in the ensembles does seem to have made the instrument more workable (such as the Great doubles). Although I obviously never heard the organ in it's pre-Adams state aside from a couple recordings I have.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                  Hi Sesqui,



                  As far as I know, the Washington National Cathedral plans for 2 new organs is on infinite hold. In other words, don't expect either a Casavant or a Dobson in there any time soon. I spoke with a Casavant representative about six months ago, and he said the proposals were effectively dead.



                  It is hard when the money is not in place, to get 6 or 7 million dollars worth of new organs in there, when you can't pay your employees and have to lay them off by the dozens.



                  Has Dobson got a contract yet to build the new organ for St. Thomas NYC? From the Dobson web-site, it looks like there may be nothing more than a verbal, yes we will get one from you when we go ahead to contract.



                  AV

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                    Oops, sorry! It was Joe Whiteford who threatened to remove the nameplate.





                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                      In an online interview some years ago then organist Erik Wm Suter stated that the new Dobson for WNC would be circa 75-90 ranks and it alone cost in excess of 5 million dollars exclusive of the west end Casavant.In a Youtube segment he refered to the present organ s bi-polar.perhaps from a theorist perspective the Skinner is not a purebred etc but tonally it is satisfactory for choral work. The need to get sound out into the nave proper is admitedly a challenge as the sound dies rapidly beyond the chancel.Idont see how trashing this organ will solve anything. If there are acoustical problems requiring tone to be located in new cases in the transepts and move out the present cases further so be it. There is much fine tonal material that is reusable in the present organ. Make the additions to make the organ better do what it ought to but dont be so demanding that an all-new organ is a must when the financial reality simply is prohibitive.




                      Further I dont understand how a mechanical action west organ will per se help. Seems like the mechanical action would serve the organist playing back there but not appreciably enhance the disemination of organ tone from that location any more than if the new organ there were entirely electro-mechanical.When this entire project was conceived and the authorities persuaded to sign on the world economy was still intact. Now it is not so good and the would-be donors may not be as forthcoming. Time will tell what when anything may yet transpire.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                        The removal of the shutters to the enclosed Positif was an effort to have a French division inside the chamber and a german one outside in the so-called Vorkwerk=forward work.The exposed Vorkwerk has a Viole 8, Dulciana 8, Gedackt 8 and Spitzprincipal made from the former Great Gemshorn 8.The enclosed Swell had all of the gentle material including Violes de gambe 8, Flute Celestes and Dulcianas. Whatever the case the new Dobson is required to retain as much A-S pipework as possible andwill be installed by 2013 when the church celebrates its 100th anniversay.The A-S 32 Quintaton was removed early on and a 32 Principal substituted in the Grand Choeur which borrows its bottom 12 from the pedal Contrebasse 32. A surplus 16 principal from another organ was added early on to the Pedal.The present organ though quite nice in itself does not meet the choral traditions of St Thomas and so it will be replaced by a more comprehensive organ that can deliver the needed subtelty for choir work absent in the existing instrument. Talk of twin encased facade duplicating the existing 1913 case on the opposite side is an exciting possibility.




                        The Adams traxker in the back contained pipes from various other organs including black painted 2/7 mouth Diapasons from the A-S organ at Riverside as well as pipes from a 1920s Moller from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It was a nice organ from the recitals and choral programs i attended but it wasnt so well-grounded physically so hat it was dismantled and replaced by a modest 2 manual.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                          As I have herd it the WNC chancel organ will reuse the best of the current organ. Retaining the Skinner stops and some additions of particular note.




                          To say they are trashing the organ is not exactly true. It will be mechanically new, but will be retaining pipework.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                            Hi,




                            Are you talking here about the Washington Cathedral organ or St. Thomas in NYC?




                            My guess is that the WNC will not get anything done about the pipe organ in the forseeable future unless a donor comes forward and foots the whole bill for it.




                            AV

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: St Thomas NYC organ project



                              The intent to retain strings and orch reeds in a new WNC chancel organ is lip service to the great organ of 186 ranks. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the present voicing and the retention of a mere 40 out of 186 ranks is insulting to the tonal splendor of the current organ. i fail to see how a new organ with 75-90 ranks can hope to cure a plethora of real and possibly imagined deficits i the present organ when the present organ is a magnificent instrument in itself pedigree notwithstanding whether Skinner Aeolian-Skinner or other.No matter how wonderful any new organ of 75 -90 ranks may be it will not have the variety and tonal palette that the current organ of 186 cohesive ranks have. Those unfamilar with the sound and tonal rof the existing organ simply cannot fathom the loss that will result if this pipe organ is virtually uprooted and made into stock surplus to be parted out here there and everywhere--a bonus to the successful builder of the new.At over 5 million for 75-90 ranks the new comes at a very high price ranging in the 50k per RANK-imagine-a 4 rank mixture costing 200k.




                              Who cam in their right mind justify such exhorbitant costs at a time when the world economy has slumped; unemployment is rampant worldwide, and people are hard-pressed to put food on the table?

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