A Brief History
Photographs tell us that St. Paul’s fourth church building (1840-1929) contained a pipe organ, but we have no records of the builder. When the current building was consecrated in 1930, a new 3-manual pipe organ built by the Moller Organ Company of Hagerstown, MD, was installed in the chancel.
In the mid 1960s, the organ underwent an unfortunate and rather unsuccessful renovation in an attempt to make it more of a Baroque style instrument. By the mid 1980s the organ was in sad disrepair, both tonally and mechanically. The church explored several options and in 1992 made the decision to purchase a 1928 3-manual E.M. Skinner organ from St. Paul’s, New Rochelle at a cost of $25,000 – a very wise investment. This organ was transported to Norwalk, and installed by John Randolph of New York City. In addition to the 26 sets of pipes from the Skinner, 21 sets of pipes from the old Moller (and various other instruments) were added to create a larger instrument consisting of approximately 3,000 individual pipes.
While the pipework and console from the Skinner organ are great treasures, and we are very fortunate to have them, they were in much need of restoration even then. The other non-Skinner pipework and chests were of much poorer quality and condition. Regrettably, funds were insufficient to effect a proper installation at that time. The result is that many parts of the instrument operate poorly or not at all.
Where We Are Today
The organ arrived from Reuter, newly rebuilt, in January and February. Ken Cowan played the dedicatory recital on April 29, 2007. Below is a re-cap of the campaign to rebuild the organ.
In the Fall of 2004, Father Lang and the vestry authorized the formation of an Organ Committee to explore the needs and possibilities for our organ. The committee met and toured the existing instrument and saw first hand the condition of the organ. They also learned terminology and had numerous tutorials on organ building and design. Under the leadership of the Director of Music, the committee reviewed proposals from three organ builders/restorers, and even made a field trip to hear some of their work first hand. After reviewing several options such as doing the project in phases over a number of years, the committee unanimously agreed that the Reuter Organ Company of Lawrence, Kansas, should completely rebuild and enhance our current organ.
The Reuter Organ Company has a fine track record of financial stability, well-built instruments of the highest quality and great creativity both tonally and visually. The Reuter factory is the finest, state of the art, organ building facility in the country. The Reuter Company has proposed completely rebuilding the organ, reusing almost all of the existing pipework and augmenting it with several new and exciting ranks of pipes. All of the Skinner chests would be rebuilt and reused and new chests would be constructed for the other pipework. While the original Skinner console will be retained, basically everything between the console and the pipes will be new or completely refurbished. In addition, a handsome case and pipe façade (see cover picture and graphics) have been designed by the Reuter Company to compliment the architecture of St. Paul’s. Reuter’s proposal most thoroughly adopted the posture to restore and refurbish rather than replace, wherever feasible. This approach, while more difficult for companies to achieve, demonstrates a high regard for the tremendous value of our irreplaceable Skinner pipework. It also realizes significant cost savings for the church.
This of course will all take money – approximately $600,000. Clearly these funds will need to come from a variety of sources, both from within the parish and from the community. In raising this money and refurbishing this organ, its value will be more than double our investment. At the same time, we will have a musically superb and mechanically reliable instrument, which will serve this church and community for the next half century.
Some Good Questions
Why can’t we just fix the parts that are really in bad shape?
While it’s tempting to use the “band aid” treatment because of money, this only costs more in the long term. Much of what we need to fix now is the result of previous temporary repairs. It is difficult if not impossible to achieve long term repair on a pipe by pipe basis.
The organ sounds fine to me. Does it really need work?
It’s very true that the organ continues to make an impressive sound. However, the organ has many dead notes, and many sets of pipes are in such disrepair they must be avoided. In the past 9 years we have spent approximately $45,000 on maintenance and repairs. In addition, there are many problems which have not been repaired due to the cost.
Could the organ actually break down and be unusable on a given Sunday?
Absolutely. In the organ’s short 13 year history, there have been three Sundays where the organ was unplayable (including May 8, 2005).
Why don’t we wait for a really big breakdown and fix the organ then?
Primarily because now we are able to determine what we want to do, how much it will cost, and when it can happen. These factors are beyond our control if we are suddenly without an instrument.
When we do the project, how long will we be without an organ?
From the time the Reuter Company takes the console and pipework to their factory in Kansas, to its return and installation, probably about 4 to 6 months.
Does the Reuter Company offer a warranty?
Yes. There is a six-year inclusive warranty, and an eleven year limited warranty.
Can we get grants to help pay for this?
We will try, but many foundations that give money for this type of project will not fund churches.
How Can I Help?
While it would be wonderful if one or two benefactors offered to pay for the organ project, we also hope that the organ will reflect the people of St. Paul’s and the larger Norwalk community. We must stress that any gift to the Organ Fund must be above and beyond your regular pledge to St. Paul’s. We have worked hard to develop a strong level of stewardship here and we cannot compromise that for the organ or any other single project.
To name the organ in memory of a family member, please speak with the Rector, Father Lang, or the Director of Music, Vince Edwards. Several individual items are also available for memorials: the handsome wooden case and façade (display pipes) may be donated for a cost of $50,000.
The new Tuba Mirabilis, a rank of pipes akin to herald trumpets, may be donated for $20,000, while the Pedal Trombone stop may be donated for $25,000. Of course, gifts in any amount are welcome, and all donors will be recognized in a handsome plaque mounted in the chancel of the church. Gifts to the Organ Fund are tax deductible.
Please feel free to contact any member of the organ committee if you have any questions or would like to inquire about a memorial gift. Also, tours of the organ console and chambers are available by contacting the Vince Edwards at 203-847-2806 or email me at: Vincent Edwards, Director of Music
St. Paul’s Organ Committee:
William Axness, Walter Briggs, Anne Carbone, Rodney Davis, Vince Edwards (ex officio), Luke Gilleran, Dean Kauffman, The Reverend Nicholas Lang (ex officio), Heide Parry, Elizabeth Harris Skaleski