Organ, Sacred Music, and Historical Keyboards
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Organ, Rochester
The organ at St. Paul’s was built and installed in 1927 by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston as Op. 655. It has 4 manuals, 55 stops, 68 ranks and 4,596 pipes. Among other notable features, this instrument has Manual sub- and super-coupler “ventils,” “Pedal Divide,” a 27-note set of Chimes (as opposed to Skinner’s usual 20 or 25 notes), a late example of a Doppel Flute in the Great division (by 1927, a metal Harmonic Flute on the Great was the norm), and a Musette – a rare stop supposed to imitate the nasal sound of shepherds’ pipes.
The St. Paul’s organ also possesses the first Flauto Mirabilis produced by the Skinner Company. This penetrating flute stop is reminiscent of the orchestral flute. In the parish archives there is a copy of the letter from Skinner to the church’s then-organist, Warren Gehrken, describing this stop and his desire to include it in the specifications. It is also thought that Op. 655 has the first example of pneumatic motors being used to speed up the onset and offset of the lowest notes of the 32’ Bombarde.
By the late 1990s the instrument had begun to show its age in ways that routine maintenance was no longer able to accommodate. Following an evaluation of the instrument by Jonathan Ambrosino, it was agreed that the organ should receive a faithful, conscientious restoration. Parsons Pipe Organ Builders of Canandaigua, New York was the primary contractor and performed all mechanical restoration and restoration of the flue pipes, Broome & Company of East Granby, Connecticut, restored the sixteen reed stops and the A. Thompson-Allen Company of New Haven restored the console and the Harp/Celesta unit. The project commenced the last week of April, 2010, and was completed in January of 2012.