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Thread: St Thomas NYC organ project

  1. #1

    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. #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.


  3. #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.

  4. #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.

  5. #5

    Re: St Thomas NYC organ project

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

  6. #6

    1 members found this post helpful.

    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!

  7. #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.

  8. #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.

  9. #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.


  10. #10

    Re: St Thomas NYC organ project

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


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