Our Organ

 

Our organThe pipe organ at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was custom designed and built for our parish by the firm of J. W. Walker & Sons, Ltd. of Brandon, Suffolk, England. It arrived for installation on Shrove Tuesday of 1991 and was blessed and first used in services at the Great Vigil of Easter of that same year. While the organ is designed with electric stop action, the keyboard action is mechanical, or tracker. This means there is a direct physical link between the player and the pipes, and not an electrical one, as is usually the case. The two manuals and pedal are currently served by 22 stops, or voices, comprising 29 ranks, or sets of pipes voiced as a unit. At this point, the organ contains some 1,612 individual pipes, all of which have been made by hand. There are also places reserved for six additional stops which are yet to be installed. This will bring the total to 28 stops, or 38 ranks. The case is made of American Red Oak with hand-carved pipe shades depicting the four Gospel writers in their traditional symbols: an angel for Matthew, a lion for Mark, an ox for Luke and an eagle for John. The gold-leaf inscription on the case is in Latin and is taken from the final verse of Psalm 150: “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.”

In addition to having the organ blessed, its first year of use was celebrated with St. Mark’s first recital series, beginning with a Dedicatory Recital given by the late Dr. Gerre Hancock of St. Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City. Thereafter followed seven other concerts featuring not only the organ but the Chicago String Ensemble, the St. Mark’s Brass Ensemble, and guest organists from as far away as Switzerland. This series was made possible in part by a generous gift from the family of Ellen Porter. Every organist who has played it thus far has given the instrument high praise for its flexibility, action, and warmth and breadth of sound. Here are some of their comments:

“The instrument at St. Mark’s Church is a beauty in every way to play. The flexibilty, the finesse, and the pure musical quality make the performer both admire the organ and want to play it.”
- Dr. Gerre Hancock, February 21, 1934 – January 21, 2012.

“St. Mark’s has an organ of great distinction. It is an instrument of unusual flexibility and musicality that will only be enhanced with the addition of the anticipated stops. At its completion, this organ will be one of the very best of its kind in the country.”
- Mr. Bruce Neswick, Associate Professor for Organ, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University


“…an instrument built for the ages. The workmanship, materials, and tonal finishing are all of the highest standard. Artistically, the organ makes a very distinguished statement, and will serve as a source of musical leadership in worship and in concert for generations to come.”

- Mr. Richard Webster, Trinity Church Copley Square, Boston

“…a smashing success! Rarely have I enjoyed the privilege of playing an organ which meets the needs of solo repertoire and service music equally well.”
- Dr. Robert Poovey, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rochester, New York

When the organ was built, space was left in the instrument, as well as a financial investment made, for the addition of eight other stops at some future point. These additions will complete the design of the organ as it was envisioned by Walker in 1991. They will serve to increase flexibility, broaden the tonal colors, and lend a greater depth of fullness and sonority. From time to time, events have been held in the parish to try to raise some of the money needed for these additions. Through these efforts, much of the money needed to add one of the large pedal stops was raised and the stop installed just prior to Advent of 1998. In November of 2000 we received a generous gift from one of our choir members to have another one of the preparations completed, the Sesquialtera. Now there are six stops remaining to bring the organ to completion. As with other donations to the church, any of these stops can be given and designated as a memorial.
The complete specification follows:

 

      GREAT Pipes  SWELL Pipes PEDAL Pipes
16′ Bourdon* 8′ Stopped Flute 61 16′ Subbass 32
8′ Open Diapason 61 8′ Salicional 61 8′ Principal 32
8′ Chimney Flute 61 8′ Voix Celeste 49 8′ Flute*
4′ Octave 61 4′ Principal 61 4′ Choralbass 32
4′ Spire Flute 61 4′ Chimney Flute 61 IV Mixture*
2′ Fifteenth 61 2′ Flageolet 61 32′ Contra Bassoon 32
II Sesquialtera 122 IV Mixture 244 16′ Trombone 32
IV Furniture 244 16′ Bassoon 61 8′ Trumpet*
8′ Trumpet 61 8′ Oboe 61
8′ HoodedTrumpet* 8′ Cremona*

 

* stops yet to be installed

COUPLERS
Swell to Great / Swell to Pedal / Great to Pedal
Electric combination action and stop action
Mechanical key action
Eight memory levels