The gallery organ takes shape

If you have been into the church in the last few days, you cannot fail to have noticed the magnificent structure of new pipework adorning the back wall of the rear gallery. While it is not quite complete, and not yet playable from the console, it is an exciting visible mark of progress towards the realization of our long-held vision for restoration of the organ and the addition of some new components.

One of the new stops you see in the gallery is an Open Wood Stop, which will provide a resonant underpinning of deeper sound to complement the existing tones of the instrument. The other is a Trompette en Chamade, or Horizontal Trumpet. This orientation allows the sound, especially the higher frequencies, to penetrate fully into the church, reducing the acoustic absorption by the building’s structure. The creative design and placement of these two stops are unique to St. Paul’s, and reflect a brilliant extension of the architectural vision initiated in the original organ design that incorporated the attractive open arrangement of pipes on the east (front) wall of the church.

Progress Report from Stephen Russell, Organ Builder
May 10, 2022

The organ project is now past the 60% complete stage. All of the major windchests and wind regulators have been completed and many delivered. In March, large wood pipes and the structure to support the new Chamade Trompette in the gallery were installed. The polished brass pipes of the Chamade will be installed shortly. The largest visible pipes in the chancel organ have also been installed. Larger wood pipes will be coming to the chancel organ in a few weeks.

All of the pipe restoration work, save for washing and repairing/refinishing the largest pipes (this will be completed in the coming months) has been completed and the pipes are carefully moving through the shop phase of the voicing/revoicing process. The changes to the Nave organ are fundamentally complete.

All of the swell shades and frames have been restored and replacement wood bushings made as needed to replace missing or damaged parts. The structure for the expression chambers (original to the 1929 organ and both water damaged and heavily modified to accommodate previous changes) are in process of being properly restored with old cutouts and holes being filled and modifications made to accommodate structural changes and the wind system changes needed for the soon to be reinstalled chancel organ.

In order to save “on-site” installation time and related costs we are prewiring many of the windchest action boards here in the shop with convenient disconnect junctions. In addition to reducing on site time as the organ is installed, this will provide improved service access in the years to come.

Aside from ongoing woodwork essential to setting up the chancel organ and construction of wood wind trunks, a few small chests remain (for a total of 104 larger pipes) to be newly constructed or rebuilt/restored/releathered from the original organ. The releathering work is in progress (photos previously supplied) of other chests from the original instrument which are being reused with minimal alteration.

Four of our suppliers remain plagued by their own supply chain issues: Specifically we are waiting for reed pipes from both A.R Schopp and Trivo (affected by labor shortages along with COVID related absenteeism and retirements). We are waiting for critical organ console parts from Harris Precision Products (also very short staffed due to COVID losses and long delays in getting supplies and chips for their products) and we are waiting for the organ control system from Classic Organ Works (chip shortages with a long wait for supply). Hopefully these issues will be resolved soon.

As such we are completely stalled on the final design and layout for the 12 note bass chest for the new Ophicleide 16’ and partly stalled on console construction scheduled to begin in the fall once the main organ structure is complete and installed. Fortunately we retained the old organ control system and console which will allow partial use of the chancel organ as it is reinstalled through the coming months.

A gallery of photos will follow soon showing some of the details of work and installation that has occurred over the past few months, both on-site at St. Paul’s and in the organ builder’s shop in Vermont.