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Cathedral Music
History of Cathedral Organs

Hook and Hastings, Boston, Massachusetts, Opus 1377 (1887)  2 manuals, 27 registers, 

Destroyed in fire, 1901

Austin Organ Company, Hartford, Connecticut, Opus73 (1903)   4 manuals, 49 ranks, 44 registers, 

Carlton Michell, Head Voicer

Rev. Julius G. Bierck, A. G. O. Organist and Choirmaster

Church of the Saviour
Records in the “The Parish Messenger Of The Church Of The Saviour” show that the organ was under construction by the Austin Organ Company Of Hartford, Connecticut in November of 1902, and that it was first heard on Sunday, April 26 of 1903. “The Choirmaster opened the organ under very trying conditions last Sunday, suffering from a severe attack of appendicitis, and in violation of his physician’s orders he undertook his duty, knowing how impossible it was for any organist to play upon it at short notice.” The organ was proclaimed in glowing terms: “It is a noble instrument and unquestionably one of the finest to be found anywhere.” “The wind is supplied by a powerful ten horse-power water engine (especially designed for this instrument) driving four air cylinders.” This was the latest innovation before the advent of the current motor driven turbine. The 1903 Austin was also equipped with the latest controls for rapid changing of stops, including a Sforzando and Crescendo pedals.

By the late 1970’s, American organ building had evolved from a rather dull and often uninteresting style, to a more colorful style, gradually embracing the previously forgotten organ repertoire of the 17th through early 19th centuries. It is important to note that this change in style was nearly universal in this country, and was strongly advocated by all institutions of higher learning in the American organ world. American organ building took a turn towards a more classical design, incorporating lower wind pressures, gentler voicing, brighter Principal choruses, colorful flutes and reed stops. To this end, The Church Of the Saviour signed a contract in 1978 with Brantly A. Duddy, Inc., in the Philadelphia area, and local representative of Austin Organs, for the reconditioning of the note actions and tonal revisions that form the backbone of the present Cathedral organ. Much of the previous pipework was retained and new voices were added, as well as a new unenclosed Positiv division in place of the former enclosed Great division. The console was reduced from four manuals to 3 manuals and updated mechanically. The reed stops were send to Trivo in Hagerstown for revoicing. It is significant that these reed pipe specialists received their training at the Moller Organ Co. The original quieter Swell and Great Mixtures were replaced with ranks of higher pitch and brighter tone, the Great Principal chorus was new and the Pedal division was given a contemporary specification of upper work. The original Great reeds were put into the Swell division, and the former Swell Cornopean 8’ was placed, exposed, behind the Great façade pipes (comprised of the former Major Diapason 16’). Four new reeds were added: Cromorne 8’ (replacing the Clarinet 8’ on the Choir), a Rohr Schalmei 4’ on the Choir, and a Trompette 8’ on the Swell (replacing the larger Cornopean), and a unit Pedal Reed (Contra Posaune 32’, Posaune 16’, Trumpet 8’, and Clarion 4’.) The reed resonators for the bottom octave of the Contra Posaune 32’ are half length and from the original Austin Trombone 16’. Foundation flue work was retained in the Swell, Choir and Pedal divisions, and some pipework in the Positiv was original (the Quintatön 16’, no longer present, and the Dolce 8’.) An Antiphonal division was planned to be installed under the West Rose Window, in a Johnson organ case from Vermont, but was never realized, and the previous two West End chambers remained disconnected and unused.

Renovations of Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral included a modest renovation and expansion of the organ. Walker Technical was contracted in 2001 to add electronic voices to the Austin, front and West End.  In 2003 Walker Technical was contracted again, this time they built a 2-manual wireless, moveable console, which eventually was made to control the entire organ, in a limited scope. The Cathedral organ will be greatly enhanced by the addition of a new, moveable and standardly equipped 4 manual console.

M. P. Moller Organ, Hagerstown, Maryland, Opus 6425 (1936) 3 manuals, 46 stops, plus Nave Swell, Nave Great and Nave Pedal divisions

Finally, with a generous grant from the Wyncote Foundation, a contract was signed with Emery Brothers Organ Company, Allentown, PA, to remove the Austin organ and replace it with an outstanding vintage M. P. Moller Organ, Opus 6425, built in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1936, with tonal design by Richard Whitelegg, Moller’s tonal director 1932-1944. This organ was originally installed in Schwab Auditorium at Pennsylvania State University. Some portions of the original Austin pipework will be retained, when compatible with the Moller tonal design, and will be installed in the existing West End chambers. The entire installation will be accomplished under the expert hands of the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas. Reuter has built or rebuilt a number of large organs for Philadelphia churches, most notably St. Monica’s RC Church and First Presbyterian Church. 

The new organ will have approximately 36 ranks in the Presbyterium chambers and approximately 17 ranks in the West End or Nave chambers and under the Rose window, totaling approximately 53 ranks of pipes. As with any organ project, final details in the specifications will be in place, commensurate with the project. And, thanks to a newly built 4-manual moveable console on the floor of the Nave, as well as the reconditioned 3-manual console in the balcony, this organ will fulfill its duty of accompaniment of congregation, choir, vocal and instrumental soloists and organ literature with ease, previously only dreamed possible, with increased flexibility of crescendos, diminuendos, and finer shades of tone color and solo voices, from any location in the Cathedral.

Wesley D. Parrott, Cathedral Organist

Last Published: June 26, 2019 4:55 PM