St. George’s Episcopal Church
26 straight-speaking stops, 32 ranks across two manuals and pedal
The opportunity to design and build a new pipe organ for St. George’s Church was a professional and personal privilege. St. George’s parish had built a magnificent new church building, winning architectural awards, and becoming the pride of the Diocese only a few years before. About the time their new Church was built, we were installing our Opus 7 organ at The Episcopal Chapel of St. John the Divine, in Champaign, Illinois. The aging electronic organ at the Chapel was sold to St. George’s (for a song I’m told!) as a temporary instrument for them to use while they grew into their new worship space.
During the intervening years, the Chapel hosted several Diocesan-wide services, and the people of St. George’s came to know our work, and our developing “Anglo-American” style of organbuilding. Their Music Director, Dr. Nancy Ypma, contacted us about a new organ in 1995 when it became apparent that the now second-hand electronic instrument was truly on its last legs.
16′ Lieblich Gedeckt (wood)
8′ Open Diapason (tin façade)
8′ Flute a Biberon (metal)
8′ Gedeckt Flute (ext. 16′)
8′ Flute Coelestis
4′ Spire Flute
1 1/3′ Larigot
1 1/3′ Fourniture IV
8′ Cremona (1902 Willis Basset Horn)
8′ Minor Trumpet (Sw)
Cymbalstern, Console Preparation
8′ Major Tuba, hooded, 10″ wind
8′ Tuba Solo, melody coupler
8′ Stopped Diapason (wood)
8′ Voix Celeste (TC)
4′ Harmonic Flute
2 2/3′ Nazard, tapered
1 3/5′ Tierce
2 2/3′ Full Mixture IV
16′ Basson (1-12 1/2 length)
4′ Clarion (ext. 16′)
8′ Major Tuba (Gt)
Tuba Solo (Gt)
32′ Subbass (1-12 elect. ext. Bourdon 16′)
32′ Lieblich Gedeckt (Gt) (1-12 elect. ext. Gedeckt 16′)
16′ Open Diapason (1-6 Wood 7 upscale tin façade)
16′ Bourdon (wood)
16′ Gedeckt (Gt)
8′ Principal (tin-façade ext. 16′ open)
8′ Bass Flute (ext. 16′ Bourdon)
8′ Gedeckt Flute (Gt)
4′ Choral Bass (ext. 16′ Bourdon)
16′ Basson (Sw)
8′ Trumpet (ext. 16′ Trombone)
4′ Clarion (Sw)
8′ Major Tuba (Gt)
We were selected as their organbuilder and signed a contract in late 1995, and were invited to work with their Building Design Committee in developing a design for the new instrument. Once I came to know the people, and the motivations, desires and concerns which generated the Church’s architecture, the organ’s design came easily.
During the design process I also learned of a developing (now, well-developed) relationship between St. George’s and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation which shares the Church and office spaces. These two congregations truly live the spirit of “Concordat,” and they both wanted to be sure that the organ would be tonally appropriate for Bach as well as Stanford.
During this time, I was embarking upon my own journey toward further development of my tonal style, discovering the organs of “Father” Willis and Hill. I had heard Henry Willis, 4 lecture at two American Institute of Organbuilder conventions, and came away fascinated and intrigued. Being the last living descendent of the Willis dynasty of organbuilders, and having a wealth of information about the very style of organbuilding in which I had taken such an interest, he was in a position to either guide me or tell me to “bugger off.”
Henry came over to visit with me, to talk about “Father” Willis’ approach to scaling, and take a look at St. George’s. During his visit, we collaborated on a new set of Buzard-cum-Willis scalings and mixture compositions, which we used in the St. George’s organ and as appropriate in our future instruments. The scales themselves are smaller than those typically used in American organs, our trade-mark warm and grand tone being produced by higher cut-ups, and certain Willis particulars of pipe construction. It was a true honor that Henry Willis, just before he retired from active organbuilding, shared the “family recipe” with this young organbuilder!
The result is a rich and warm fundamental sound, plenty of brightness in the higher pitched stops without being too prominent, beautiful round flutes, spicy mutations and shimmering strings. The Great and Swell choruses balance each other perfectly in a classic context, each being of slightly different color, but both being sprightly and buoyant. If it’s darkness you want, this texture is created by registering the organ romantically, by doubling up on 8 and 4-foot pitches, leaving the mixtures until last in a typically seamless, romantic build-up of sound. “Concordat” definitely lives in this instrument!
The reeds exhibit our typically full, rich colors, usable in chorus or smaller solo roles; the Tuba is in perfect balance to the full organ, usable in ensemble or single notes without obliterating the rest of the instrument. Of particular note in this instrument is a 1902 Willis 8′ Corno di Bassetto which has been restored and included in this organ as an 8′ Cremona on the Great Organ. This stop has the warmth and “woodiness” of a Clarinet, but a bit of the pungency of a Cromorne. We are actually including Cornos di Bassetto in upcoming instruments, based upon this stop’s tremendous success. Perhaps as inclusion of Basset Horns becomes more widely accepted in mainstream organbuilding we will re-engrave the drawstop knob.
The case and console are made of solid white oak and white oak veneers with dark walnut trim. The crosses in the towers echo the circular window muntons and coincidentally, are the same design as St. Mark’s processional cross. The casework at the top of the flats and cove detailing in the towers have purple/blue and gold leaf striping, the color purple being found in a large cross suspended behind the altar and framed in a clear glass arched window.
Pipes in the front are 75% English Tin, with a lightly polished finish. Inside pipes are mostly of 50% tin, except the flute stops of higher lead content. Wooden pipes are poplar with walnut mouths, including the Great 8′ Flute Celeste, a Ludwigtone as has become our custom. The low 6 pipes of the Pedal 16′ Open Diapason are made of wood and stand behind the case.
The organ was first played for Church service on Easter Day, 1998. A Service of Dedication and short recital was held on May 31, played and conducted by the Parish’s Music Director, Dr. Nancy Ypma; Thomas Murray inaugurated the organ in a public recital in November.
– John-Paul Buzard